Gator Country’s famous podcasts are back, this time with Nick de la Torre and Andrew Spivey as they discuss recruiting. In this edition, Jalen Thompson, a 2014 cornerback prospect from Mobile, Alabama join us to discuss his recruitment and which schools stand out for him so far.
In the second half of podcast, Gator Country analyst Daniel (D.K.) Thompson joins us to give his expert opinion on this year’s recruiting class. Daniel and Andrew also discuss how important the summer camp circuit is to recruiting.
This is the first of many great podcast episodes to come, so stay tuned to Gator Country for more!
Nick: Welcome to the first edition of GatorCountry.com’s recruiting podcast for the Class of 2015. I’m Nick De La Torre joined by recruiting coordinator Andrew Spivey. On this edition we will welcome in Mobile, AL cornerback Jalen Thompson. He will bring Gator Country analyst Daniel Thompson to get his thoughts, as well as Andrew’s on the Class of 2015 as a whole, as well as previews from the upcoming summer visits that Will Muschamp and the coordinators will hold.
Before we bring Jalen and Dan in, Andrew, what’s a guy like Thompson bring to the table, and just a quick update on where his recruitment stands right now?
Andrew: Jalen Thompson is a lengthy cornerback that Will Muschamp likes. He’s a quick, athletic, really just kind of ball hog cornerback that can play zone and man. A good guy as well that Coach Muschamp kind of brought into the program. A guy that’s going to bring character, and just class to the table. But that’s kind of it for Jalen.
Nick: All right. Let’s welcome in the man of the hour then, Jalen. How does it feel to be in the position you are now being recruited by some of the bigger schools across the country? You’re ranked as one of the top prospects in the country. You have dozens of offers. How are you handling the pressure that comes along with being recruited like that?
Jalen It’s still a shock about all these offers and, I mean, it multiple calls per day, but it’s kind of hard to handle it sometimes. But I love it, to be honest. I mean, it’s real good.
Andrew: You say that. Did you kind of lean on Tre Williams and Josh Casher last year to walk you through this process?
Jalen You can say I did, but they didn’t tell me it was going to be like this, but I could see that day by day coaches and reporters and everybody wanted to talk to Trey or Josh, get them out of class. I just wanted to be a part of that.
Andrew: You were talking about Josh and Trey and that. How has your recruitment compared to that? For the normal person that doesn’t know it, what’s the stress that goes into being a prospect like yourself?
Jalen Me and Josh are similar because he didn’t have any a lot of offers until Spring. And he blew up, but Tre always been a kind of prospect, but they both told me how to handle it and what to do. When I should take my visits or how everything’s gonna go. It’s still crazy and I’m still shocked by it.
Nick: If I could jump in real quick Andrew, Jaylen you’re from Mobile. You’re from Alabama, but is there any kind of pressure from friends, from teachers and classmates to give those in state schools a look? How hard is it for someone from Alabama to leave the state and go to a different school?
Jalen It’s very hard. In Alabama you’re either Alabama fan or Auburn fan. Me myself and my family grew up an Auburn fan, so it’s a lot of pressure just leave the state and go to school in Florida or Georgia. But it’s my decision, and my parents are behind me regardless.
Andrew: Jalen we’ve all seen you on Twitter and you kind of not hid it at all that you root for Florida, and you talk about [inaudible]. What went into that? How did that move to you? Was it through Coach Muschamp, or was it a while that you’d been kind of rooting for Florida?
Jalen I guess it’s been a while, but I took a break and kind of became an Auburn fan, but just last year when they offered me, and Coach Muschamp and Coach T Rob they recruited me. Just talking every day, it built a good relationship. I just love them at the top.
Andrew: How does that with a cornerback like Joe Hayden and Janoris Jenkins, very hard on the team now, how much does that play into a player like you? A player like you. How much of that helps Florida’s case as far as recruiting them being able to send cornerbacks to the NFL, on what seems to be a pretty consistent basis?
Jalen It gives me confidence that I’m know I can go to Florida and work very hard for two or three years and hopefully be a first line draft pick, but it’s very exciting that one day I might be to play with [Vernon] and just see the things that he’s doing. I can learn from him and maybe be better.
Nick: To kind of piggyback on that question, you talk about Coach T Rob. Coach T Rob’s kind of been the guy that’s the recruiting guy for Florida. What is it that makes Coach T Rob such a personable guy and a guy that you guys like?
