Sunday, September 29, 2013

Post-UK Recruiting Thoughts

First, a bit of week-in-review before we move on to other items:

– Jacksonville Ribault LB Jakob Johnson continues to establish himself on the recruiting scene during his first season of playing prep football stateside after coming over from Germany.

– Analyzing the trend of power forwards making the transition to tight end in college and the NFL. Could we see Will Yeguete or Patric Young make that move in the near future?

– Season-ending injuries are a fact of life in football. The Gators' recent spell is more the result of a string of bad luck, as opposed to anything Jeff Dillman and the strength & conditioning staff has done.

– How many high school prospects will Florida take in the 2014 cycle? What players are currently in the mix for the Gators? And how does "The Big Board" currently stand for UF?

– Some prep stars are establishing themselves in a big way over the course of their senior seasons in the state of Florida. Here are five names that you should get to know as they emerge on the radar of college recruiters.

Now, on to the new stuff ...

1. I've maintained for a few weeks now that Florida will not stop pursuing Jacksonville Providence OL David Sharpe until he commits elsewhere, nor should they. There's a reason for that. You never know what can happen in recruiting to make a kid sour on a school or change his mind in terms of perception as it relates to the decision-making process. That said, Will Muschamp and Tim Davis should probably start getting their back-up options in a row:
(EDIT: The above tweet has since been deleted, it appears.)

That's a tweet from Sharpe during his weekend trip to Athens to take in the LSU-UGA game, which included an overnight stay in Athens on Saturday night. He appears to be having a conversation with himself in which he decides to hold off on making a commitment to Georgia for now. In terms of the big picture for Florida, sure, there are names like Damien Mama and Jordan Sims on the board. Until either of those guys visit Gainesville, however, they should be consider long-shots for Florida to sign. The staff can look elsewhere as well, but with 30-plus offensive linemen in-state claiming at least one offer from a BCS program, I doubt the Gators really have to go too far to fill the remaining 2-3 slots on the offensive line they will likely project to take in this class. The one name I feel closely deserves monitoring is Weeki Wachee offensive tackle Marcus Applefield (6-6, 280). Despite claiming nearly 15 offers from BCS programs, Applefield has been somewhat overlooked in the recruiting landscape of Florida this fall. He currently claims a top-five list of Purdue, Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Virginia and West Virginia. He has scheduled official visits to all but West Virginia to date.

2. Florida fans continue to lament the offensive line recruiting under Muschamp and their failures to land elite in-state talent. There was Patrick Miller and Avery Young in 2012 (both of whom signed with Auburn, although Tim Davis can hardly be blamed for either miss) along with John Theus (who was lost long before Muschamp took the head coaching job at Florida). Last year it was Laremy Tunsil who headed off to Ole Miss. Now it appears Kc McDermott and David Sharpe will join that illustrious club. The Gators fortunes should turn around next year with Martez Ivey at Apopka, but of course his signing is still over a year away. Things can always change.

However, if you take a minute to stop and look at the offensive line, it is an upperclassmen-laden group and set up to be a strength of the squad over the course of this season and next. It's the 2015 class, where Florida is really going to have to hit on, in terms of both numbers and quality. Dipping into the JUCO ranks (or finding a talented transfer like Max Garcia and Tyler Moore) will likely be a major priority as well. To be frank, while I understand the frustrations of Florida recruitnik/fans, I would advise just to be patient, as the offensive line doesn't look to be an issue any time in the immediate future.

3. Something that interests me in looking over the stats: right now, only three linebackers on the roster have recorded more than three tackles on the season through four games. Antonio Morrison and Michael Taylor are tied for second on the team with 20 tackles. Then, go down a little further and there's Neiron Ball with six. Next, there's Jeremi Powell (who has mostly played on special teams) who has just three stops on the season. That's it. Darrin Kitchens hasn't recorded any stats on the season to date. The Florida defense has seen the field so little through four games, that some rotational guys aren't even getting on to the field. But in the bigger picture, I think this says something about the state of the linebacker position: it's not as critical in the recruiting process. That's not to say it isn't an important position. The contributions of Morrison, Taylor and Ronald Powell (who as a hybrid player, I don't count in the same vein as the others) clearly show that getting good players at the position remains important. But in terms of depth, the secondary is the position grouping that needs the numbers more than linebacker right now. This also explains why the Gators are being so picky about offering linebackers for 2014. Kitchens is the only expected loss for that unit, so why would there be a need to go out and sign a bunch of linebackers for next year if they frankly aren't playing a lot as it stands?

