Welcome to the new year’s first installment of the most popular recruiting mailbag this side of the Mississippi!
Has it really been two weeks? Have we really not spoken since last year? Time really flies when you’re on the recruiting road. It was fun, but I’m glad to back home with you guys. Since we last spoke, things have really been heating up in the recruiting world and Florida is right in the middle of it all. Will Muschamp’s staff is just about complete, which has everyone very relieved. Recruits will soon get to meet all of Florida’s new coaches and chemistry will no doubt flow.
Though Muschamp hasn’t had offensive coordinator Charlie Weis or defensive coordinator Dan Quinn on the road, the fact that they both have NFL credibility is enough to hold over some recruits right now. Weis will begin the recruiting process once he passes the NCAA coaching recruiting test. He was a head coach at the college level, so I think he’ll be just fine there.
Quinn might be the most important staff member to get on campus and into all of those home, because Florida will probably finish its class with a defensive-heavy push. The recruits I spoke with recently seem to be more interested with Quinn — when he will be in town and when he will be recruiting.
The one thing really going for Florida during this recruiting season is that Muschamp is a defense guy, so he’s already starting to build pretty solid relationships with all those defensive recruits. Kids I’ve talked to are pretty impressed by him.
Hope my introduction was helpful. Now, it’s time for you and the family to gather ’round, put on your favorite Miles Davis record and let’s get on to the questions!
How about some predictions? Anthony Chickillo, Tim Jernigan, Stephone Anthony, Curtis Grant, Tony Steward, Jeoffrey Pagan, Sammy Watkins, Kelvin Benjamin (recent FSU commit), Cyrus Kouandjio, any big-name offensive lineman? With Will Hill and Ahmad Black leaving, we also have a need at safety. Any leads on a safety we might be in the market for? Love the column. Thanks, Ed!
Ah predictions. We either look incredibly smart or incredibly stupid. But, hey, it’s part of the job. I’ll try my best not to look stupid, but I refuse to make any promises …
Anthony Chickillo (Tampa Alonso)— He’s committed to Miami, he’s a legacy there and his dad wouldn’t want it any other way. He had a great time on his visit to Florida last weekend and he’s spoken highly of the Gators ever since Muschamp was hired. Florida is definitely in the running for his services, but the more he does his homework on new Miami coach Al Golden, the more he likes him. After talking with him a couple of times, I just get the feeling that it’s going to be incredibly hard for him to turn down UM. He’ll make a “final decision” after his visits, and he plans to visit Alabama or Auburn, Florida State and Miami. I think he sticks with the ‘Canes.
Tim Jernigan (Lake City Columbia) — The more I talk to him, the more I get the feeling Florida is very much in the picture. He grew up a Gators fan, his sister lives in Gainesville and he’s been on UF’s campus more than any other. However, he’s always said he wants a change of pace when he gets to college and Gainesville might not offer that. He has yet to meet Muschamp and wants to meet Quinn. Trust is the most important thing to Jernigan because he feels like all of the schools he’s interested in are having coaching changes, and that’s bothering him. He told me he’s basically starting over as a recruit. It’s not fun for him, right now. FSU, LSU and Alabama are all in the picture, but I think this comes down to FSU and Florida. LSU still has a shot, especially with Les Miles coming back. That is huge for Jernigan. Bama might not even get him to visit because d-line coach Bo Davis is now at Texas. Tennessee is creeping into the picture and could get a visit from Jernigan this weekend. But if Jernigan gets to UF before National Signing Day I’m going with Florida. If not, FSU will add him to its already stellar class.
Stephone Anthony (Wadesboro, N.C., Anson) — Florida is still in it for Antony and he reportedly had a good time on his visit to Gainesville last weekend. He told me he’s cooled things down as far as a leader goes, so Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and North Carolina State are also being considered. Clemson is definitely the school to watch here. He’s always liked Clemson and gets along with the defensive staff very well. Those Gator commits down in Orlando were in his ear every day about joining them in Gainesville, and his parents were thrilled with Muschamp. I’m going with a Florida-Clemson battle until the end. As of today, I’ll go with Florida, but he’s visiting Clemson this weekend.
Curtis Grant (Richmond, Va., Hermitage) — This kid is not a fan of interviews or talking about the recruiting process, but what I’ve learned from the little he has said is that Ohio State and Florida are the schools he’s very interested in. Florida has been the favorite for most of the year, but he was very impressed with what OSU’s coaches had to say when he visited last month. The good thing for Florida is that he’s visiting UF this weekend. I’ve liked the Gators all along and I’m not changing that now.
Tony Steward (St. Augustine Pedro Menendez) — When I spoke to Steward the other day, he listed FSU, UF, Clemson and UCLA as his finalists. He also told Scout.com that he’s only down to FSU, Clemson and UCLA. Go figure, but I never thought Florida had much of a real chance with him. Even though he really liked the “Cali” life at UCLA, I don’t think the Bruins have a chance either. This one has always been down to Clemson and FSU. Clemson is gaining ground, but FSU will land him.
Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, N.C.) — He was once committed to Florida and has now opened things up. He wants to speak with Muschamp and would like to visit Florida. I’m not sure if the latter will happen. If it does, Florida could become the favorite again. Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and Tennessee are other schools he’s looking at. Again, Clemson is a team to watch here. It’s very close to home and he loves it there. He’s been there a few times as well, so it’s almost like a second home. This guy is hard to read at times, so I honestly can’t deliver a prediction now.
