Zach’s Mail Stack 11/23

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It’s the final week of the regular season and things are getting ready to pick up on the recruiting trail!

Florida only had one official visitor for the Furman game, JUCO defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, and I will have a blog on him tomorrow. There were also a handful of no-shows, but that won’t be the case this weekend.

It’s UF-FSU and several of the nation’s best prospects will be in The Swamp to see these arch-rivals go at it. We’ll have a preview story on the website Friday, but for now here’s a running list of visitors expected to attend.

Lots more questions for this week! Keep ’em coming!

Most of them were about specific recruits and where they stand with the Gators.  So what I’ll do for this recruiting mailbag is take a look at the targets left on the board for each position of need. This will cover the guys you all asked about, many of whom will be visiting for Florida Sate.

RUNNING BACK

With the commitments of Matt Jones and Mike Davis, Florida is set in the backfield. But some still want to know if Keith Marshall, the No. 1 ranked RB by Rivals and Scout, could possibly join the party. Marshall officially visited for the Alabama game and put the Gators in his top six on Nov. 16 along with Clemson, Georgia, North Carolina, Notre Dame and South Carolina.

But when he makes his announcement on Dec. 6, it will not be for UF. He has been a UGA-lean for months and all signs point to him picking the Bulldogs, especially given their success this season. This isn’t that big of a loss for the coaches. They are searching for size and strength at the position and Marshall is more of speedster at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds.

WIDE RECEIVER

Nelson Agholor.

Stefon Diggs.

That’s all you need to know.

Not only are these two the top priorities at wide out, they may very well be atop the recruiting board. The Gators need offensive playmakers who can create separation and make plays down the field, and both of them fit the bill.

Although Agholor and Diggs have yet to name a leader, many feel that Florida is their favorite.

Agholor unofficially visited for the Alabama and Vanderbilt games and plans to take an official visit with his parents after the season. He is very quiet when it comes to recruiting and rarely does interviews, but two commits have told me they think he will be a Gator.

Diggs was scheduled to be in town for FSU, but he canceled on Monday because he wants to watch his brother play in the state championship game back home. However, Diggs’ mother and his mentor are still coming down to check out Gainesville with Jelani Jenkins’ mother. Diggs attends the same school as the starting UF linebacker and their families are very close. They also share the same mentor. There was a lot of talk back in July that Diggs was ready to commit at Friday Night Lights but just needed his mother’s blessing. So her trip to UF this weekend is a very positive sign for Florida and speaks volumes about Diggs’ interest.

The Gators are also after LSU commit Avery Johnson and Amara Darboh, who plans to officially visit before National Signing Day.

OFFENSIVE LINE

On Saturday, UF will host its top offensive line target in Avery Young. Rated a five-star prospect by Scout.com, Young has liked Florida from the beginning of his recruitment and it seemed like only a matter of time before he committed to the Gators. But Young decided to stay open and has also gained interest in Auburn, Georgia and Alabama. Young is taking his official visit this weekend and it will be his last trip to Gainesville, so the coaches need to try and secure his verbal.

Florida was also supposed to have JUCO OL and Oklahoma State commit Donald Hawkins in for an official, but he canceled the visit after spending last weekend in Texas. But the Gators now have another JUCO option, 6-foot-7, 290-pound Pierce Burton. He was recently offered a scholarship and has an official visit scheduled for Dec. 17, where he could make a commitment to UF if given the opportunity.

DEFENSIVE END

Five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard is Florida’s top priority at the position. Unfortunately for the coaches, they are having to pursue him the hardest. He will be on an official visit this weekend with his teammate, safety commit Rhahiem Ledbetter, so they should get a good idea of where he stands. If he ends up going elsewhere, look for the staff to turn up the heat on Noah Spence. The five-star is ranked as the No. 1 DE on Scout and has UF in his top seven. Penn State once held the lead for Spence, but he has all but eliminated the Nittany Lions since the scandal broke. If the coaches get Spence on campus (he’s never visited) and convince him to leave home, Florida could be in the driver’s seat.

The other options here are Leonard Williams, Darius Hamilton and Alex McCalister.

Williams called UF his leader after the Tennessee game, but once Auburn entered the picture he changed his tune and now seems neutral. He grew a Gator fan and is coming for FSU this weekend, so maybe Florida can make a move for him. McCalister will also be in The Swamp to the Gators and Seminoles square off, but he looks like a backup plan if Bullard, Spence and Williams don’t work out. Hamilton has UF in second place and is scheduled to officially visit in December, but he is all Rutgers at this point and will be hard to sway away from New Jersey.

