The Outbox 8/24


Heeeeeere comes the future!

World famous catchphrase — check. Ready for your questions — check.

OK people, no witty banter this week. I know, I know. You look forward to it every week. But I can’t right now. It’s go-time.

The staff at The Gainesville Sun sports department has been extremely busy putting together our annual Gator football season preview section. Will Muschamp is on the cover. Pat Dooley and Robbie Andreu spout their usual wisdom. It’s a keepsake!

Naturally, I’m all over the thing. I did my share of stories and preview capsules. But for all of you recruiting nuts, there’s a full page you won’t want to miss. I broke down Florida and its nine primary recruiting rivals and how they are all doing this year (hint: all of them are doing very well). I also wrote a story about how the NFL-laden coaching staff at UF is a serious selling point for recruits. I think y’all will be very interested in both articles.

Here’s the catch: It’s only available on newsstands and to subscribers this Sunday.

Time to answer your questions!

Will you have any updates on the “Bullkins” visit and how it went? @Jaymz15Gators

Thanks for following me, Jaymz. Ah yes, Bullkins. I coined the term on Friday before their visit, knowing I would spend my weekend chasing the dynamic duo of five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard and four-star defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, both of North Carolina. They’re very close friends. They seem to go everywhere together, so I decided to give them the Brangelina/Bennifer treatment (it was also easier for Twitter updates). Speaking of which, if you followed me on Twitter last weekend, you got pretty much all the updates that were available.

Here’s the deal: Bullkins came, they went, they had a “great” time, they aren’t talking about it.

It was the perfect weekend for a visit. Bullard brought his mom. They arrived early enough on Saturday to catch the Gators scrimmage on the final day of training camp. Then there was the annual Letterman’s BBQ, with about 600 people, including scores of former players. I can’t imagine a better scenario for selling a family atmosphere. When it was over, both Bullard and Watkins posted on Facebook that they had a great visit. Bullard posted a couple of photos — one of he and Watkins holding up Florida jerseys and another of Watkins and who I presume are Bullard’s mother and her friend standing around a gator head outside of the UF locker room. These are all great signs for Florida.

So now comes the deafening silence. Neither player is talking. Could there be a reason they’ve gone silent? Even Bullard’s high school teammate/close friend/Gator verbal Rhaheim Ledbetter has his phone off. I actually think I was the last reporter Bullard talked to when he took my call on Friday before his team’s first game of the season. My sources tell me Bullkins are working on a plan to finalize an official visit this fall, together again. If that does happen, I imagine it would bring the two even closer to that package deal scenario. We shall see. I’m still waiting to hear back from Bullard’s high school coach. I’ve gotten a lot of messages asking about this and I did want to blog about it sooner, but there has been a dearth of information and I got bogged down with that special preview section. Hope this satisfies all of you Bullkins chasers.

It appears Miami is in big trouble. This has to be the worst violation in the past 30 years. I think their committed recruits are rethinking their options. Do they have any four- or five-star recruits who were high on the Gators before making their decisions? What do you think are the chances of them committing to UF? — Harry

Thanks for the email, Harry. This was the second most-requested subject in my mailbag this past week. That expensive, pretty yacht that is the good ship Hurricane is sinking fast and Gator fans (like all recruiting fans) want to know if UF can add to UM’s misery by plucking their best recruits, right?

Not gonna happen. Maybe if the ‘Canes had a five-star prospect that Florida coaches had recruited, but all I see are four-stars. And there are some good ones, but at this point in the Class of 2012 recruiting cycle, I think the Gator staff has moved on. Miami has four-star DE Jelani Hamilton, but I honestly think Florida is concentrating on players that are higher on their board to begin with. Miami also has four-str DB Amos Leggett and four-star WR Angelo Jean-Louis, both of whom had an interest in Florida at one point. But again, the Gators are seemingly full in the secondary and are concentrating on a pair of five-star wideouts in Nelson Agholor and Stefon Diggs.

It’s a sad situation in Coral Gables and one that bears watching to see how Al Golden keeps his first real class together. The U has a very highly regarded class so far. They’ve loaded up in-state with 19 Floridians among their 23 verbals. The class was recently ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation by Rivals and Scout. A few pledges have already downgraded their commitment status to soft, but I do expect some kids to stay loyal, mostly the ones from south Florida who grew up as ‘Canes fans. Needless to say, some major penalties could set Miami back several years if not do irreparable harm to the program. There would obviously be a long-term benefit to other schools if the recruiting powerhouse that is UM were to fall back to second- or third-tier status. Top of that list of other schools benefiting would clearly be Florida and Florida State.

