Heeeeeere comes the future!
The big news last week was that four-star defensive tackle Carlos Watkins chose Clemson over Florida. The big news next week is that four-star tight end Kent Taylor will choose between Florida, Penn State and Alabama. I think he’ll pick the Gators on Oct. 27.
In between all that big news we are left with an open week to discuss the current state of Florida recruiting for the Class of 2012.
The Gators have gotten mixed reviews from the scouting services. Rivals updated its rankings today and kept Florida fourth overall. Scout also updated today and dropped UF to No. 8, as teams like Notre Dame, Texas A&M and LSU moved up. ESPN updated its ranking last week and also kept Florida at No. 4. 247Sports hasn’t updated in more than a month, when it had Florida holding firm at No. 4.
Three straight losses have put a damper on the enthusiasm of Gator fans, but not the prospects I’ve talked to. All of them are still bullish on Florida’s future, and they see more opportunities to play early. The losing streak has done nothing to damage the reputations of coach Will Muschamp or offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
Getting back to Watkins — sure, his verbal would have been big for Florida, but it’s not a devastating loss. The Gators may not take another defensive tackle in this class, but that should not be considered a failure.
True, Watkins is exactly what the Florida coaches want in the middle of the defensive line. He’s big, strong and quick at 6-foot-3 and 286 pounds with room to grow. But UF is in good shape at the defensive tackle position. Getting Watkins would have been icing on a very nice-looking cake.
Florida currently has sophomore Dominque Easley starring at DT. During last Saturday’s game at Auburn, ESPN National Recruiting Director Tom Luginbill gushed about Easley on Twitter: “Florida DE [sic] Dominique Easley is the best DL I have seen in CFB this year. Watch him vs. bama, LSU and Aub.”
The Gators also have sophomore Sharrif Floyd, who will likely slide over from defensive end to replace senior Jaye Howard at defensive tackle. Floyd and Easley in the middle next year should comfort a lot of Gator fans. Then there is the developing depth with redshirt freshman Leon Orr, whom the coaching staff likes very much and is playing quite a bit as a reserve, and true freshman Tevin Westbrook, who brings plenty of size at 6-5, 280.
Throw in two or three more bodies in 2012 verbals Dante Phillips (6-6, 270), JaFar Mann (6-3, 275) and Quinteze Williams (6-4, 295) and you can see why Florida may be content to address other positions with its few remaining scholarships in the Class of 2012.
OK, on to your questions …
What’s going on with the rumors about the linebacker from Louisiana backing out of his commitment? — @bconti1 via Twitter
That linebacker would be Lorenzo Phillips of Patterson, La., a four-star prospect who is 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. I spoke to his coach, Tommy Minton, this morning and he was obviously frustrated with the rumor …
“He has not decommitted. He has not committed to any other school. I don’t know where all this crap is coming from. I’ve gotten 800 calls from down there in the asking about it. He just talked to Coach Muschamp and Coach (Derek) Lewis last week.”
Sounds clear enough. Perhaps the rumors are to be expected during Florida’s three-game losing streak. Perhaps it’s because LSU has a reputation for getting any in-state prospect it wants. Perhaps it’s because Phillips committed and decommitted to Texas A&M within about 24 hours last spring. Regardless of any of that, Phillips’ coach is emphatic about his player’s pledge to Florida.
We’ll stay tuned just in case.
Do you think we have a shot of landing Arik Armstead? — German Gator via blog comments
Interesting. Armstead decommitted from Southern Cal recently because the Trojans would not medically clear his brother, Armond, a 6-5, 290-pound defensive lineman who was hospitalized with chest pain last spring. Arik, a 6-8, 275-pound lineman who prefers to play on the defensive side of the ball, is one of the top prospects in the nation and was also recruited to play basketball for USC. He says the Trojans will still be considered but is visiting Notre Dame this weekend (the Irish play host to SoCal, ironically enough) and plans to be at Alabama’s big home game against LSU on Nov. 5. Florida could obviously use a player like Armstead, but it’s late in the process. Needless to say, it would be a big deal to get the big fella to Gainesville for a visit. I’ll let you know if that happens.
Many people are starting to describe this Florida team as a track team instead of a football team. Are there any recruits that Florida could potentially get that would really help change that perception? — Zack from Hawaii via email
I’m not sure I agree with that perceived perception, Zack, but at the very least Florida is regarded as a team in transition from Urban Meyer to Muschamp and Weis. Meyer did put a premium on speed over size, which isn’t quite what the new regime has in mind. It’s not that Muschamp and Weis don’t value speed or that they value size more than speed. It’s more that they are looking for physical football players who can stand up to the rigors of the Southeastern Conference.
I think Florida has some of these types of players already on its very youth-laden roster and some who are already committed for the Class of 2012. Think about pledges like running back Matt Jones (6-3, 215), offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker (6-6, 315), middle linebacker Antonio Morrison (6-3, 220), tight end Colin Thompson (6-5, 255), safety Marcus Maye (6-1, 195) and the aforementioned defensive linemen.
A lot of Florida fans are worried by the losing streak. I get it. But fans need to understand the nature of these coaching transitions. That very young roster is being asked to make huge changes from the spread offense to a pro-style offense, and the defense is learning a whole new scheme that includes the very foreign concepts of the 3-4 defense. It’s rarely pretty. I can think of seamless coaching transitions like Dennis Erickson in 1989 and Larry Coker in 2001, both taking over loaded teams at Miami. But Florida fans would be apt to remember how Meyer’s first team struggled in 2005. All of that changed in 2006 with major contributions from Meyer’s first true recruiting class (one that included generational talents like Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes). Let’s see what Muschamp and Co., can do with their first true recruiting class in 2012.