Jalen He’s never, there’s never a dull moment, and we’re always talking about a scheme, or how I love Florida. He’s just wanted to get to know me and talk about everyday life and how’s school and baseball. My parents are behind me , but me and him built a great relationship. We joke around all the time. He just means a lot.
Andrew: Let’s fast forward into recruitment a little bit. You recently came out with a top group of schools. Can you tell me the top schools and what led to you cutting down your list a little bit?
Jalen My top would be Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss, Michigan State, Clemson, and South Carolina. But those are top notch schools, and I just love watching all of them play. Players and the coaches are wonderful, just like Georgia and Florida, South Carolina. SEC that’s where it really stands out.
Andrew: You’re going in next weekend. You’re going down to Gainesville for the visit for Coach Muschamp’s camp. What is it you’re looking for? What’s one thing that Will Muschamp and the staff can show you and your parents?
Jalen I just want to see how everything goes down in Florida. How the locker rooms, and how Coach Muschamp and how Coach T Rob coaches. Their little camp is set up and I just want to get down there. This is a big visit saying that I’m going to Georgia the next week. Those are really my two top schools. I really don’t want to pick another one. Big decision.
Nick: Coach O’Sullivan kind of put together the number two team right now in the country. Is that something you’re looking at as well to talk to Coach [inaudible] and maybe play baseball a quarter?
Jalen Yes. I plan for baseball at Florida too.
Andrew: Have you talked to any of the coaches? About maybe the difficulties of playing two sports at a school? Are all the coaches behind you in that in saying we would support you if you wanted to play football and baseball?
Jalen They say they support me. If I keep my schoolwork up they’re fine with it. Just keep doing what I do. It’s up to me really.
Andrew: Jalen, I’m sure Nick will tell you we appreciate you coming on with us.
Jalen Yes, Sir.
Nick: Absolutely. Thank you so much for coming on Jalen.
Jalen You’re welcome.
Nick: All right. I want to go get now Dan Thompson on the line with us. I want to get both and Andrew and Dan to clue us in on how they see the coaching staff is doing recruiting so far in the Class of 2015. Obviously after last season recruit for before that there’s so many changes after this season, but early on in the recruiting process how are the coaching staff playing recruits and where do they stand?
Andrew: Dan, you want to take this first or you want me to go first?
Dan: Sure I’ll take this first. They’re still in a period where a lot of the players that they’re looking at that they really like that are going to be the cornerstones of this class are a wait and see period. They want to see improvement on the offense. They want to see what the chances are that Will Muschamp and his staff will be around next year, because ultimately that’s what they’re committing for. They’re looking at the next three to five years of their life, and they want to make sure that the coach that they’re playing for is obviously someone that aligns.
A lot of the players that they have right now I think are very quality players that you want to have a class with. They have some good cornerstones. They have the quarterback up in Washington DC area that’s a really strong quarterback. [I really like his size,] Marcus Lewis. I think that he brings a lot to the table. He’s very much that Vernon Hargraves, that Quincy Wilson, that [inaudible] Taber type, that frame. So I think that he’s going to be a big fit to the class. I think that the commitment they most recently got, Derek [Dillon] he’s just an outstanding player that in my opinion is severely underrated by a lot of these recruiting services, but I think that he’s that [swat] wide receiver that can come in and make a huge impact, really from maybe day one or maybe his second year at UF.
I think where they stand right now is in really good shape with a lot of players, and if they make the changes that they told their fans all this summer that they’re making, and what we saw at the orange and blue game, then they should have no problem bringing in another top class. The only way that they wouldn’t bring in that top class is if they don’t have a good year, and I don’t see Will Muschamp sticking around, or being able to stick around after that year anyway.
Andrew: I’ll piggyback off what he said. I think Derek [Dillan] may be the top recruit in this class so far, and that’s with a lot of the [inaudible] in a guy like Marcus Lewis, who is considered one of the top cornerbacks. You look at a guy like Derek [Dillan] electric with the ball, 438 hand time to LSU football campus. That [inaudible] hasn’t seen since Chris [Rainey] and Jeff Demps left for the NFL a few years ago. I even hope that a guy like Tyler Jordan, a perfect fit at the center position, and with Mike [Garcia] leaving after this year, you’re looking a hole of Cameron [inaudible] right now.
