Rivals.com released its first Rivals100 rankings of the 2011 recruiting class Tuesday. Oh to be a fly on the wall for that discussion. I know it’s early, but it’s kind of exciting to look at these rankings and see how the talent stacks up.
Florida has just four commitments in this class, but three of them are in the top 100. Seventy-five percent of your commitments residing in the top 100 isn’t too bad … even if it is only June. Alabama, LSU and Texas lead the way with four commitments apiece on the list, while Florida State has just one and Miami has none.
It’s early, and Florida is involved with pretty much everyone, so I’ve split my evaluation of the list into two parts.
Here’s the first list of players — committed and uncommitted — linked to Florida to keep an eye on this season:
1 Jadeveon Clowney (6-5, 225) DE (Rock Hill, S.C., South Pointe) — He’s uncommitted at the moment, but it looks like South Carolina, Alabama and North Carolina are giving him the most attention. Florida’s coaches are definitely trying and get in his ear. Clowney is easily the most talented defender in the country with a combination of size and strength, and I’m sure Florida’s coaches would love to see him line up on the other side of 2010 defensive end commit Ronald Powell.
2. Tony Steward (6-2, 225) LB (St. Augustine Pedro Menendez) — There were reports that he had dropped Florida, but he recently denied such statements. After seeing him at one of Florida’s camps last year, I came away thinking he was one of the best defensive prospects out there — even as a rising junior. After earning MVP honors at the Gainesville Nike Camp this spring, he started getting a ton of attention. He grew up a Florida State fan, but Florida, Alabama and Clemson are getting more involved.
3. James Wilder Jr. (6-2, 219) ATH (Tampa Plant) — He’s one of the most sought-after prospects in the country because he’s a superior athlete on the field — no matter where he lines up. He could play either running back or linebacker in college but seems to prefer running back. All the major schools are after him, and he recently said he’ll make his college decision this summer. He’s continually mentioned Miami, Florida, Florida State and Alabama.
4. George Farmer (6-2, 192) WR (Gardena, Calif., Junipero Serra) — Despite his Los Angeles ties, Farmer isn’t committed to USC yet. Florida has offered and the Gators have been mentioned a few times when Farmer’s recruitment has been brought up. He won’t announce until the U.S. Army All-American game, so his recruitment will be one of the more exciting ones.
7. Cyrus Kouandjio (6-6, 322) OL (Hyattsville, Md., DeMatha) — There’s no surprise he’s the best lineman in the country. He matches his size and technique with excellent athleticism. Florida coaches have visited him this spring and with offensive line a priority, Kouandjio will be near the top of Florida’s coaches recruiting board all year.
8. Curtis Grant (6-3, 222) LB (Richmond, Va., Hermitage) — Florida is looking for linebackers and the coaches have checked in on him a couple times this year. It doesn’t look like he’ll camp this summer, but he will visit schools. If Florida makes the list, the Gators will have a decent shot. He’s pretty neutral from what I’ve been told.
13. Mike Bellamy (5-10, 175) RB (Punta Gorda Charlotte) — At one point it seemed that Bellamy was Florida’s to lose, until he looked at the Gators’ depth chart and started to rethink things. He rushed for 4,108 yards and 60 touchdowns in his last two seasons. Bellamy recently told Rivals that Clemson is at the top of his list, while Georgia is No. 2. As long as Florida coaches stay on him, they have a chance, but he’ll have to see how the depth chart could look a year from now before he puts the Gators at the top again.
15. Ray Drew (6-5, 243) DE (Thomasville, Ga., Thomas County Central) — Despite the defensive line haul the Gators had a year ago, UF coaches will be looking to add a few more bodies to the line this go-round. Drew has been on Florida’s radar for some time, but I think Georgia and FSU are on top. He won’t say who his favorites are just yet, but I’d be shocked if they weren’t.
20. Stephone Anthony (6-3, 220) LB (Wadesboro, N.C., Anson) — He made it no secret how interested he was in Florida during the spring, and he made it no secret that he’s one of the best defensive prospects in the country when he recorded nearly 200 tackles and had 11 interceptions the past two seasons. Florida is first on his list and he’s got a strong relationship with head coach Urban Meyer. The Gators might be on top, but he’s being smart and looking around before deciding.