Is UF looking at any true center prospects? This year’s center (and last year’s) were converted from some other line position. Although the snapping hasn’t been the problem this year, it was early last year. There have still been some bumps, and it’s not clear our current center can be the leader/assignment caller that is usually required of a center. I think assignments are currently set by Dan Wenger, who’s a senior and gone after this season. — GatorMeO&B via blog comments
Florida’s center is redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, who has plenty of physical ability at 6-3, 295. Wenger has called out the line’s assignments for the most part this year, but there was no noticeable drop-off last week when he missed the second half against Auburn. I think Florida is fine at this position with Harrison the long-term starter and plenty of depth in fourth-year junior Sam Robey and even redshirt sophomore Nick Alajajian.
Heading into this recruiting cycle, the word was that Florida was not looking for any interior linemen. That would certainly jive with an expressed desire to get bigger and stronger at the line of scrimmage, and it would indicate the coaching staff’s desire to convert some of their big offensive tackles to the guard position. Sure enough, Florida has focused on getting offensive tackles in the Class of 2012. Along the way, UF gave very little attention to the nation’s No. 1 center prospect, Ty Darlington, who happens to be from Apopka, Fla. Darlington, a four-star at 6-3, 275, committed to Oklahoma on June 17.
There are two JuCo guys that I see have been offered: Denico Autry and Cordarrelle Patterson. Any buzz, and are there any other JuCo guys? — @njnovo via Twitter
First, I want to thank njnovo for his many questions every week. Much appreciated, even if I don’t answer them all. Now to get back to your question, the JuCo field has become more of a possibility as the Gator coaches explore their other options for key positions on the defensive and offensive lines and wide receiver. Autry is a big defensive lineman at 6-5, 250. He’s pretty focused on Alabama, Mississippi State and Tennessee. Patterson is a 6-4, 202-pound wideout from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee are the leaders, but I could certainly see Florida jumping into the mix if it’s not too late.
Two more JuCo offers have come more recently to players who are already committed. Scout.com reported that on Monday Florida offered East Mississippi Community College defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (6-2, 300), who committed to Tennessee in late July. The other is offensive tackle Donald Hawkins (6-5, 320) from Northwest Mississippi Community College, who committed to Oklahoma State in August. Florida may have a favorable depth chart to sell, but the Gators could have an equally tough time building a relationship this late in the process. Official visits could change my mind.
I suspect Coach Weis is looking for a 6-3 to 6-5 WR out there to give Jeffcoby Driskett an instant target, ala Alshon Jeffery, etc. Any word and a tall, rangy WR in Florida’s immediate future? — Rooferman via blog comments
You suspect right, Rooferman, and thank you for that two-headed QB nickname. Classic! Florida is indeed hot for a big receiver, but all of its hopes are presently pinned to five-star Nelson Agholor, who is 6-2, 180. He definitely has the frame and the talent to make an impact all over the field. Don’t forget about 2012 commit Latroy Pittman, however. He has good size at 6-1, 200 and the hands to be a possession receiver. Three more to remember are currently on the roster — redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar (6-2, 185), true freshman and likely redshirt Ja’Juan Story (6-3, 206) and redshirt sophomore Stephen Alli (6-6, 222), who is too young to give up on.
The real infusion of super-sized receivers won’t happen, however, until 2013. Florida has combed the state and come up with some big-time targets. At the top of the big receiver wish list are Jacksonville Bishop Kenny’s Ahmad Fulwood (6-4, 197), Tampa Jesuit’s Travis Johnson (6-4, 200), Tallahassee Lincoln’s Taj Williams (6-3, 185) and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., University School of Nova Southeastern’s Jordan Cunningham (6-3, 175).
Are there any 2012 commits that have said they want to (or are considering) enrolling early? — VirginiaGator via blog comments
I am not sure about any of Florida’s targets. I usually ask about early enrollees when I write stories about verbal commitments. So here’s who I have so far: WR Latroy Pittman, OL Jessamen Dunker, OT D.J. Humphries, OL/DL Dante Phillips, MLB Antonio Morrison and DB Willie Bailey. If all six sign letters of intent and enroll in January 2012, Florida will be able to count them as part of its Class of 2011.
With Texas A&M and Missouri coming in and Clemson’s success, how much harder is it going to be for UF to win recruits it is hard up for now? — @DontAskMeYo via Twitter
I don’t think anything changes much. Texas A&M won’t be a direct rival in recruiting even when it’s in the SEC, because of the nature of recruiting in Texas. Can the Aggies recruit Florida a bit harder now? Sure, but that shouldn’t affect Florida very often. Missouri isn’t a done deal yet. Their application to the SEC is “inevitable and imminent,” according to the New York Times. If Mizzou does get in and give the SEC a third team of Tigers, I don’t see how it would impact Florida in recruiting. Columbia, Missouri is an awful long distance and the Tigers are not a consistent force in recruiting.
Clemson is another story. Those Tigers have become a thorn in the side of the Gators’ recruiting efforts. Coach Dabo Swinney has done a good job of gradually turning recruiting success into success on the field, as evidenced by this year’s breakthrough. But the question is whether recruiting will be harder for UF, and the answer is no because Clemson has been a recruiting rival for several years now. Unless the Tigers parlay their current success into elite status, they will just continue to be what they are — a significant factor in recruiting the southeastern region of the country. I think Clemson could be a top team for a while, but I don’t foresee it becoming a truly consistent powerhouse program. The status quo remains unchanged.
That’s it for this week. I’d love to answer more of your questions next week. I just need you to submit more of them. Here’s how you can do just that …
• Post a comment on this or any blog.
• Post in the Recruiting Board on the GSMB
• Follow me — Twitter.com/JeffBarlis
• Email me — firstname.lastname@example.org