Ask Aschoff 10/27

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Man, what an exciting start to the week for Florida recruiting. With a team that is suffering so much on the football field, the staff really is cleaning up in the recruiting world. Things look like they’ll only get better for the Gators from here on out.

The newest addition to the Gators’ recruiting class, Bradenton Manatee running back Mike Blakely, might be the second-best get for Florida behind quarterback Jeff Driskel. Seeing Blakely in action, I love how he doesn’t dance around in the backfield. He’s got plenty of moves, but he waits until he gets through the line before using them. He’s not the biggest guy (5-foot-9, 195 pounds), but he plays like he’s a big back. He’s not afraid to run through tackles and he’s not afraid of contact.

Without further delay, on to the questions!

What does getting Blakely mean for the Gators? Is he the back we’ve been waiting for? Is he the piece to help turn the corner of this class or is he just a solid addition? Was Blakely a concession to not landing Mike Bellamy or James Wilder Jr., or is he just as promising?
— Brent

I touched on Blakely a little in the intro, but I really like what he can do for Florida. Everyone talks about Florida’s lack of size in the backfield and Blakely certainly isn’t a big back, but he definitely plays like it. He’s not your typical scatback because he’s not afraid to take a pounding. Can he do that in the SEC? Not so sure yet, but he’ll be a good running back in a two-back system. Blakely could be matched up with Mike Gillislee or Mack Brown. Blakely could also be used in the slot at times because of how good his hands are.

Blakely definitely helps this class out tremendously. Getting a quality running back in this group was big. It also helps when it comes to recruiting momentum. When one of the best players in the state commits to a school that is having a hard time doing anything right on the field, it can often times give a lot of uncommitted prospects some confidence in that school.

On to Wilder. I was never sold on James Wilder Jr. being a running back in college. He’s a great athlete, but he just doesn’t impress me out of the backfield. Sure, he’s got decent speed and he’s a big body, but he just isn’t very fluid in his movements. At linebacker, he’s a beast and that’s where I think he’ll really excel as a football player. Blakely was higher on the running back board from the start.

With Auburn and Alabama now showing interest in Jamal Golden, has there been any interest showed by Florida? He is the QB for Wetumpka, Ala., a team that is undefeated in 6A football. He is a playmaker that does anything to help his team win.
— Go Gators!

From the video I’ve seen, Golden’s definitely got talent, but Florida is done recruiting at quarterback. While I don’t think it would hurt to go after another quarterback, Florida’s coaches got their man in Driskel. If Florida is going to get another quarterback it will come in the 2012 class. I’m not sure if Golden was ever really on Florida’s radar. Driskel was the guy from the beginning, middle and will be the guy at the end. If Driskel didn’t make it into Florida’s class, I still think there would have been a handful of names that would have come before Golden on Florida’s list.

Ed! What is this about A.C. Leonard being suspended for the rest of his HS season for fighting on the field? I understand young men can lose their cool, but what is going on? How serious a problem is it with A.C.? I have opined against having Chris Rainey back on the team, given his recent behavior. Is Leonard a problem child we would be better passing on?
—rooferman

Everything that I’ve been told about Leonard is that he just lost his cool a couple of times on the field this season. He’s a highly competitive guy and he let his emotions get the best of him during two games. Now, is that a problem? Yes, because he’s suspended for the year and has really hurt his team. It also means everyone will know him when he arrives on campus as the guy who took a swing at another player on the field. It also has to be addressed by Florida’s staff when he gets on campus. To some, it might not be a big deal, but regardless of what anyone says, Leonard will arrive in Gainesville with some baggage. That’s just how it goes.

He’s also going to be under the microscope because of all the legal issues Florida’s football team has dealt with under coach Urban Meyer. But this is not the first time that a high school player has been suspended for the season. Percy Harvin dealt with the same thing during his senior year, but he had no public issues while at Florida. There were never any run-ins with the law while he was in Gainesville and there were never any issues during games.

I think this will be something Florida’s coaches address, but I don’t think it will be something that follows him throughout his college career.

I have heard from a parent of one of the recruits who attended the LSU game, that as a group they were snubbed by the coaching staff. With our consistent success in the recruiting wars, I find this hard to believe. Do you know anything about this? Several reports were posted that recruits from that weekend were bored and shortly after was when A.C. Leonard decommitted. Sounds like poor communication at a bare minimum. Is this story possible? Please tell me what you know.
— TobyGator

There were a few players who were bored during that game. That’s no lie at all. Florida’s offense was really hard to watch until late and most of the kids who weren’t too impressed with the game were offensive guys. Punta Gorda Charlotte running back Mike Bellamy, who is committed to Clemson, left during halftime because he was so bored. I was also told that he might not have been too happy with how the Florida coaches showed Blakely more attention before the game.