22. Mike Blakely (5-9, 194) RB (Bradenton Manatee) — Seeing him up close, all I can say is he’s a beast. His video is even more impressive and that’s why he’s getting attention from schools all across the country. With a more pro-style offense expected at Florida, he’d be a great fit. Auburn, South Carolina and Clemson are just some of the schools to watch here.
25. Jeoffrey Pagan (6-4, 250) DE (Asheville, N.C.) Florida verbal — He’s the first of Florida’s commitments to crack the top 100 and deservedly so. He’s very fast off the line and has a ton of strength to complement that. He recently came out and said he’s looking around at other schools, after stating that he wouldn’t be visiting or talking to other schools when he committed. No surprise. Clemson and Georgia have grabbed his interest. His final decision will come in August.
26. Brendon Bigelow (5-10, 180) RB (Fresno, Calif., Central East) Washington verbal — He’s committed to Washington, but he’s planning to look around and Florida could be a place he looks. He’s a guy who could work well in the spread or a more pro-style offense.
29. Austin Seferian-Jenkins (6-7, 250) TE (Gig Harbor, Wash.) — During the early part of the spring he was all about Florida. The Gators looked to be in the lead, but Texas came out of nowhere and took the top spot. Texas is getting more and more involved with Seferian-Jenkins and that only looks bad for other schools. If he gets a Texas offer it could be all but over.
31. Jeff Driskel (6-3, 225) QB (Oviedo Hagerty) Florida verbal — He’s the highest-rated quarterback in the country at this point and he has all the tools to succeed in Florida’s offense. The question, however, is can he win? His high school records haven’t been the best, but he’ll have a completely different arsenal to work with in college. He’s expected to enroll early at Florida in January.
34. Demetrius Hart (5-8, 190) RB (Orlando Dr. Phillips) — He’s another speedy back with interest in Florida. He named a top three this spring, and while Florida didn’t make it, he could still make it to campus this summer. A decision isn’t expected soon, so teams will have more time to court him. Watch out for Alabama. His teammate, Hasean Clinton-Dix, has already committed to the Crimson Tide, and Bama is definitely near the top of Hart’s list.
36. Nick O’Leary (6-4, 215) TE (West Palm Beach Dwyer) — He’s got a bunch of ties to Florida, but Florida is no sure thing for O’Leary. Miami is heavily involved and Florida State is starting make a bigger impression on him. Plus, Gerald Christian, who played tight end with him last year, is already at Florida. Not sure if he’d want to compete with Christian for another few years.
39. Sammy Watkins (6-1, 180) ATH (Fort Myers South Fort Myers) — He’s one of the top receivers in the state of Florida, and while he could line up at cornerback as well, schools are mainly recruiting him as a wideout. Florida is one of those schools and he’s got a lot of interest in the Gators. His half-brother Jaylen is a true freshman corner at Florida, and Sammy told me he likes the idea of playing with his bro. Michigan and Miami are other school heavily involved.
40. Jay Rome (6-6, 240) TE (Valdosta, Ga.) — He’s another top tight end prospect on Florida’s board. His uncle went to UF and his father went to Clemson. Georgia is also a team he’s interested in. Teams will have to wait for a commitment from him because he’ll make his decision following his senior year.
41. Devon Blackmon (6-0, 175) ATH (Fontana, Calif., Summit) — He’s an extremely deadly athlete on the field. He lines up at quarterback, but will probably play receiver in college. Blackmon isn’t afraid of moving away from the West Coast and will use his official visits to head east. Florida should definitely be involved in some way, but it will be tough to get him away from So Cal.
45. Timmy Jernigan (6-2, 275) DT (Lake City Columbia) — Here’s my first real problem with the Rivals rankings. Jernigan has all the talent worthy of being a top-5 prospect this season. He has 32 combined sacks the past two seasons and he’s getting a ton of national attention. Seeing him live, he literally looks like a truck on the defensive line. I’m sure his ranking will only go up. Florida has held the top spot on his list for some time and it doesn’t appear the Gators will relinquish that anytime soon. Alabama and Florida State are definitely schools making an impression him as well.
48. Damian Swann (6-0, 175) ATH (Atlanta, Grady) — He could play safety, running back, receiver or corner in college and was one of the first players to be offered as a defensive back by Florida. Georgia and Alabama are getting most of his attention, but Florida is looking to add more depth to its secondary and Swann’s relationship with Florida coaches is only expected to get better.