What are our chances of getting Tracy Howard? It seemed like he was high on Florida, but now not so much. If so what happened? Also, do we really have a chance to get Keith Marshall at running back? — Jimmy

Thanks for posting your question in last week’s comment section, Jimmy. I read every comment, just so y’all know. Tracy Howard is a 6-foot, 175-pound, four-star cornerback from Miramar, Fla. He’s rated the No. 5 corner in the nation by Scout, and I’ve had a lot of analysts and observers tell me he’s the best cover corner in the state. Although he’s still an uncommitted prospect, his path has already taken some twists and turns. Howard was believed to be a strong Florida lean for a long time. Then when fellow in-state cornerback Brian Poole committed to UF, Howard began to look elsewhere. He stopped calling Florida his leader almost immediately. For a time, he was considering Miami, where he could play early and perhaps go to school with high school teammate, four-star receiver Malcolm Lewis. Now, with the drama surrounding UM, it seems Howard has turned his attention to Florida State. The depth charts at UF and FSU are similarly loaded at the cornerback position. My gut tells me this will be a battle through the end of the year between old arch-rivals Florida and Florida State. I believe Florida is keeping a spot for Howard. Less clear is whether they are keeping a spot for one more cornerback, like, say, Gainesville’s Chris Bivins (currently a USF commit who still has his heart set on staying in Gainesville). Look for the cornerback drama to play out on National Signing Day.

As for Keith Marshall, he is set to officially visit Florida for the Alabama game. That most likely means his interest in the Gators is serious. But everyone I talk to thinks Marshall is likely to end up at Georgia, which has true freshman Isiah Crowell and little else at the RB position. Of course, Marshall will keep a close eye on how Crowell and UGA coach Mark Richt do this season. But I still think the potential depth chart at Florida could be a factor in pushing Marshall elsewhere. Having two four-star RBs in Matt Jones and Mike Davis almost certainly means UF is all set for the Class of 2012.

I am interested in knowing about the RBs in the 2013 recruiting cycle. Obviously Derrick Henry’s commitment to UGA is not a done deal, and it’s a long way until Feb. 2013, but why do many of my fellow Gator fans argue that Henry is not as good as Kelvin Taylor? Obviously he is a legacy and a great back, but what about his or Adam Lane’s game do many people see as supreme to Henry’s? They are all great players, and I would love to see any of them be part of the Gator Nation, but is it just the orange and blue glasses that are judging the players? Your thoughts? — Gator in the ‘burg

Great question. The Class of 2013 is already setting up to be epic, and two positions that really stand out are running back and receiver — and that’s just in the state of Florida. The UF coaching staff has worked very hard already to create solid relationships with a tremendous crop of skill-position players. Man, I’m already excited about covering recruiting next year!

So here’s the deal with running backs in the state of Florida. The question mentions Yulee’s Derrick Henry, Belle Glades Glades Day’s Kelvin Taylor and Winter Haven’s Adam Lane. They’re all Gator possibilities. Also in-state are Delray Beach American Heritage’s Greg Bryant, Cocoa’s Tarean Folston and Orlando Boone’s Aaron Turman. But let’s just talk about the those first three, who I think are the best of the best. Henry gets slapped with some question marks about his size because he’s already 6-3, 230. He’s a tremendous force at running back in high school, but many think he will inevitably move to tight end or defense in college. I can’t fully disagree with that, but I still think there’s a chance he’s done growing and could be a devastating battering ram of a power runner. It’s just too early to write down his college position, and I think it would be a mistake to recruit him otherwise. The last I heard, the Gators were recruiting him (hard) as a running back. He committed to Georgia as a running back. There is a long way to go, and he may end up a running back in UF’s Class of 2013.

As for Taylor, he has been on Gator fans’ minds for years already. He started coming to Friday Night Lights as an eighth-grader. With his dad, Fred Taylor, a Gator great at the same position, everyone assumes Kelvin is a big-time Gator fan. And they assume correctly. What I wonder is if Kelvin still has some room to grow to his dad’s size. Right now Kelvin is about 5-10, 190. His dad played at about 6-1, 228. And while his dad could use his size to run over defenders, Kelvin likes to show his dance moves more often. The Gators could very well take two more running backs in the Class of 2013, and appear to have their choice of some really good ones. Lane has a great relationship with Florida RB coach Brian White. Just last weekend the two spoke mere hours after Lane suffered a broken ankle. Lane texted me earlier this week to say that his fibula, which is broken right near the ankle, is expected to need 6-12 weeks to heal. He will have surgery on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if he is able to get back to the gridiron this season and resume his prolific yardage-gobbling ways. Lane, at 5-9, 205, is an exciting back who dominated the competition as a sophomore. Speaking to him last week, he indicated that White promised Florida will stand by him. That’s got to help in his recruitment. Unless something goes wrong in his rehab, I’d still consider Lane a strong possibility in orange and blue. But as always, with 2013 kids, there is the disclaimer that it’s a loooong ways away.

Thank you all for a fine crop of questions. Let’s do it again in one week. Here are the picks to click …

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  1. Great answers Jeff! One question, what areas do you consider to be major pipelines for Florida still? In the past Florida has dominated Jacksonville and parts of Tampa and obviously Lakeland was providing us with lots of talent. With the coaches hitting North Carolina and Stone Mountain Georgia, what other areas do you see supplying Florida with talent now?