Leonard was just another offensive guy bored with what he saw, especially the lack of tight end use by the Gators. Yes, he decommitted, but that didn’t last too long. I think most of the “drama” from the recruits in that game had to do with the fact that Florida’s offense struggled so much until late, not because coaches ignored them.

But you have to remember that there were guys that loved the late-game atmosphere as well. Most guys I talked to about the game loved the crowd in the fourth quarter and most had a great time once the game got interesting.

Also, coaches don’t have that much time with recruits before and after games, so not everyone is going to shake hands with guys or have a little bit of communication. This is why coaches love setting up official visits for after the season. You have barely any time with them during games and even less when you lose.

Like what I had to say? Or maybe you have some suggestions? Follow me on Twitter @EdAschoffGSUN and let me know what you think.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Please break down what you consider to be the most important position of need remaining for this year’s signing class, and which available players may be best suited, and most likely, to fill that need. Thank you.

  2. Edward, keep up the good work dude! I see it like this: We have the QB of the future (Driskel), the 2 RB’s of the future (M. Brown & Blakely), and hopefully we get 1 or 2 WR’s of the future (Benjamin, Watkins, Farmer). Where are the OL, FB and Slot WR of the future coming from? Cheers!

  3. The Blakely get was big, and makes me feel infinitely better about this class. There are about 8-10 spots left, and obviously we want them to all be studs. That won’t happen, but these are the guys that are both rated as 5stars (by scout) and have Florida on their radar. Who would you say we have the best shot of landing in order? Thanks Ed.
    Stephone Anthony
    Nick O’Leary
    Savon Huggins
    Viliami Moala (haven’t heard much about him)
    Sammy Watkins
    Jay Rome
    Tony Steward
    Isiah Crowell
    Tim Jernigan

    I look at this list and Jernigan and Anthony jump out at me as us having a great shot with.

  4. Edward, Enjoy your articles and experise on recruiting. Your webcast with Jeff looked like you were really having fun, good job.

    I am wondering why with 85+ players on scholarship that the Gators don’t actively pursue some real big, power backs in the Jerome Bettis, Mike Alstott mode. Tim Tebow, Cam Newton were/are 230 pounds smashbacks when they run the ball as tailbacks. With defenses “spread” out from Florida’s offensive plays that might make the up the gut dives really work well. It worked for Tebow and is working for Newton.
    Do you think UF will ever really actively go after a Mike Alstott, Jerome Bettis type of smashmuth type of back, maybe just one? Seems that it would be a great addition/option for Florida’s offense, not a detrimentasl distraction?

  5. Ed, Great stuff as always. I just read an article that you posted about the Gators no longer being the favorite to land Tim Jernigan. Not too long ago he was practically a lock to become a Gator. Is the young depth at that position including Floyd, Easley, Hunter and Orr scaring him away? I would think with the Gators still struggling to stop the run, he would see that as an opportunity for him to contribute right away. I read an article comparing Jernigan to Warren Sapp, so I would consider him as a must get. What must our coaching staff/team do to sway decision?

  6. JB, I read that same article. It appears to me that he is looking for a place that he can get the quickest playing time, not competition for playing time. If he’s in the Warren Sapp mode he would welcome the opportunity to prove he’s the best, I know Warren would. I’m not so sure about a lot of the 4 & 5 star players that don’t seem to except that challenge, maybe they think they are overrated or don’t have the confidence in themselves that others have in their ability. The four teams that were mentioned ahead of UF don’t have the athletes in front of him as we do and the guys we have are absolute studs that are learning and he sees that, he does not want to get in line learn what its like to be on the big stage when you have to do battle with the best.

  7. Ed,
    Thanks for the info on Leonard. I knew about Harvin, but I do not like to compare kids to each other, for good or for ill. What an age we live in, who knew we could have all this information on recruits? I guess it is one more thing to contend with as a coach, many will know when a chance is taken on a player, and what that chance entails. Also, keep an eye on that Ga. defensive end, he might like the Gators better now. Keep up the good work, you still deserve a raise. @ Not the rooferman: I’d rather live under a bridge than with my head in the sand!