Alright, this is the part that most of you have no doubt been waiting to read: Analyzing the committed players. So I won’t delay: in this segment, let’s take a look at the players on offense.
Jones hails from Ronald Powell’s high school in Moreno Valley, California so it appears that Urban Meyer recruits who played under Muschamp have been giving very positive reviews of the current head Gator. He plays in a read-option spread that prepares him very well for Roper’s system and he has the athleticism to do all the things needed to make this offense go. He doesn’t have the arm to throw lasers, but he has great timing and touch, especially on the long ball. His throwing style actually reminds me a bit of Danny Wuerffel, with a high dart-like release and deadly accuracy on the other end. He has very nice pocket presence as well and seems to feel pressure very well, standing in the pocket under fire but moving in the pocket and bailing at the right times. His wheels are more Tebow speed than Driskel speed, but he is a big athletic kid with good elusiveness in traffic when he tucks it.
I think this kid is going to be a great talent at Florida. He ran for over 2,000 yards last year, with nearly 30 touchdowns, and when you lead the entire New Orleans area in rushing you have made an indelible mark. He will bring multiple skills to the new Florida offense and will be used in different ways and at different positions (and one of them may be quarterback when Florida wants to pull a surprise pre-snap switch). He has a very fast first step and an excellent burst and change of direction on the run. He is going to remind many of the smooth Spurrier-era receivers in terms of the all-important YAC: yards-after-catch. He is also pretty hard to bring down and looks and plays a lot bigger than his listed vitals. He chose Florida over Texas A&M and Oklahoma, and also had committable offers from Texas, FSU, Tennessee, Notre Dame and UCLA. I am very interested in the fact that this is the second-straight year where Florida has signed at least one player from the New Orleans area. Champ is making a big push into Georgia’s backyard, but Florida has always been able to recruit the Peach State. Opening up a satellite office just off the bayou a stone’s throw from Red Stick is a serious accomplishment.
If I knew nothing else about Knight, I would love this commitment because he plays ball in Tallahassee, in the shadow of the Erector Set. Another multi-talented athlete, he splits time between tight end and linebacker at Lincoln. His best offers come from Maryland, Georgia Tech and Cincinnati, which do not make anyone’s heart flutter, but he received his offer from the Florida staff when he participated in Junior Day back at the end of February, so the staff – which has been coveting tight ends the last two years like they were George Brett rookie cards – clearly saw what they wanted to see in this young man. He is rated by most services in the mid-20s in the nation at his position, but after signing the two highest rated tight ends in the country a few years ago and watching both of them go busto, and seeing lightly-rated tight ends from last year’s class impress when they hit campus, I am happy to go with the coaches’ eyeball test rather than a ranking sheet.
A TENO (Tight End in Name Only), Jackson is earmarked to play the specialized B position in Roper’s scheme, which will be moved around a lot in different formations, utilized as a blocker on some plays, a skill player on others. He is 6’4” and has nearly a 40” vertical leap, so you can see why his size and athleticism is such a good fit for this position when he is sent out in a pass pattern. He makes great catches in traffic and can elevate – and often does. He loves to do what Spurrier calls, ‘going up and getting the ball’ at its highest point. His speed is good and rather deceptive because he has long strides – making him look almost in slow motion – but he usually gets separation. He averaged over 25 yards per catch as a high school junior, with just under 30 grabs. Wisconsin, Nebraska and West Virginia were the only top tier schools to offer, but he looks the part of a legitimate big time player.
Versatile George Brown, a big offensive tackle and defensive end from Urban Meyer’s backyard in Cincinnati, looks like a beast in the making, regardless of which side of the ball he ends up playing. As on offensive lineman, he is very tenacious. He locks up defenders and does not stop driving them until the play is over. He also pulls very well and has very good footwork overall.
He has been rated just a 3-star by the services, which is a complete mystery. The recruiting entertainment services primarily base their ratings and rankings on the activity of the major programs: visits, offers, camps, buzz, etc. Brown is a guy who had offers in hand from Florida, Clemson, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Missouri, Michigan State, Kansas State, UCLA, Baylor and West Virginia all by late July…of last year. He has added offers from Texas, Oklahoma, Penn State, TCU and others since then. Maybe the lack of an offer from Ohio State plays into the thinking, but Urban Meyer appears to want him as a defensive end, where he played in the Buckeyes’ camp last June, and Brown wants to play college on offense. Although offering him early, Urban Meyer’s staff did not recruit Da’Shawn Hand very hard last year either, despite his being one of the elite defensive linemen in the nation and despite his demonstrated interest in the Buckeye program. But the head coach was not sold on his fit in the OSU defensive scheme, and there may be a similar thing going on with Brown. Regardless, his offer list is as impressive as they come, so despite what the entertainment services or the staff in Columbus thinks, the rest of the college football coaches and evaluators seem to like him an awful lot.
He moves very well for any lineman and great for his huge size, but he is carrying more load than he will play with as a Gator. He’ll be given the UF book to drop bad weight and add strength over the next year before he will be in better SEC playing shape. In other words, no different from almost every rising senior high school offensive lineman. He holds blocks very well but does not pancake as many defenders as you would expect at his size, so building upper body strength and teaching drive technique will also be on his ‘to do’ list along with shedding a few pounds. What sets him apart as a prospect is that he is already a huge man on a frame that holds the big size, and is very athletic, even carrying the big load. Sandifer may not impress the star gazers this early, since only one service gave him a 4* rating, but he had offers from Alabama, South Carolina, FSU, Nebraska, Louisville and Arkansas, so top coaching staffs beg to differ with his star power.
Jordan, who committed to Florida at Junior Day in February, is an excellent technical blocker but he also looks to have a nice mean streak, because he works that extra amount to drive his man to the ground on nearly every play. He has good wheels and leads blocking well into the secondary. Tyler had offers from Nebraska, Miami, Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Stanford, a program that knows a thing or two about scouring the nation for the toughest offensive linemen. Jordan has thrown his hat into the ring for being the very popular fan favorite designation of biggest recruiter in the class. Among them, he has developed a good relationship with Jalen Merrick – who admitted that he almost pulled the trigger for Florida at Friday Night Lights – and will be working hard this fall to help flip Ray-Ray McCloud III and Dexter Williams to the good guys. Offensive line coach Mike Summers was a primary force in wooing Jordan, which is becoming a familiar theme since he joined the staff after the season last year.
In the final segment of this series, I’ll look at the defensive half of the commitment list (including another two-way lineman who could start out on either side of the ball) and an overall summary outlook on the class heading into the 2014 season.