Heeeeeere comes the future!
This is a week the Gators might prefer the future to not be so, well, inevitable.
Taking a true freshman backup quarterback on the road to face the No. 1 team in the country could be akin to David vs. Goliath … at least that’s the kind of outcome Florida will be hoping for. Anyone have a slingshot?
Here is just one example of a question I’ve been asked many times since the Tide rolled into Gainesville and thrashed the Gators:
How bad did the debacle of the game hurt our chances with the big-name recruits on Saturday? — Julian Hertzog via email
It wasn’t as bad as it seemed to Gator fans. The most important thing to prospects visiting is the atmosphere, and Saturday’s scene at The Swamp was extremely impressive. I’ve spoken to several kids who sat in the south end zone, and every single one of them was impressed with the crowd. It also should not be forgotten that it was just a 14-point game through three quarters. The fourth quarter may have gotten away from Florida, but most recruits are looking at their specific areas of concern on the field.
The trouble with predicting the ripple effect of a game like this is that the experience resonates differently for each prospect. Some see a great performance and want to be a part of that program. Some see deficiencies as an open door to early playing time. I think it’s a given that the UF coaching staff knows how to spin this for a player they feel they need.
I do think one tangible result that this game may have had on an important prospect involves buck linebacker Jordan Jenkins, or should I say jack linebacker (which is what Alabama calls the same position). Jenkins said before the game that Alabama has a slight edge over Florida in his top 2. Well, Saturday’s blowout most likely solidified that status. Jenkins has a good relationship with Florida’s Ronald Powell. He looks up to the former No. 1 overall recruit in the nation. He has watched intently to see what Powell could do in Will Muschamp’s defense now that he’s lined up in the buck linebacker position. He didn’t see a whole lot of splash if he was watching Powell against Alabama.
On the other side of the field, he could see Bama’s jack linebacker, Courtney Upshaw, absolutely wreak havoc with a pick six, a sack that knocked out UF’s starting quarterback and three tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Ask yourself this: If you were one of the nation’s best defensive end/linebacker prospects and you just watched that game, which team would you think is more likely to develop your talents?
It was obvious Saturday night that Bama’s offensive line and defense at every position was bigger and stronger. Dont’a Hightower seemed to be the size of some of the UF guards and tackles, and some of the Bama defensive backs were as big as UF linebackers. Is this a product of Urban Meyer recruiting speed players or is Alabama feeding their players something special? Also, does UF have a legitimate shot at Noor Davis or Dante Fowler? — Kendall via blog comments
Excellent observations and questions, Kendall. I saw the Alabama-Florida game as a classic mentor vs. student matchup and I think it proved correct. Alabama is everything Florida wants to be in terms of size and toughness, but it’s going to take time for the Gators to get to that level. Why? It’s not that Muschamp is any less a coaching talent as Nick Saban. It’s simply a matter of recruiting the athletes to fit these new schemes. Same goes for Charlie Weis’ offense as well (and by the way, I think it’s safe to predict the Gator offense will be the envy of college football in a couple of years).
As for right now, Kendall is correct in pondering Florida’s size disadvantage. It was Meyer’s stated goal to be the fastest team in college football. Mission accomplished. The problem is that while Urban was stocking up on gazelles, the SEC West was recruiting rhinos. The Gators were pushed around on both lines by Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State last season. If the same holds true this year it’ll be easy to say the problem has nothing to do with coaching, but rather everything to do with coaching philosophies.
As for Davis and Fowler, I think Florida has a shot but not a good one. The fact is both say they are firmly committed to Stanford and Florida State, respectively. Another fact, however, is that both remain interested in Florida. And as long as that interest level is high enough to keep visiting campus and with coaches, the Gators will continue to recruit them hard. Florida could use both in the worst way. Fowler, a buck linebacker with tremendous pass-rushing skills, and Davis, an outside linebacker with size who can do it all, are exactly what Muschamp needs. Fowler is planning to be back in Gainesville two or three more times. Davis is pondering an official visit after the season is over. Florida is going to go all out with these two, so there’s definitely a chance. Anything could happen because signing day is nearly four months away.
Tight end Kent Taylor apparently has committed to a team but won’t announce until Oct. 27. Is the team Florida? — @JMBGold via Twitter
He won’t say. But since I’ve been asked by one of my readers to make a bold prediction, here goes — Kent Taylor, the nation’s No. 1 tight end … will … commit … to … (drum roll, please) … the Florida Gators. I know Weis is very big on using tight ends. Florida’s starter, Jordan Reed, may have led the team with five catches last Saturday, but the fact that he has not had a big game yet this season tells me that Weis can get after Taylor sell him on being the missing piece. Taylor, a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder out of Land O’ Lakes, has terrific hands and the frame to someday become a complete tight end. Most observers think he is down to Florida and Penn State, and I think he is one in-state prospect who will stay close to home.