Sammy Watkins (South Fort Myers) — He’s committed to Clemson and said last week he’d like to visit Florida. He then told reporters he wasn’t going to visit Florida, but I don’t think that’s completely over. There is still a good chance he’ll make it to Gainesville before National Signing Day. Florida needs a big receiver, and Watkins would be perfect (plus his half-brother, Jaylen, is at UF). Still, I don’t think it will be enough. I think he sticks with Clemson.
Kelvin Benjamin (Belle Glade Glades Central) — He’s committed to FSU and has canceled his visit to UF this weekend. It’ll be FSU.
Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md., DeMatha) — He says he’s open, but everyone is convinced he is an Alabama lean, especially with his brother being there. Let’s go with Bama.
Safety — Florida got a great commit in Miami Monsignor Pace safety Jabari Gorman. Alabama commit Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix is the next guy Florida is going after, and the staff hopes he visits later this month. I don’t see Clinton-Dix changing his commitment and I think a couple of Florida’s current commits (Valdez Showers, Louchiez Purifoy) could play safety.
I don’t believe Jadeveon Clowney has finalized his commitment, has he? Probably South Carolina. Could our new staff get involved with him as a recruit? Just wondering, Ed.
No, Clowney (the nation’s No. 1 recruit) hasn’t made a commitment and he probably won’t until National Signing day. South Carolina seems to be the favorite, but FSU, Alabama, Clemson and LSU are all on his list of favorites. He likes Muschamp and that’s the only reason why he’s generated any sort of interest in Florida. He told me he might visit, but even that could be nothing but a tease. The bottom line is that Florida is coming to the party very, very late for the best player in the country. It will be hard for this staff to pull him. Muschamp will certainly try and if Quinn’s season ends soon, he’ll be one of the first guys going to meet him. Even with all that work, Clowney is still a long shot for Florida.
Is going after any JuCos???
Florida is going after some junior college players. Though they haven’t really worked out for Florida lately, getting JuCo guys isn’t always a bad thing. Gulf Coast Community College defensive tackle Johnathan Jenkins will visit Florida on Jan. 28. He was committed to Oklahoma State, but has since decommitted. Florida is one of his finalists.
There is also talk that Coffeyville, Kan., C.C. wide receiver Duron Carter could be visiting this weekend. I’m not sure how much interest there is from both sides, but the last JuCo wideout for Florida didn’t work out too well.
Florida was going after Council Bluffs, Iowa, Iowa Western C.C. defensive tackle Jared Ebert, but he has signed his letter of intent to Oregon. Norwalk, Calif., Cerritos C.C. safety Keith McGill, who is committed to Utah, drew interest from Florida’s previous staff, but nothing has come from him lately.
Do we read anything into these all-star games? Jeff Driskel doesn’t look ready to play right away.
I don’t read into all-star games at all. The offense is always behind the defense because it is much easier to set up a defense than it is to run plays on offense. Driskel wasn’t great during practice and threw several interceptions during each practice every day. But every quarterback struggled. Each one was put into bad situations because there was no rhythm between quarterbacks and receivers. It’s just the way it goes. However, Driskel is a bit of a gambler when it comes to decision-making and that is something he will absolutely have to work on once he starts practice.
I’ve had a lot of people praise Driskel for how well he did during the game, but if he didn’t have that 63-yard touchdown run, I’m not sure people would be too thrilled with how he looked. He was 2 of 8 for 18 yards passing with an interception that went for a touchdown. He didn’t have great touch on the ball for most of the game. He shined when he had to make plays with his feet, but that’s expected at events like this. Driskel’s practice this spring will be a greater measuring stick than his week in Orlando.
Who are the d-lineman that we are most likely to sign? Seems we are all over the place with no d-line coach to recruit with.
Florida’s staff is pretty much going all out on the defensive line. It’s an area of need and Florida’s got space for them, especially with most of the bigger fish committing elsewhere. I think Florida still has a good shot with Jernigan, even if he is saying the Gators aren’t a finalist. I’m going with my gut and I just feel that way every time I talk with him. From there, it’s a bit murky.
Chickillo is going to be tough for any school to pull from Miami.
A new name to look out for is Shreveport, La., Evangel defensive end Jermauria Rasco. He is only interested in Florida because of Muschamp and wants to visit the week before National Signing Day. He looked pretty good during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Florida was visited by Miami Booker T. Washington defensive tackle Elkino Watson last weekend and he had a good time. It helps Florida that his former teammates — Quinton Dunbar and Lynden Trail — were there to hang out with him.
As I said earlier, Jenkins will visit Florida on Jan. 28, and Pagan isn’t done with the Gators.
West Palm Beach Dwyer defensive end Curt Maggitt is still very much interested in Florida, and The Palm Beach Post reported today that he will make his final decision on Feb. 3. From everything I’ve been told, Florida is in pretty good shape here and Muschamp hasn’t missed a beat as far as recruiting him.
One guy to keep an eye on is McKeesport, Pa., defensive tackle Delvon Simmons. He says he’s down to USC and Florida for his final visit.