4. The Gators only have 12 scholarship defensive backs this fall. That's truly a low number in this day and age of spread/up-tempo offense. Even if you look at Urban Meyer's final years, Florida typically tried to carry upwards of 14 players on scholarship in the back end of the defense. Two of the current freshmen – Marcell Harris and Nick Washington – appear likely to redshirt as a result of injuries. In essence, UF is only playing with 10 scholarship guys in the secondary right now. But all 10 of them contribute in some form or fashion. With two seniors (Jeremy Brown and Jaylen Watkins) on the roster, as well as Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson continually being mentioned as possibilities to turn pro early, the Gators could be down to just eight scholarship defensive backs after the season. If that scenario plays out, I would expect the Gators to target as many as six athletes in the 2014 class as a counter to the potential numbers issues that could play out. Of course, with four commitments in tow already (Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson, Chris Lammons, Quincy Wilson) for Travaris Robinson and two more highly-rated prospects looking very possible for Florida in Adoree' Jackson and Jamal Adams, I'd say the Gators are in good shape here moving forward.

5. None of Florida's freshmen defensive linemen played against Kentucky. All five of them (Jay-nard Bostwick, Caleb Brantley, Joey Ivie, Antonio Riles and Jordan Sherit) appear to be in line for redshirts this year. Assuming the Gators return both of their of elder defensive tackles with at least a year of eligibility remaining next year (Cummings and Orr), it would seem a JUCO defensive tackle would make a lot of sense in terms of providing a bit of built-in class separation. However, Florida has yet to make a pursuit of any junior college defensive linemen, despite a need for at least one more tackle in the 2014 cycle. Certainly something that bears watching over the coming weeks as college start to hit the JUCO ranks a bit harder for immediate-impact types.


  1. Why do you think Florida needs another D-Tackle when you listed Brantley, Bots-wick, Ivie, and Riles as freshmen who haven't even played a down yet? It would seem that the addition of those 4 from redshirt minus the loss of Jacobs and Easely is actually a gain of 2 active bodies in and of itself.

    Shouldn't defensive end be a higher priority than D-Tackle? We may not necessarily lose bodies there, but in whether in a 3 man front or a 4 man front having a good strong side defensive end (like Bullard is developing into) is essential. Looking at the roster there are 2 to 3 of those with the 3rd being Antonio Riles who seems better suited to Tackle. Shouldn't that be the d-line priority? Then Buck (hopefully Carter), and then tackle?

  2. In the grand scheme of things, after going back and watching the tape, I think Bullard could potentially be that guy slide inside and provide a "presence" similar to that of Easley. If that's the case, then Florida should look for an end who can come in and compete for snaps right off the bat. We're talking about a player in the mold of De'Shawn Hand, Gerald Willis, Dewayne Hendrix here. Someone who can step in and provide a solid run-presence on the edge, or potentially play inside and out (like Bullard is doing right now). That's why I also think looking to the JUCO ranks is a smart idea, in light of the fact that out of the guys I've named and the other prospects on the board, none look particularly likely for Florida at the moment. But we'll see what plays out.

    And, yes, I think also getting a long, angular pass-rusher is a must. Lorenzo Carter or Lorenzo Featherston is very much a major priority for this class. I wouldn't be upset if Florida found a way to take both, either. Although I find that scenario highly unlikely.

    In any case, I see two more defensive linemen being the target number in this class at the moment, regardless of the presence of all of the freshmen waiting in the wings right now. There are some talented guys in line for redshirts, at least a couple of whom it is hoped will step up next fall. But I don't see any of them being able to bring the same things to the table as Easley. No one will, to be honest, but it's clear Florida is at least trying to find a defensive lineman who can combines the speed, "suddenness" and size that Easley possesses. A rare combination, indeed.

    Thanks for the feedback.