What was supposed to be a huge recruiting weekend and was supposed to feature as many as 21 official visitors has turned into a small gathering in Gainesville.
A bunch of names have jumped off the list, as only three official visitors are expected now since Urban Meyer announced his resignation Wednesday.
The good news for Florida is that prize quarterback recruit Jeff Driskel will be one of those visitors. He is the linchpin of not only this class but Florida’s future. I know, it sounds absurd when I throw phrases like “Florida’s future” out there, but it’s the truth. With John Brantley graduating next year and the plethora of question marks surrounding the Gators’ backup situation, Driskel will be all but handed the keys to Florida’s team in 2012.
It’s a harsh reality, but not having Driskel will set Florida back unless one the Gators’ current backup QBs steps up and proves he’s ready to compete at a high level in the SEC. We don’t know if Driskel will be ready for that in a year, either, but he could be the most ready to take on the task of being Florida’s next quarterback.
Getting Driskel on campus this weekend is big for a number of reasons. For starters, Driskel is an early enrollee and isn’t in the best position to look at other schools. But don’t think there won’t be interest coming from other programs. He was down to Florida and Auburn when he committed in April, but the Tigers currently have a solid quarterback commitment in Kiehl Frazier. If Auburn started to recruit Driskel again, it could lead Frazier to consider other options, namely Arkansas.
Alabama has Phillip Ely locked up at quarterback, but could have interest in Driskel. If Driskel comes away from Gainesville this weekend with a negative feel, Alabama coach Nick Saban could jump at the chance to bring him in. That would definitely complicate things with Ely.
Clemson could be a team to look out for if Driskel decides to open his recruitment up again. Clemson has two quarterbacks in the 2011 class, but neither are on the same level as Driskel, and he’d fit in well in Clemson’s offense.
Florida still has Meyer recruiting very hard for it, and Athletics Director Jeremy Foley will be in town to meet recruits and parents. Foley loves recruiting and should be very interested in chatting with Driskel and his family.
It also wouldn’t surprise me if they talked to Driskel about his feelings on a new coach. I’m not saying Foley should or would base his search around Driskel, but I’m sure they’d like input on what would make him happy.
It’s been reported that Driskel is making phone calls and sending out texts to committed and uncommitted guys — a la Trey Burton and Lynden Trail from last year — trying to keep this class together. I’ve also been told that some people at Florida don’t feel as confident about Driskel as they once did.
The bottom line is that Driskel and other recruits are strictly in wait-and-see mode as far as Florida is concerned. This visit will go a long way for Driskel, but I think with him being an early enrollee and with his strong ties to Florida, it will be tough for him to back out of his commitment now.
Venice athlete Clay Burton will also officially visit along with Miami Monsignor Pace safety Jabari Gorman. Gorman has taken some interest in Florida in the last month and decided to visit regardless of Florida’s coaching situation. He’ll be one to watch, considering Florida needs help at safety.
Florida is also supposed to get an unofficial visit from 2012 Raleigh, N.C., Millbrook running back Keith Marshall. It’s interesting that he’ll be coming in with Florida’s coaching situation. Definitely not a bad thing for the Gators. He already has a handful of verbal offers from some of the top programs in the country.
Meyer still helping
Even though Meyer will be stepping down as Florida’s coach after the Outback Bowl against Penn State on Jan. 1, he insists that he’ll still recruit hard for Florida in the coming weeks. He said his reason was because of how much love and time he’s devoted to the program and that he wants to help stock Florida up for the new guy.
He started making phone calls on Wednesday and said Thursday that the reception from recruits has been positive for the most part. He’s confident that kids will still be interested in the Gators even without him at the helm.
“Florida is Florida,” he said. “Florida always will be Florida. Even last year, with the issues, we put together a great class with the great coaches here.
“We just gotta get moving.”
It’s true that Florida put together one of the best classes on paper, but Meyer decided to come back last time. This year, that isn’t happening.
Obviously, with a major coaching change like this, Florida’s commits will definitely be looking around. It’s only natural.
CB Nick Waisome (Groveland South Lake) — He will officially visit Florida State this weekend. Remember, Waisome picked Florida over FSU this year. He’ll also visit LSU and maybe South Carolina. Waisome told Scout.com’s Laura McKeeman that he could visit USC.
CB Louchiez Purifoy (Pensacola Pine Forest) — He already had an official visit to Alabama in January planned, and he’ll now visit Auburn, according to Rivals.com. Alabama will definitely make a strong push for him. He’s still committed to Florida, but the Tide are creeping up quite quickly.
LB Ryan Shazier (Plantation) — He was supposed to officially visit Florida this weekend, but instead decided to visit LSU. He could also check out Ohio State.
WR Ju’Juan Story (Brooksville Nature Coast) — He was shocked to say the least about Meyer’s resignation. He not only had a close relationship with him but he and former defensive line coach Dan McCarney were pretty tight as well. Georgia is a team that will probably be very involved with Story.
WR Javares McRoy (Lakeland) — He is a spread guy and really liked Florida’s offense. He is in wait-and-see mode at this point.
CB De’Ante “Pop” Saunders (DeLand) — Florida State will be jumping all over him. He’s still committed to Florida, but he’s definitely a candidate to take a hard look at FSU.
TE A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville University Christian) — While nothing has been reported, you have to think that Alabama will make a run at him. He’s expected to enroll at Florida early, so he and Bama will have to act fast. If Florida brings in the right guy, Leonard will probably stay, but he and Meyer had a great relationship. Alabama has a chance to steal him at the end.
CB Valdez Showers (Madison Heights, Mich., Madison) — He had a last-minute change of plans Thursday night and won’t visit Florida this weekend. Again, he’s waiting right now.
Here are some reactions from some uncommitted guys Florida was after.
LB Lamar Dawson (Danville, Kent., Boyle County) — He was scheduled to officially visit Florida this weekend, but canceled after hearing the news about Meyer. He’s unsure if he’ll visit even after the next coach is hired.
LB Curtis Grant (Richmond, Va., Hermitage) — He told Scout and Rivals that he’s still very interested in Florida. It sounds like that wasn’t much of a shock to him. I still think Florida has the advantage here.
OL Josue Matias (Union City, N.J.) — He was supposed to officially visit this weekend and has canceled. Florida appears to be off his list now.
DL Elkino Watson (Miami Booker T. Washington) — He won’t officially visit this weekend, either.