BUCK

The coaches will have all three of their targets in the south end zone bleachers Saturday. No. 1 on their list is official visitor Jordan Jenkins. He had Alabama leading for his services in October, but the Gators have evened the playing field thanks to his relationship with the coaches and players. I still see him signing with the Crimson Tide in the end, so if UF is going to prevent that from happening, things have to go well this weekend.

Joining Jenkins in the stands will be FSU verbal Dante Fowler. This will be his fourth visit to Gainesville since choosing to the Seminoles and he appears to have real interest in Florida despite his “100 percent committed” comments. If the Gators come out with a victory, it would be a big help in their efforts to make him switch. Fowler’s good friend Tyric McCord is also attending the game. If the coaches get bad vibes from Jenkins or Fowler, they may try and get the one time Gator-lean to pull the trigger.

LINEBACKER

Josh Harvey-Clemons was one of the no-shows for Furman. His high school team lost a late-night game on Friday and he wasn’t able to make it for the 1 p.m. kickoff.  He was also scheduled to be at the FSU game but now has a wedding to attend on Saturday. But his change in plans in no way reflects a change in interest with the Gators. He still has UF as one of his top schools and will take an official visit in December. He’s one of the last options left for Florida at LB, but if I made a mock class for 2012 — he would be in it.

CORNERBACK

Like other positions above, the top targets remaining are attending the FSU game. Rivals’ No. 1 cornerback Tracy Howard will be there with his mother, who is a huge Gator fan. Florida and Florida State are Howard’s favorites and Saturday should help him decide his college destination with the depth he see’s on the field. USF commit Chris Bivins is making his third trip to The Swamp this year. If UF misses on Howard and still wants to add a CB, Bivins would likely drop on the spot if given an offer.

Thanks all for this week! Everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving!

34 COMMENTS

  1. It seems to me that the biggest needs, besides those at WR that have been addressed are at LB and O line. We struggle to consistently block the run and give our QB time to throw. It won’t matter who the RB or QB is if we don’t block. The other fundamental (downfall) this season was tackling- before the opponent is 7 yards downfield. That brings us to the severe lack of “pop” at LB that has been missing since Spikes and company departed for the NFL.

  2. Thanks Zack,

    I can see us picking up a lot of the 2nd Option guys you are talking about. Lenord Williams is a guy I really wanted and unsure why we have not valued him more. I think we need another big body D-line after missing out on Walkins. I didnt know that Fowler visited us that many times I guess we have a better shot then I originally thought. If Fowler does sign he might be an attitude problem. If we could get the 2 WR and Noah Spence I think we walk out with an exclent class this year. Just need more camp bodies on the O-line and D-line.

  3. Muschamp and staff are going to fill needs and more with a great recruiting class this year….and continue to add in the years to come. Opportunity in Gainesville and great coaches to coach them up. And it is Florida! Any questions?

    Meyer leaves…goes to Ohio State….and Florida beats Ohio State again in a few years for the national title worse than they did before….anyone like that story?

    Also…..does anyone think they have ever heard the real story why Meyer left one of the best coaching jobs in America and now is going to OSU a year later. Something is just not right about this story.

  4. I agree with TampaGator about the Urban story. I don’t think we heard the full story of his retirement from Florida. I wish him well and I think we will all be happy when the fruits of our new coaches labor have developed into another National Championship team. who knows, maybe we will match up against Meyer and show him what he is missing down in Florida. GO GATORS! BEAT FSU!

  5. By the way, excellent work Zach. I think we all appreciate the frequent blogs. I have been really missing the Ask Aschoff column since he left for ESPN, but you are delivering (often) the info we recruiting fiends desire. Keep up the good work!

  6. Excellent article Zach. Let’s hear more about these second options. We don’t know about the playing style/background/skills of these less heralded recruits.

    By the way, I am of the opinion that Dante Fowler is a prima donna, that he is team poison, and is therefore a classic ‘nole.

