Hope you all had a Holly Jolly Christmas!
Once again, my inbox was filled with questions about five-star receivers Nelson Agholor and Stefon Diggs.
They’ve now earned frequent flyer miles to Zach’s Mail Stack.
Over the past few days, reports surfaced that Agholor and Diggs have lost some interest in Florida due to the departure of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
Originally scheduled to take his last official to Gainesville, Diggs now says he may not visit or even consider the Gators as a serious contender. Agholor has been quiet as usual, but the unknown at offensive coordinator obviously isn’t helping Florida’s chances with him.
However, I believe UF can amend the situation with one man — and one man only.
Even when Weis was on staff, the former Wisconsin offensive coordinator was the most important person in Diggs’ recruitment because of the relationship with his mother, Stephanie.
“The coaches have done a great job of recruiting him,” Diggs’ coach and mentor Will Flaherty said on Nov. 25. “Brian White will send him a personal letter every week that she enjoys a lot. All the coaches from schools recruiting Stefon are a little bit like salesmen, but talking to Brian White is like talking to a normal guy.
“She really likes Brian White … She feels comfortable with someone like him looking after her son. He really puts in that extra effort to make her feel at home.”
As I said last week, UF should still get both guys as long as head coach Will Muschamp doesn’t blow the OC hire. And at this point, I think White is Florida’s best choice if it wants to land the talented wideouts because of their familiarity with him.
Couple that with Diggs’ connection to Jelani Jenkins and Agholor’s closeness to several UF commits, and these two have Gator written all over them.
On to the questions!
Zach, what are the advantages/disadvantages of taking JUCO players? — J. Givens
With Florida’s depleted roster, the positives far outweigh the negatives for this class.
The Gators haven’t had much success with junior college players since defensive end Jeremy Mincey and safety Reggie Nelson (who are both starters in the NFL). The latest commits, defensive tackle Damien Jacobs and offensive guard Junior Salt, said they plan on changing UF’s recent history with JUCOs.
“That’s something I wanna change, that’s like a goal to me,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs talked about the advantages and disadvantages of coming to Florida as a junior rather than a freshman.
“I’m a little older,” he said. “I’ve gotten mature at junior college and learned how to stop making those high school mistakes.
“The disadvantage for me is the high school guys have more time to develop and they’re in the same program for four years instead of having to change half way through their college career.”
Jacobs recently won the 2011 NJCAA championship at East Mississippi Community College and said that experience has prepared him for the next level.
“I think coming out of Mississippi is going to be a big advantage for me because we play competitive football at the highest JUCO level,” Jacobs said. “So I feel like I’m a step ahead and I’m ready to make a big impact.
“Some JUCO players don’t get the coaching that I got, so it’s a harder adjustment for them. And if they’re not as developed as they should be, they could run out of time on the bench.”
Salt, who plays for Mt. San Antonio C.C. in Walnut, Calif., believes many JUCO players get caught up in being at a new school and lose focus in the classroom and on the football field.
However, he said that won’t be an issue for him.
“In my opinion,” Salt said, “JUCO is one of the best ways to get prepared for a university because you’re already adapted to college. And with tutors for class and better coaches for football, I really can’t see how a JUCO player could come to a university and fail.”
Who is officially visiting in January? — Kyle
The biggest visits in January will be made by the Gator coaches in the homes of their top targets, but here’s the prospects expected to take officials next month (aside from Diggs).
CB Tracy Howard (Miramar, Fla.)
Howard’s mother broke the news on Christmas via twitter.
“Looks like that last official will be to UF,” Shaiy Howard tweeted. “USC is just way too far to consider.”
I see a Gator hat on Howard’s head come National Signing Day.
DE Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, Fla.)
Despite growing up a Florida fan and claiming UF as his co-leader, Williams has been a no-show for his last two visits to Gainesville. He plans on making a third attempt in January, but right now he appears to be favoring Auburn.
LB Jamal Marcus (Durham, N.C.)
