The Florida coaching staff my not admit it but the Gators are rebuilding. Much of the success that Florida had in 2012 was due to the recruiting efforts of the previous staff with the majority of the playmakers coming from the 2010 recruiting class.
Most of those players have moved on now and heading into Will Muschamp’s fourth season in Gainesville, this will be the first team that is comprised almost entirely of players that he recruited.
In four short years, Muschamp and his staff have become renowned for their recruiting prowess and the team as it is currently assembled is loaded with former four and five-star recruits.
After a season marred by injury and an offseason full of transfers from potential senior leadership, the coaching staff will need to find some gems in the newest recruiting class. Despite popular opinion, Muschamp isn’t afraid to play freshmen — 15 true freshmen played in 2013.
With a talented group of freshmen coming in, here are seven players from the class that the Gators can build around moving forward.
We would be remiss to not begin this list with the future starting quarterback.
Grier is the future face of the program and a player that the Gators coaching staff is planning to build the team around moving forward. Grier has a strong arm and is very accurate. He’s mobile enough and should be a perfect fit for Kurt Roper’s new offense.
Last week, Brandon Odoi — who lives and works in Miami for CaneInsider.com — told me, “Nick, Gator fans don’t know what they have in Treon.”
And it’s true. Most Gator fans were happy to steal a prospect away from Florida State but don’t really appreciate the impact that landing Harris should have. Grier was a long-time commit and has already enrolled, making Harris an afterthought in the minds of most fans.
Harris is a solid option at quarterback for the Gators and a player who will play right away. Roper used two quarterbacks at Duke, utilizing packages that accentuated each quarterback’s strengths. Harris is a talented runner and he should be able to run a few packages in 2014 for the Gators.
Grier might be the starting quarterback of the future but Harris might see the field before him.
Vernon Hargreaves is the man at cornerback for the Gators. However, Hargreaves can’t play cornerback on both sides of the field and that’s where Jalen Tabor comes in.
Tabor committed to Arizona on live TV at the Under Armour All-American game before changing his mind and signing with the Gators instead.
Tabor is a big, long, physical corner, built just the way Will Muschamp wants his cornerbacks to be built. He’s going to be a name that even the most casual Gator fans will know before long.
Can you really build a program around a tight end? In the right kind of offense you can. Remember those shovel passes from Tim Tebow to Aaron Hernandez that gave opposing defenses fits? That’s the kind of player Goolsby can be.
Goolsby is great with the ball in his hands and an above average route-runner for a tight end. He’s the offensive weapon that Florida missed dearly last season after losing Jordan Reed to the Washington Redskins. With a glaring need for playmakers on offense, Goolsby is a talent that the Gators can build around.
You can’t teach 6-6 and 300-pounds. Sharpe needs some time to refine his technique but with D.J. Humphries still holding on to two years of eligibility he’ll have that time.
Sharpe is a prototypical left tackle and with a little work and refining he will be the left tackle of the future for the Gators, protecting Treon Harris and Will Grier’s blindsides for years to come.
Gerald Willis/Thomas Holley
I’m lumping these two in together because they remind me of another defensive tackle duo that enrolled in the same year — Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd.
Starting with Holley, the sky is the absolute limit for this player. A basketball player growing up, Holley has only played competitive football for two years. Despite his inexperience, Holley was named an Under Armour All-American. He’s a big player with a good frame who should play around 290-300 pounds once he gets into Florida’s strength and conditioning program.
Moving on to Willis, there is a lot of the same versatility in his game that Easley had at Florida. Willis is quick enough and a good enough pass-rusher to play on the edge but mean and physical enough to slide inside and play tackle.