  7. It’s no real mystery TampaGator, and GatorRace. The Urban story is as plain and simple as the nose on his face. He brought a new exciting offense from Utah to UF; the “Spread Offense”, which was “borrowed” from Bill Walsh’s West Coast type offense. Urban used it at Bowling Green with Josh Harris at QB, and at Utah with Alex Smith running it. When Urban arrived at UF, he did a good job utilizing Chris Leak (who didn’t fit the offense), while grooming his crowned jewel; Timmy. When the Tebow era began in full, the spread was working to perfection. UF did have a laundry list of NFL talent as the supporting cast, and that didn’t hurt a bit. Urban was able to do an amazing job in a very short period of time. Unfortunately this was to be a “Perfect Storm” of sorts. He recruited speed, speed, speed, and was quoted as saying he wanted to have the fastest team in the country, which he probably did. The problem is that all this speed is dependent on one key element, the mobile, dual threat QB. Without a Tebow or Cam type QB, this offense is exposed as a “One Trick Pony” offense. After Cam left, and make no mistake Cam would have kept the health issues at bay for at least one more year, Urban was forced to realize what he already knew. His team was out of Tebows and Newtons, and family and health needed to become a priority. A quick call to his doctor, and “lets come up with something that sounds serious, but isn’t too serious”. “Maybe something no one has ever heard of”. “I like Esophageal Spams”! “Yeah, I’ll take that one doc.” A quick resignation followed by an unceremonious return, and I’ll give it one more year. Hey, if nothing else, people will blame our ineptness on Stevie, and I can work on a more gracious departure. “Ah, family, that’s my story and I’m stickin to it”. “Now I can really go to tons of baseball and volleyball games while I fly all over the country working on my new broadcast career”. “One year away from coaching, and I’m sure everyone has forgotten all about the family and health issues that coaching created for me”. Ring! Ring! “Urban this is Ohio State calling”…………”I’m ready to talk”.

  8. (1) What is your mock class at this point for this recruiting year?

    (2) We all focus on stars attached to players but who do you think are top 10 playmakers or gamechangers this year and next year on Florida’s radar? It seems Florida gets plenty of players with high rated stars but recently lack enough playmakers who change outcomes of games with their play.

  9. A little bitter there, RealityBites? …… Its not that complicated. Maybe, just maybe it is what it is. His health, his cyst on the brain, his irregular chest pains have been long documented – even back when we were winning championships. I’m sure his leaving was a combination of a lot of things. His father being sick, his kids growing up and feeling like he was missing out, his health and yes, he probably felt as though he had to start over with rebuilding after that 2010 grad class left. Everyone knows he was a mid-west guy, specifically Ohioan. He probably feels like he is going home if he does infact get the Buckeye gig. Being away from the sideline for a year probably feels like a an eternity to someone who has spent their whole life standing on it. If he, after a year, of working part time ESPN gigs and spending more time with his family, thinks he has found balance – then good for him. We should still be thankfull for the 6 years we had him.

  10. Gator Nation is ambivalent about UM for several good reasons. First, at a salary of a million dollars plus he should have been 100% in or out. He was not. That is manifest by the on-field record of his last team and his sidline demeanor. Secondly,UM left a mess behind and some beleive it is a poor reflection on his character when he was quotes as saying, at the start of the season, that the ‘Gators are loaded’. I hardly think WM appreciated that comment. Finally, all this would be simply recent and soon forgotten history if the present Gators had a competent head coach. Some one qualified by history and resume, someone on whom others can have confidence because, ‘he has done it before’. The truth is that this team was consistently BAD on fundementals and on quality coaching in general. I hope I am wrong but the clues are everywhere. Muschamp ain’t going to make it.

  11. Wow a lot of UM hating! Unreal…this for a coach who didn’t win 1 BCS but 2! for us…This guy recuited like a son of a gun and brought mental toughness to a franchise, that let’s face it, was accused of being soft and fading down the stretch. Spurrier was amazing X and O’s guy but his teams were undisciplinded and had a weird ability to get soft if they weren’t up by 30…UM was an unbelievable coach who changed the face of the SEC. Did it end well? NO but nothing that ends, ends well…

  12. ngamtngator, Tebow left as a senior after the 09’ season in which Driskell was a high school junior…..but I’m sure you knew that. I guess Urb’s wasn’t concerned with 10’ or even 11’ when Driskell was a true freshman. But hey, I guess my theory is the one that is flawed. And scooterp, I think you misdiagnosed bitterness for common sense. I am not the least bit bitter at Meyer. He is an A+ type personality that like most all head coaches has a huge ego. Some egos can handle the pressure, some can’t. His main problem is his personal issues (importance of family, health, etc.) were there before he became the head coach of UF, during his time at UF, and will be there for the coming days as the head coach of Ohio State. The issues only became unbearable when UF started to drastically struggle. They started pretty much when Tebow’s run came to an end. To deny that is to deny reality. I’m not bitter, mad, or even ungrateful. I just refuse to pretend Meyer’s time here was anything other than what it was: a perfect storm that gave the Gators 2 national championships; a great ride while it lasted; a lot of great memories and NFL talent, with arguably the greatest player to ever play the college game; a program loaded with talent missing the linch-pin; a program in decline. Am I bitter, no, I would have left too.