  2. While I think UF and FSU benefit from a predicted UM recruiting fall, I disagree that they’ll benefit the most. This year without that both UF and FSU already have top 5 classes. I’d argue that UM’s losses would more benefit UCF, USF and some out of state schools who recruit that area already – Clemson, AU, etc.

  3. The NCAA has put out that they are having meetings with the Presidents and Athletic Directors regarding rules changes, in the area of recruiting. What are some of the changes you have heard? For example, are they going to start sanctioning the coaches who are proven cheaters?

  4. Do coaches ask players about illegal benefits given or offered to them, by other schools, during their recruitment phase, after they have signed and reported to school? One would think they are interviewed by compliance staff. If so, do they report such violations to the conference and the NCAA? Urban Meyer seems to know of specific wrong doing by other schools, because he is adamant that cheating is rampant!

  5. Which Freshman do you think will have the biggest impact this year and how? I believe it will be Burton. If he lines up in a double TE set, with Jordan Reed, I believe he will have the space to catch a lot of passes.

  6. How do you think Weiss will use Brissett and Driskell? Will one redshirt and play sparingly the following year, until the other is gone? Why don’t they move Murphy to WR, since he is an awesome athlete and really has no chance to play QB at the next level or do you see him or one of the others transferring for more playing time?

  7. Any chance Florida will put Driskell and Brissett in at the same time. That would be awesome when the Gators use Wing-T or T option formations and would really keep defenses off balance as both of these guys run and pass well.

  8. Is Floirda recruiting some big backs to play in a tailback mode and not just put them as blocking fullbacks. Richardson at Alabama, Ron Dayne, and Mike Alstott seem to say that big backs are great up the middle and this seems to fit the new Gator offense. Lighting (scatbacks) AND thunder (big, 230+ pounds) Seems that a lot of colleges are embrafcing this now.
    What do you think? (and thanks fot the great and always informative updates!!)

  9. I would be suprised if both, Driskell and Brissett finished their career’s at Florida. Both are to talented to ride behind the other for 4 years. Whoever solidifies the starting role next year, after Brantley leaves, I expect the other to transfer……….. and when that happens, I can’t say I blame them.

  10. UF may be telling Henry they are interested in him as an RB, but it will not happen. You can’t be a battering ram running as upright as he does. He is not able to get his pad level low enough to be a top flight D-1 RB. He is a super athlete who I think has a trememndous future on defense if he will embrace the idea.

  11. Whats the deal with Noah Spence? He’s a 5 star DE and all the recruiting sights have us on his short list of schools most of which are ACC schools. His stats are incredible.. What are the chances we land him? I haven’t heard one thing about him. Just wondering if he is high on our board and what you can tell me about how he feels about UF?

  12. What a Great Article Jeff……Its football season and cant wait to get back to the Swamp! We have heard all the negativity over the past year…Time for revenge with a chip on our shoulders!
    I think we are going to be absolute ” lights out” over the next years with the recruiting and the talent suited perfectly to the Coaching staff Schemes.
    Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer did it in a very short time and now Will and the staff are going to be next…..Sorry all you naysayers but we are back!!!!
    Go Gators.
    Bob in Jupiter

    • Not sure I agree with that notion, but you could post threads on both boards and ask for the general consensus. I imagine some people like the separation, but for all I know the majority wants it all in one. If that’s the case I’ll make sure the admin knows about it. Thanks.

  13. Jeff, Great insights into Gator recruiting. I hope that Fl will recruit and keep at running back some of the big, battering ram up the middle guys. Florida has always seemed to do well when they had that option in the running game. Seems that a lot of the big agile backs went elsewhere because they feared that Florida would play them as blocking fullbacks. Seems that a lot of college teams are going with some real smashmouth backs like Trent Richardson, so seems that the Gators may also want to think this way. UA Coach even put 246 pound Jalston Fowler back to fullback from linebacker so he would have a stable of big guys. What do you think?

  14. Again, someone from the Gator scouting crew needs to visit N. GA and see this Chandler Register kid. He is a good QB with a great arm and can play receiver. He averages 40yds per kickoff return, and he is only a junior.

    Just sayin!

    Go Gators!!!

  15. Boy, Brantley is terrible, and how in the world do you let a Quaterback run all over a supposedly highly rated College as Florida. WHERE IS THE COACHING STAFF. This is the worse coaching staff ever, even worse than Ron Zook. GET RID OF THE WHOLE BUNCH!!!! CAROLINA QUARTERBACK MAKES FOOLS OF GATORS.
    EVERYBODY IN sTAUDIUM KNEW QUARTERBACK WAS GOING TO RUN EXCEPT THE GATOR COACHING STAFF. And Good Lord, Is there anyone on the team that can TACKLE????? gators are terrible, and it starts with coaching!!!!!!!