Ask Aschoff 8/11

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Fall practice is in full swing, which means recruiting has slowed a bit for the coaches. That should all changed momentarily with the announcements of two huge prospects next week on ESPNU. Those big recruits are Groveland Southlake cornerback Nick Waisome and Tampa Plant athlete James Wilder Jr.

Florida has a great shot at both, but who knows what will happen a week from today. I’m sure you’re all gushing with excitement. You’ll get my thoughts on those two and a few other big names in a nice recruiting notes package for Thursday. Oh, the teases.

In our second installment of this season’s Ask Aschoff, we get our first question via Twitter. The times are changing and I feel I can’t leave out my many Twitter followers. For those keeping count at home, as of this morning I was up to 798 followers. I wonder if I can make it to 1,000 by the end of the season …

I know, shameless twitter plug (EdAschoffGSUN).

We’ve got plenty of questions and I’ve got plenty of info, so on to the questions!

Which of three new coaches (Stan really isn’t new) looks to be making the biggest mark on recruiting?
— SchmitOnTwit

It’s only been a few months, but I’d have to go with new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni. Besides manning the receiver prospects, he’s been put in charge of parts of south Florida and he did quite well this spring by securing Pahokee receiver Chris Dunkley and West Palm Beach Dwyer receiver Robert Clark. Dunkley was the biggest get because he was Florida’s top prospect at the receiver position. Clark has made strides on special teams and could get some action in the slot.

This season, Azzanni has hit the road a ton, especially in south Florida. Gator commit and Plantation linebacker Ryan Shazier is having his recruitment go through Azzanni, and when I’ve spoken to him he always gushes over the relationship and bond he and Azzanni have created. Azzanni is also in charge of recruiting Ft. Lauderdale Dillard safety Wayne Lyons and Belle Glade Glades Central receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Both have Florida near the top of their lists and from what I’ve been told, things just keep getting better for the Gators and Benjamin. While he won’t list a leader, Florida is definitely up there. Azzanni is a huge reason why.

He’s such an energetic person and recruits really seem to gel with him. What remains to be seen is how well his players do during an entire season. If the receivers look like they did against Cincinnati, Azzanni’s recruiting popularity will only increase.

Who are the best players that are considering UF from Georgia? What do you think about the boys from Carver High in Columbus, Ga.?
— Joey

Georgia is significant recruiting ground and Florida has always tried to sneak prospects out of there. Look at Omar Hunter, Jermaine Cunningham and Mack Brown to name a few. Battling with the Georgia Bulldogs is never easy when on their home turf, but Florida has done pretty well in recent years.

Florida is obviously going hard after Valdosta, Ga., tight end Jay Rome, who could be the top tight end in the country. He recently came out with a top four and Florida made the cut. He’s looking to visit Gainesville this fall. His teammate, Malcolm Mitchell (defensive back), is also a guy to look out for. He’s gotten a lot of attention from Florida’s coaches and would probably fit in at free safety in Florida’s defense. He’s got an offer and should get more attention from UF through the fall.

Thomasville, Ga., Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew is a guy high on Florida’s list, and Florida is a school he’s definitely interested in. Things have slowed down for Drew with fall practice starting, but Florida will be in the picture for some time.

Gainesville, Ga., linebacker A.J. Johnson is someone who has Florida very high on his list as well. He was an absolute beast at Friday Night Lights and said Florida’s coaches are staying in contact with him. His family really likes Florida, so expect the Gators to continue to come up with Johnson.

Florida has also offered and expressed interest in LaGrange, Ga., Troup athlete Quan Bray and Griffin, Ga., defensive end Xzavier Dickson.

Now that T.J. Lawrence is gone how many recruits do you think Florida will take this cycle? Care to give what you think might be a top wish list for the remaining slots and way early odds of them becoming Gators?
— Matt

I still think Florida’s coaches will look to sign 25-26 players in this class. I expect more attrition because that’s what happens, but that number seems to be about right. The Gators have verbals from 12 prospects and are basically at the halfway point.

Here are some big names I’m sure Florida’s coaches wouldn’t mind having. Note: these are not all commitments I think Florida will get, just some prospects Florida coaches would love to have on National Signing Day.

Nick Waisome, Groveland Southlake CB
James Wilder, Jr. Tampa Plant ATH
Timmy Jernigan, Lake City Columbia DT
Curtis Grant, Richmond, Va., Hermitage LB
Stephone Anthony, Wadesboro, N.C., Anson LB
Tony Steward, St. Augustine Pedro Menendez LB
Ray Drew, Thomasville, Ga., Thomas County Central DE
Jay Rome, Valdosta, Ga., TE
Kelvin Benjamin, Belle Glade Glades Central WR
Savon Huggins, Jersey City, N.J., St. Peter’s Prep RB
Mike Blakely, Bradenton Manatee RB
Mike Bellamy Punta Gorda Charlotte RB (Clemson verbal)
George Farmer, Gardena, Calif., Junipero Serra WR
Marcus Jackson, Vero Beach OL (Miami)
Todd Barr, Lakewood, Calif., DE

Every year, Urban Meyer seems to go after some recruits hard even after they verbally committed to other schools (see Trent Richardson two years ago). Are there any recruits like that Meyer and his staff are going after this year?
— Brandon

There are a few guys that come to mind this year. Obviously, Meyer would like to get a hold of Punta Gorda Charlotte running back Mike Bellamy who was the top all-purpose running back on Florida’s list. He’s a guy that publicly announced Florida as his leader early, but because of depth issues he went with Clemson. Now, he’s wavering on his Clemson pledge and who knows how much pressure Meyer will put on Bellamy. The two seemed to be having fun at Friday Night Lights.