The three-star prospect, who also favors ECU and Ohio State, is the next best option for the Gators after Valdosta, Ga., linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons. Marcus is scheduled to be on campus Jan. 13.
DE/LB Dante Fowler Jr. (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
It’s Florida’s last chance to sway the long-time FSU commitment, who will announce his final decision on NSD.
DT Vincent Valentine (Edwardsville, Ill.)
Valentine has been a Nebraska-lean for months and is a long shot, especially now that Jacobs is headed to UF.
WR Courtney Gardner (Roseville, Calif.)
The four-star JUCO was recently offered by Florida and will visit on Jan. 20, but his commitment to Arkansas is very solid at this time.
OL Jake Meador (Whiteland, Ind.)
With Palm Beach Gardens offensive tackle Avery Young leaning toward other schools, the Gators have extended an offer to the four-star Ole Miss commit. He is considered a soft verbal and has visited other schools, so the Gators have a shot with the 6-foot-7, 305-pounder.
Out of our 18 commitments, do you see anyone as a risk for defection? — Alex
Defensive tackle commit Omari Phillips is officially wavering. He was concerned about UF’s program earlier this month and scheduled some visits, but now he’s even more unsure of his commitment following the signing of Jacobs.
Phillips doesn’t plan on enrolling early anymore and could be headed to Miami if things aren’t patched up with the Gator coaches.
If we land the final eight recruits or close to the ones you wrote about last week, will that give us the No. 1 class for 2011? — Mark
Maybe not for Scout, but the Gators would definitely have the top class on Rivals and ESPN if they land their top remaining targets. Florida is currently ranked fourth by those two websites (Scout has UF at No. 7), so commitments from five-stars Agholor, Diggs, Howard and Jonathan Bullard will give Muschamp the 2012 recruiting title.
In your opinion, who ends up as the “big get” for the Gators this recruiting season? — Ryan
The big get is the big man named D.J. Humphries.
The five-star offensive tackle, who is ranked as the No. 3 overall prospect in the nation by Rivals.com, fills a huge hole that was leaking in Florida’s offense all season. Humphries has the skill-set to earn a starting job right away, and being an early signee will only increase his chances of seeing the field as a freshman. He’s by far the most valuable recruit in this class.
Zach do you think we are done at RB this year? If so, who are the most likely targets for next year? — Charles J.
I was told last week that UF is not pursuing a replacement for Mike Davis at this time, and unless the coaches find someone worthy of a scholarship, I don’t see that changing. That’s because there is so much talent at running back in 2013 — and all of it comes from the Sunshine State.
Among them are Greg Bryant (Delray Beach), Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade), Adam Lane (Winter Haven), Tarean Folston (Cocoa), Ryan Green (St. Petersburg) and Georgia-commit Derrick Henry (Yulee). All six guys either have UF leading or among their top schools, but Bryant, Taylor and Lane are on the staff’s most wanted list. With a trio of Gator-leans and only two spots open for next year, it will likely come down to whoever commits first.
Which top recruits does Florida have the best shot at landing in the 2013 class? — Zach
In addition to the aforementioned running backs, UF is in great position for the following underclassmen:
WR Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny)
OL Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia)
Tunsil’s massive frame has him pegged as a five-star candidate. Not only does he like the Gators, but he’s right up the road from Gainesville.
DL Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson)
Nkemdiche is the consensus No. 1 player in the nation and lists Florida among his early favorites, but he’s reportedly an Alabama-lean at the moment.
LB E.J. Levenberry (Woodbridge, Va./C.D. Hylton)
Levenberry is an ESPN underclass All-American and includes Florida in his top five.
CB Will Likely (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Central)
Gatorade’s state of Florida player of the year has been to Gainesville several times and UF is sitting high on his leaderboard.
S Leon McQuay III (Seffner, Fla./Armwood)
Florida currently leads for McQuay, who is the teammate of UF running back commit Matt Jones.
That’s all for this week. Be sure to send me your questions for the next mailbag.
See ya next year!