I wonder why we are continuing to recruit the tight end position with Clay Burton, A.C. Leonard, Gerald Christian and Reed on campus. I don’t expect Colin Thompson to back out of his commitment. I realize that Weis wants an in-line blocker and a pass-catching tight end to run his offense, but I feel with the guys mentioned above we have that. Seems to me that the remaining scholarships we have would be better served somewhere else. Also, with Adam Bisnowaty committing to Pitt, do we have a better shot at Avery Young now? Where else do we look for another OL? — Shaka via email
Some fans may not understand just how real a possibility is three tight end recruits in Florida’s Class of 2012, but I would point to last Saturday’s game as exhibit A. Florida’s tight ends were basically whipped at the line of scrimmage by Bama’s bigger, more-experienced linebackers. It led to some ugly pressure on UF quarterbacks. Heading into this recruiting cycle, everyone figured offensive tackle to be the Gators’ biggest need on offense. Well, let’s alter that slightly by saying the need is more for edge blockers. Thompson (6-5, 255) will help in that regard, but he can’t do it alone. That’s why Florida is hot after Kurt Freitag (6-3, 245) as well. Make no mistake, there is room in this class for three tight ends … and one or two more offensive linemen … and two more receivers … and some defense …
The offensive line situation is interesting now that Bisnowaty spurned UF. He was not a factor in Young’s recruitment. The Gators’ focus has always been on Young as their top remaining OT target, and the new coaching staff has made that clear to Avery since February. Young feels the love, and I think the feeling is mutual. The question is simply whether Florida can achieve its goal of signing four offensive tackles. It may be difficult to pull a five-star out from under the Pac-12, but UF certainly has a shot at San Clemente, Calif., offensive tackle Kyle Murphy (6-7, 268). He’s planning to take an official visit for Florida’s next home game, Nov. 5 against Vanderbilt (homecoming).
What are the chances we lose one of our high-profile coaches to head coaching jobs or even the NFL? — Kevin via blog comments
Let’s talk about Weis right off the bat. He’s the big guy. He’s the celebrity coach. He’s going to be a Gator for at least four years by my estimation. That’s the amount of time it would take Weis’ son, Charlie Jr., to graduate from the University of Florida. Junior is here to learn how to coach from Muschamp and Co., and that was a major factor in getting Charlie Sr. to Gainesville. There’s certainly a chance Weis could be here much longer than that, however, as his wife and daughter — really the entire family — are happy in their new north central Florida home.
It’s hard to imagine Muschamp going anywhere since he has been a head coach for all of a few months, but down the road I would like to find out if he has any NFL dreams or fantasies in his heart. The more likely possibilities for Florida coaching staff defections would be defensive coordinator Dan Quinn or defensive line coach Bryant Young, both of whom are far more experienced with the pro game than college. Still, I would imagine UF’s coaching staff will remain intact for the near future.
Why wouldn’t a top receiver want to play in the SEC with Weis and the No. 1 freshman QB in the land? — JD via blog comments
Why wouldn’t they, JD? Why wouldn’t they? I don’t know. Sometimes it’s a matter of geography. For instance, this just isn’t the best year for wide receiver talent in the state of Florida, which is where the Gators recruit most of their talent. So the emphasis shifts to farther outposts, and Muschamp has said his recruiting philosophy is to go after players who have ties to the program. That’s where the Gators find themselves with five-star Stefon Diggs, who was once a high school teammate of UF linebacker Jelani Jenkins. Diggs says he will have no problem leaving his home state of Maryland, and many think the Gators are his leader. He’s planning to be here for an official visit (with his mother) for the FSU game.
Another top target is five-star Nelson Agholor, who was at Florida’s game against Alabama last Saturday. I spoke with Agholor’s good friend, UF wide receiver commit Latroy Pittman, this week and was told that Agholor loved The Swamp. “Oh, that’s my boy!” Pittman said. “We’re tight. That’s my boy. I first met Nelson on the airplane going to (Nike’s elite summer camp) The Opening. After that we hit it off. … I have no doubt that Florida is going to be in his top (teams). Yeah, he seemed like he was having a good time even though Florida didn’t come out with the win. There were still some great things on the field. … He was right in front of me on the bleachers. He was sporting some Florida orange and blue.”
Look for Weis and the Gators to clean up with the loaded class of receivers in the 2013 cycle. The level and amount of talent just in the state of Florida cannot be understated.
Is Angelo Jean-Louis wavering in his commitment? If so any chance the Gators try to snag him? I know Alghor and Diggs are the top targets, but if we miss on one or both of these prospects could Jean-Louis be in the mix? — DaMagicGator via message board
It’s certainly possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Not even with your money. Florida was interested in Jean-Louis early and made a verbal scholarship offer, but he ended up committing to Miami, which is much closer to his Palm Beach home. I haven’t heard much more than speculation that AJL could re-open his recruitment or even decommit, so that has to be a factor. The other big thing to remember is that by this time of year coaching staffs have narrowed down their recruiting boards to focus their limited amount of time on top prospects, the ones they have the best chance with and the ones they want the most. It’s altogether possible that AJL hasn’t heard much of anything from UF since he committed to UM on March 30. As I’ve said many times, I think the Gators will focus on Diggs and Agholor and stand pat if they come up short. I could only see Florida going after another wide receiver if both Diggs and Agholor commit elsewhere in the next couple of months.
Why are some schools good at keeping recruits in state (Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma) but Florida tends to lose many to out of state schools and many are slow to commit? — @JaxBeachDrtyDog via Twitter
First, I don’t think I agree with your contention entirely. Yes, those three schools cited are good at keeping their best players in state. That’s a reality that doesn’t apply to Florida, however. Those schools have the luxury of being the clear-cut top school in their states. The other thing I think you’re missing or forgetting is that the state of Florida has been the most fertile ground for recruiting for decades now. Everyone recruits here, with most major programs assigning one or more coaches to a small geographic area. It’s safe to say there is no more competitive turf than Florida. And then you have three storied programs in UF, FSU and UM splitting the annual crop. It’s no wonder the kids in this state take their time. The best ones have a very complicated decision to make!
OK y’all. That’s it for another riveting Outbox. Hope you got your fix. If you want more, you’ll have to send me more questions. I could always use more questions. Here’s how you can submit ’em for next week …