The dead period is now underway for Florida coach Jim McElwain, but he still had a lively week.
McElwain should keep busy moving forward as he continues putting together his staff and recruiting class. We should a see a new addition to each group every week over the next 20-plus days.
On to the questions!
The offensive line is getting very thin. Are Martez Ivey and Jalen Merrick absolute necessities at this point? — @UFgatorsforlife
With D.J. Humphries expected to turn pro, Ivey is an absolute must-get in my opinion.
Currently seven of the 11 big uglies for Florida’s roster in 2015 are interior linemen. Getting Merrick would no doubt be huge for the Gators, but their problems in protection and depth could come at offensive tackle.
Rod Johnson and David Sharpe should do well as the starters, but behind them next season will be redshirt freshmen Kavaris Harkless and Andrew Mike, who were three-stars in high school.
Ivey is a consensus top-five overall prospect — Humphries was ranked that high by some sites but not all of them — and about as close to a can’t-miss tackle as you can get.
He probably won’t see the field right away (at least not early on), but he’ll provide UF with a talented back-up behind Johnson or Sharpe. If Ivey lives up to his five-star billing, it may not take him long to crack the starting lineup.
To read my story on him from earlier this week, click here.
How low do you think the chances drop of getting CeCe Jefferson or Byron Cowart if Lawing leaves? — @Rawsejet, @kennydryden1, @KenFrier
It’ll definitely hurt the Gators some. Both recruits have a great relationship with Lawing and want to play for him.
No one is ever a lock for Florida or any other school, but these two were heavily leaning toward UF for a long time and it wasn’t just because of Lawing.
That being said, Jefferson seems like he would be more affected by him leaving. He’s been more outspoken than Cowart about wanting Lawing to stay. However, Jefferson’s family ties to Florida, the distance factor and his connection to the program could allow the Gators to overcome a coaching change on the defensive line.
Cowart told me after the state championship game he’s learned not to let coaches impact him as much since they come and go so often. He mentioned Florida State losing its defensive coordinator last year and now the staff turnover at Auburn and Florida. Cowart said he just has to make the decision that’s best for his future from a football and academic standpoint.
That includes his desire to be a stand-up defensive end like Dante Fowler Jr., and McElwain told Cowart he’ll like the hire that gets made.
“He promised me that no matter what, I’ll have a good defensive line coach,” Cowart said. “Defensively, I think they’re going to do what they have been doing.”
If we get Alabama’s Billy Napier as OC/WR coach, what are the chances on Calvin Ridley? Any other WR flips in the cards? — @markwag131, @GatorKen81
A few of you asked about potential coaching hires, which I won’t speculate on at great length here because this is a recruiting blog. I expect McElwain to have his staff assembled and announced before the contact period resumes Jan. 15.
One coach I do think you’ll see on staff is Napier, who was McElwain’s assistant head coach at Colorado State in 2012 and worked with him the year before at Alabama as an offensive analyst.
I’m not sure what position Napier would be assigned at Florida because he’s coached quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends in his career, but he could end up as McElwain’s sole or co-offensive coordinator (he was Clemson’s OC from 2009-2010).
Napier won’t be able flip Ridley to UF from Alabama, where he’s the receivers coach right now, but he would sell the fact that he coached Amari Cooper this season to other prospects. Regarded as a great recruiter, Napier could help the Gators close on Antonio Callaway and Ryan Davis as well as keep Derrick Dillon.
Those three along with Kalif Jackson would be a solid WR class.
Do you think the starting QB for 2015 is on the roster, or is Mac going to have to go out and get him? — @NotAPartner, @jeffleyman
McElwain was asked that exact question when he was introduced as Florida’s coach, which produced one of the best quotes of his press conference.
“You got to understand this, I believe I can win with my dog Claire-a-bell (at QB),” he said. “That’s the attitude. There’s good players here. That’s just our responsibility to get that going.”
McElwain said he’ll get an idea of what he has in Will Grier and Treon Harris after watching them go through the bowl practices.
I personally believe he can win with either quarterback. Harris is a dual-threat guy all the way, while Grier is more of pocket passer but can run as well.
McElwain just has to figure which one of their skill sets is better suited for the offensive makeup of the current roster.
Traditionally his quarterbacks, regardless of the scheme or school, have been pocket passers who didn’t get many designed runs called for them. However, McElwain is recruiting Louisville commit Lamar Jackson, so he’s not against playing an athletic, mobile QB.
Have you heard what type of offense he is telling recruits he will run? Do you see any more recruits leaving if T-Rob leaves? — @GatorsVino
Here’s what McElwain told tight end Daniel Imatorbhehe, his first commitment, about what he’ll run offensively:
“The offense is predicated on adjusting every week to what the defense is doing and then attacking their weak spot. It’s a pro-style offense that prepares you for the next level, but his scheme has a lot of spread elements to it as well. Everything is based on players’ strength and matchup problems for the defense.”
The Gators won’t lose any of their current commits if Travaris Robinson leaves. It’s the uncommitted targets on their board, such as four-star safety Tim Irvin, that they might miss on with him gone.
That’s all for this week! Be sure to leave your questions for the next mailbag in the comment section below.