It’s been a rough week for college football. The scandal at Penn State has overtaken all other news. It’s the most vile, reprehensible story I’ve ever come across in 22 years in this business. Words just cannot express the horror of the allegations.
I just cannot in good conscience kick off this mailbag with the usual air of fun and light-hearted talk. Sorry, no catch-phrases today.
I’m sad to say how many emails, tweets and comments I’ve gotten about Florida possibly scooping up Penn State recruits or prospects. I just don’t want to think about that kind of thing right now when all the attention should rightly be on the victims and the justice that needs to be done.
I understand that you all come here to hear about UF recruiting and discuss everything that relates to it, but my first reaction is to let some time pass before we kick around the recruiting ramifications for the Nittany Lions.
Still, this is a recruiting mailbag and I can’t ignore the number of questions I’ve received on this subject. I think it’s best to let the kids speak for themselves, so here is what Noah Spence tweeted two days ago …
“Um psu might be a no no for me ewwww”
Spence is a 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive end/linebacker from nearby Harrisburg, Pa., who is Scout.com’s top-ranked prospect at his position. He is a huge priority for Florida. Many observers thought Penn State had a good chance to keep him in-state. Now, who knows? Spence is not planning to visit Florida for a few weeks, so whenever he gets a look at campus would seem a more appropriate time to discuss his future and Florida’s chances.
Hey Jeff, what’s the word on Jon Bullard? Is the fact that Carlos Watkins is going to Clemson going to affect his decision? — Eccentricity via message boards
Still hunting for Bullkins, eh? Yes, there is certainly a chance five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard could team up with his good friend, Carlos Watkins, a four-star defensive tackle who is verbally committed to Clemson.
Bullard, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound strongside defensive end, is rated the No. 3 defensive end in the country by Rivals. He would fill a huge need for Florida in terms of size, strength and pass-rushing ability. He has 12 sacks this season, six of which came in one game on the same night his pal Watkins committed to the Tigers.
Bullard’s top teams are Tennessee, Nebraska, Florida, South Carolina and Clemson. He took his first official visit to Nebraska two weekends ago, but it seems this is a three-team race. The potentially bad news for Florida is that Bullard, like Watkins, may prefer to stay closer to home. There are whispers that Clemson and South Carolina are his top two teams and that the Gators are a close third. But the good news for UF recruiting fans is that his interest in Florida is significant. Bullard will visit South Carolina this weekend and see two of his top three teams in action. Then, he’s planning to visit Gainesville for the Florida-Florida State game. Those are some big opportunities for the Gators to make more of an impression.
Bullard says he expects to make his decision by the end of December.
1. Why are we targeting so many OTs in this class? I wouldn’t think any other OTs would want to come given the existing commitments of Humphries and Dunker. You can only have at most two on the field at a time, right? 2. Will the lack of big plays from the buck position (and a former top recruit) this year work against the Gators in recruiting the top buck prospects this year, or can it work in their favor (i.e., early playing time)? 3. Which five-star WR, Diggs or Agholor, is most ready to get on the field and have an impact in 2012? — Jay N (in London … your readers are global!) via email
Normally, I wouldn’t answer so many questions from one reader, but Jay here has gone great lengths to reach out from foggy ol’ London. So here we go …
1. Have you watched Florida’s offensive line? Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan have had moments of sheer matador-style pass protection. Chaz Green is very promising, but the Gators have got to have more competition in this area. D.J. Humphries is a slam-dunk for Florida recruiting. Jessamen Dunker, however, could move to guard. I’m told his technique and upper-body strength need work, but he has terrific feet and overall athleticism. Another commit, Dante Phillips, could move to the offensive line although he’s been recruited as a defensive lineman. The point is that Florida needs at least one more offensive tackle in this class. The Gators are going hard after Avery Young, but the competition will be very tough, as Georgia, Alabama and Auburn are circling the five-star as well. UF has to hope proximity will be a big factor for Young and his family. But back to the question — you aren’t wrong, Jay. I think Florida can sell Young on their depth chart and getting a crack at early playing time. But Florida may be hard pressed to convince another five-star to join the class. That could be why the Gators offered JuCo lineman Donald Hawkins.
2. Let’s just name names, shall we? Ronald Powell is the uber-recruit who was the nation’s top prospect a couple of years ago. He’s had an uneven season, at times looking invisible and unable to shed blocks, while at other times flashing his tremendous speed and athleticism. He does lead the team in sacks with four, although one or two of them may not have been very well-deserved. Here’s the thing — big-time recruiting tends to work both ways. If Powell played like a superstar it could have good and bad effects. It could attract the attention of a kid like Jordan Jenkins, who looks up to Powell. Or it could discourage a guy like Dante Fowler from even considering Florida, as Fowler seems to have a lot of concerns about depth charts and early playing time. The same is true in reverse. Jenkins might feel a little less sure about Florida because Powell hasn’t shown off what the buck linebacker position can really do. Or maybe Powell’s issues will lead to Fowler flipping from Florida State to Florida. It’s all quite speculative as you can see. But the bottom line is that Florida has some very good prospects focusing on that buck position. I think the Gators will get one of them, and then we’ll move on to the next drama of who plays there in 2012!