Florida’s coaches are also showing interest in Miami offensive lineman commit Marcus Jackson. He was at FNL and was talking with a few Gator coaches. He didn’t decommit, but with offensive line a position of need, Florida won’t back off until told.

USC commit and Lauderdale Lakes linebacker Kent Turene is someone that still “loves” Florida despite his verbal to the Trojans. When speaking with him at Gridiron Kings, it seemed like he wasn’t exactly wavering, but his mind could be tempted. He grew up a Gator fan and still keeps in contact with the staff. I don’t think this one is over.

Another guy to look out for is Oregon quarterback commit Jerrard Randall (Hollywood Chaminade Madonna). He worked out at Florida’s camp this summer at wide receiver and desperately wanted a Gator offer, but wasn’t going to get it as a quarterback. Florida’s staff looks at him more as a receiver, where he performed well. If he doesn’t object to play receiver, Florida could really get involved this fall.

Edward, glad you’re back. Will we recruit any other QBs other than Jeff Driskell in the 2011 class? Also what do you think will be the greatest need to fill in the 2011 class other than QB? Thanks for your great work!!
— Ken

From all accounts, Florida is done at quarterback. Driskell is the guy the staff wanted from day one and now he’s a Gator and he plans to enroll in January. Unless something unforeseen happens, I don’t see that changing. It would just get too crowded at Florida. But there’s a chance Florida could keep recruiting quarterbacks that turn into receivers in college. I mentioned Randall earlier, but Miami Northwestern quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a Miami commit, could get back into the picture if he can live with not throwing the ball at the next level. But if the 2011 recruiting season were done, I’d say Driskell would be the one and only.

The biggest needs are linebacker and offensive line. Florida has two offensive line commits in Tommy Jordan and Trip Thurman, but a lot of top prospects on the line are mostly committed. Jackson (from earlier in the mailbag) should still get attention and so will guys like Brandon Shell (Charleston, S.C., Goose Creek) and Xzavier Ward (Moultrie, Ga., Colquitt County), but this is a relatively down year for offensive linemen.

As for linebackers, Florida has Shazier and is in good shape for Grant and Anthony and could gain ground on Steward and Turene this fall.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Edward,

    I agree with your assessment that the two most needed positions are Offensive Line and Linebackers. I would add Wide Receiver as a third position of need especially tall ones. With that said, would you please list the realistic prospects for these positions. I knoiw you listed some in your response to Ken earlier. Also, in what capacity are we recruiting James Wilder.

    Thank you,
    John Racek

  2. Any word on Alli? I know he is still raw but with his size and speed he could be that large deep threat that would be nice. I hope the 18th is a big day for us with Waisome and Wilder, and do you know of any others announcing soon? Thanks for all your insight.

  3. Seems that I saw that a son of one of Florida’s great running backs is a top college prospect (on You Tube). I think it was Emmitt Smith’s son. Any chance he is on Florida’s radar for the 2011 class?

  4. Ed, can you please get updates on Timmy Jernigan, Kasen Williams, and Grant. Also, for what I’ve seen in film study, Blakely is a much better back for our system then Wilder. If we do get Wilder on the 18th(which I’m very doubtful), would Blakely go elsewhere? Also, will the UF coaches take 2 running backs in this class? Finally, is Coach Gran at FSU that strong a recruiter or is he selling false hope to 18 year olds?

  5. Paul: I believe you are thinking of Kelvin Taylor, Fred Taylor’s son. He’s a 2013 RB that I think has UF near the top of his list, if not the top. He looks good though.

    BTW, who are some of the top backups on the O-line that will get significant snaps?

  6. Hey Ed,

    Do you know the processes and/or qualities that Urban and Co. use to grade players? It seems that every year we end up with a couple of obscure two or three star players (per rivals or scout) and I’m confused as to why a powerhouse program such as Florida would take someone “lowly” ranked by the outside sources unless we were evaluating them on a different scale. Given your proximity to the program I was wondering if you knew the methods they employ.

    Go Gators!

  7. Sambizle, he’s not referring to Wilder, Jr. His dad did not go to UF. Wilder Sr went to Mizzou. He said the kid was the son of a Great Gator running back, and that is not Wilder, Jr. Only one it could be is Taylor. I think Emmitt’s kids are very young, and not in high school, so it isn’t his son.
    Ed, do you know when Steward plans on announcing? Is he an “after the season” announcement?