  13. Since this has turned into a discussion of Urban Meyer let me add the following. If UM were replaced with competency we would not even be discussing the guy. He did very well by the Gator football program but he is gone. Most of this discussion about UM is, in fact, generated by the uneasiness most in the Gator Nation have about his replacement. In reality UM is damaged goods. If he, in fact, suffers from esophageal spasms, he will probably continue to do so. Anxiety is a major risk factor in the syndrome. Interestingly, one way of treating it is by prescribing antidepressants. Good thing he is no longer in G’ville. With the stiffs on this football team he would have a real need for the medication!!

  14. WOW! A guy who won two national championships and along with Billy D turned G-ville into Titletown USA is the subject of way way too much hate and derision.Be thankful for what he did and realize he is a football coach and he will coach again.Now we just have to find the next Tebow for Will and we will be just fine.

  15. I’m happy for UM to be coaching again. It hurt to have him retire because he brought lots of memories. Unfortunately if the health problems are true I think they will return. Ohio State will face penalties from the Ncaa and he will have to deal with them. I would also like to add that I think Will M. Is starting to come into hos own. I don’t see as much animation any more as was the case early on and he is gaining valuablegame time experience. Gentleman UF will be fine next year. As we build on the talent this year and get depth. These guys will be bigger stronger and more experienced next year. To add to that is they will be playing in a system they are familiar with as opposed to this year. I see UF turning it around and winning the east next year. Brissett will be special after a full spring and the experienced he has gotten this year. Driskell will be a valuable back up that will be one play away from starting. Gator Haters look out for us next year.

  16. @Bites- He left because he felt he no longer could go 100%. When he announced he was leaving the first time Gator Nation lost their freaking minds and begged him to stay. Everyone felt if he could take some extended time off in the spring and delegate more through out the season – things would be fine. He tried it and it failed, so he walked away. If anything, he did us favor. He could of stayed and milked the university for another long term contract with a half dozen mediocre seasons before the fan base ran him off, but he didn’t. I admire him for knowing when to step aside.

  17. I don’t have a crystal ball and I am not an ESPN Analyst but I think all the Muschamp haters will be singing a different tune in a few years. WM is in the middle of transitioning our offense from the spread to Pro Style. This is going to take some time.

    So far this is a 6 and 5 season. I hope tomorrow we will be 7 and 5 but I won’t be shocked if we are 6 and 6. However, I am confident WM and company will only have better records from here on out.

  18. my prediction is that next year will show plenty signs of improvement, but not yet championship material. 11-2 is a good year. Will just needs 1-2 classes with pro-style type prospects, then charlie can run the offense the way he wants to run it. i think jajuan story who redshirted this yeat and andre debose will really help out next year. and once we get a solidified starting quaterback, the offense will start to get settled in. GO GATORS!!!!

  19. WOW…REALLY?! All this talk about the stout talent possibly coming to UF in the coming years and all you people can talk about is the guy who left our program nearly two years ago (yes I got that right…think about it for a sec). These kids are our future, let’s stay on topic. You want to talk about anything but the UF-FSU game this Saturday, what coach muschamp is doing at UF, or these amazing recruits that we desperately need to get back to relevancy, how about you do it on one of the other HUNDRED articles on that subject currently being discussed. This space is for our last stretch of this struggling season. Let’s get out there and be louder and more vibrant than they have seen since timmy raced the sidelines. This can be our finest hour this year. Show these kids why being a gator is the best decision they’ll ever make in their young lives.

    IT’S GREAT TO BE A FLORIDA GATOR! BEAT FSU!!!

  20. Go Gators.
    Beat FSU

    Lets rock the swamp tonight.
    Lets rock the swamp even if things aren’t going our way all the time.

    Thanks again Zach. Ed would be proud. Barlis would be jealous IF he had the work ethic to bother reading your excellent and prodigious work.