3. I like Stefon Diggs quite a lot. He’s fast, he’s acrobatic, he attacks the football at its highest point, he’s got supreme confidence and he seeks the spotlight (as evidenced by his bright yellow compression shorts and neon purple and orange cleats at Friday Night Lights). I think Florida has a very good shot at getting Diggs in this class and on the field in 2012. However, I like Nelson Agholor even more. If the Gators get Agholor’s signature on Feb. 1, 2012 I’m going to predict great things. Agholor is just a beast of a football player (as evidenced by his last game — 312 yards rushing). He’s a 6-foot-1, 180-pound wide receiver with unreal athleticism, great hands and great concentration. He’s as explosive as they come, but his best attribute might be his brain. Agholor is extremely intelligent. In the rare opportunities I’ve had to speak with him it he gives the impression that he is clearly more thorough about interviewing his potential recruiters than they do him. Simply put, Agholor is everything Florida needs on the field at wide receiver next season. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to predict that he would play as a true freshman.
What is the update on the visits from Saturday like Nelson Agholor and Kyle Murphy? — @bhyduke326 via Twitter
Here’s what I wrote on Saturday afternoon …
Florida had two official visitors in five-star offensive tackle Kyle Murphy and four-star wide receiver Kwinton Smith, a South Carolina verbal commitment.
Murphy got lots of attention from Florida offensive line coach Frank Verducci, who talked to him on the field before the game and after in his office. Murphy was wearing a Gator pullover, and Smith wore a Gator hoodie.
The Gators also got a big unofficial visit from five-star wide receiver Nelson Agholor and his high school teammate, three-star linebacker/fullback Schyler Miles. Miles tweeted that the visit went well even though the two left during the game.
Another unofficial visitor, Jacksonville’s Nick Washington, a 2013 defensive back, took his third trip to The Swamp this season.
If the competition continues between Brissett and Driskel, do you think one of them would potentially transfer? — Seth Edden via email
I get this question a lot and it does have recruiting ramifications, so here goes. My answer is yes, eventually, but not as soon as some people think. There are always going to be rumors throughout a quarterback competition. And people will make note of all kinds of facts — Charlie Weis personally recruited Jacoby Brissett. Urban Meyer made Jeff Driskel his top priority to quarterback the spread-option offense. That stuff has far less bearing than what happens on the field. So we do know that Brissett has moved ahead of Driskel on the depth chart. But that doesn’t mean Driskel is already contemplating a transfer. With John Brantley moving on after his senior season, Florida just can’t afford to lose either Driskel or Brissett. It is in the best interest of the UF coaching staff to make it a wide-open competition for the job heading into spring practice. If one of the quarterbacks emerges next season as the clear-cut starter, THEN I would say it’s time to start talking about a possible transfer. By then, I would imagine, Florida would already have a solid verbal commitment from a highly touted 2013 quarterback prospect.
I am pumped for Gator basketball! I love our next recruiting class of Dillon Graham, Braxton Ogbueze, and Michael Frazier However, I feel we need some size. You’re the expert, who do we have the best shot at of Alex Poythress, T.J. Warren, Willie Cauley, and Landry Nnoko? — Patrick Kurdila via email
You are right, Pat. Florida does need some size and strength and star power down low, especially if Patrick Young blows up and makes an early exit to the NBA. ESPN has Florida’s class ranked No. 24 in the nation. Point guard prospect Ogbueze is the Gators’ highest-ranked prospect at No. 35, so it would be big for Billy Donovan to reel in a star forward for the Class of 2012, especially after losing out on Mitch McGary to Michigan. Today is the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period, which runs through Nov. 17.
Poythress (6-7, 215) is a versatile five-star forward, who will announce on Thursday. He can do a little bit of everything. Memphis has apparently taken the lead, but he also has a great relationship with coach Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt. Kentucky could be a dark horse, and it looks like Florida is on the outside looking in, even though the Gators are in his final six. The other guys mentioned in the question are all but wrapped up. Cauley is done. He signed with Kentucky. Warren is committed to N.C. State, while Nnoko is a Clemson pledge.
Here’s who Gainesville Sun basketball writer Kevin Brockway thinks Florida has atop its wishlist (and by the way, you really should follow Kevin’s Twitter, @Gatorhoops) …
• Anthony Bennett (6-8, 230) is a five-star who some consider to be the biggest prize of the remaining uncommitted prospects. He’s expected to make an immediate impact because he can bang inside and also step back to shoot the 3. Bennett has Florida among his favorites along with UConn, Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Oregon. Donovan has a lot of competition here and has visited Bennett in his home in Brampton, Ontario in Canada.
• Jarnell Stokes (6-8, 250) is a five-star forward from Memphis, Tenn., who attacks the rim with aplomb, rebounds with intensity and is a good low-post defender. Sounds like exactly what Donovan wants, eh? The competition for Stokes’ signature is expected to be fierce, and that’s just in the Southeastern Conference. Stokes visited Gainesville on Oct. 1 and caught the Florida-Alabama football game. He visited Kentucky last weekend and is also interested in Arkansas. But the word is that Stokes is priority No. 1 for his hometown team, Memphis, as well as in-state Tennessee.
• Robert Carter (6-8, 250) is a wide-bodied five-star power forward from Thomasville, Ga., who visited Gainesville last weekend for the Vanderbilt game. His final three appears to be Florida, Georgia and Georgia Tech. He took official visits to the Bulldogs on Oct. 14, Georgia Tech on Oct. 21 and Florida State on Oct. 28. Carter has said his two in-state options have gone all out in recruiting him, while the two Florida schools have recruited hard as well. The good news for Gator fans is that Donovan got the last word here. Carter is planning to announce at noon on Thursday.
OK, that’s all the time we have. Thanks for all your questions. Stick a fork in me. It’s been fun!