So far we haven’t seen anything for Cameron to kind of get the future bright for Florida at the center position. That’s another guy I look at. I look at the quarterback position heading on. I think that’ll be a very big pick up, with the chance to be able to land like [Sheriron] Jones. Really I think they’re just waiting to see the dominos fall of CeCe Jefferson or Jeffrey [Holland] or one of the those guys to get the ball rolling for the big name guys. And once that happens I think you can see a domino effect happening in the recruiting world for Florida.
Nick: Go ahead, Dan.
Dan: No, that’s fine.
Nick: Andrew, we were down in Orlando for the UnderArmour combine, and I think we both went into that league thinking that Gerald Willis was probably going to stay home and go to LSU. After talking to him one time, we both looked at each other, and we thought Florida might have chance. If Willis ends up committing to Florida this is the first player in over a decade to come to Florida from Louisiana straight out of high school. Now you have another in Derek Dillon How is Florida having so much more success now in the state of Louisiana then they had the previous 10 years?
Andrew: I think Will Muschamp told you guys that’s when they were games a little couple weeks ago at the Gator club. It’s the relationships that Derek Lewis has in the state of Louisiana, and the trust factor. Gerald Willis make no mistake, Gerald Willis was going to be his top guy last year. In the state he went for the high school of Ed [inaudible] where Willis went. He went in there, and nobody believed he was the guy. Everybody laughed at Derek Lewis that he wasn’t going to get him, and he did.
Will did the same thing with Derek Dillon Florida’s made Derek Dillon feel very comfortable. LSU has told him why they want him to play [inaudible] possibly. Florida’s told him he’s a receiver all the way. Dillon kind of returned the favor and was a little bit of a joke at first, but he brought crawfish to the coaches at the spring game and had a crawfish cookout. It seems like Will Muschamp and those guys are laid back staff. They’re doing [inaudible] I think you go back to Derek [Lewis]. He made himself home in Louisiana. Those kids trust him. They have that mentality of he’s done it, so we can do it as well. It may be a pattern that you start to see one or two guys leave that state at a very difficult state to leave home in.
Nick: Moving a little forward to this week. Will Muschamp’s summer camps are going to start next Friday. What are you guys looking for as far as recruits coming in and how important are these camps to the overall recruitment as far as being able to evaluate and get kids on campus and show them around the University of Florida?
Andrew: Dan, you’ve around it as much, and I think you’ll agree with me when I say that this is very important. For maybe not your five stars guys. You’re not going to see anything out of CeCe Jefferson or Byron Cowart that’s going to be different, but maybe a Sheriron Jones comes to camp, or a Ryan Davis comes to camp and shows the coaches something that maybe they haven’t seen before and they fall in love with. I think you’ve seen that a little bit last year with a few guys. I think you’ll see it again. Octavian Brian wouldn’t be in the class last year if it wasn’t for camp. Dan, I know you’ve been around it. What’s the environment in that office come camp time?
Dan: As a former member under a different coaching staff, when I worked for the recruiting office under Urban Meyer it’s their biggest time of the year. This is really their opportunity to really test out these players and put them in positions where they can really evaluate their skill set. You mentioned Taven Bryan earning his spot into the Gators class year due to these camps. You can also look at Ryan [Sousa] who came to camp at Florida, and he was also able to earn an on that ultimately landed him in the class a couple of months later.
At the end of the day this is really your opportunity to see a lot of players that you might not be able to see too often, just because of their geography or where you’re able to visit as the coaching staff. Maybe your resources are limited, so your opportunity to get out to, in Taven Bryan case, up to Wyoming, or to other places around the country. This is your opportunity to really showcase, and really put them against players of equal skills. Most importantly it gives you opportunity to have that face time and that one on one time that you don’t really get too much of a time for. Each moment that you spend with them is vitally important.
This is the time where coaching staff is going to really focus solely just on recruiting for the next three or four weeks. They’re going to spend some time looking at game film and readying themselves for the season, but this is where they’re really going to dive into who these players are. What are they interested in? Where can they contribute? And really making that personalized sales pitch. This is probably, outside of right before the national signing days, this is probably the time that they are most focused on recruiting and dedicate the most amount of time, resources and energy.
When I worked on the staff, we were spending 30 hours, 40 hours a week, and I was just a lowly staff guy. The staff itself is probably spending 60, 70 hours a week preparing just for these couple of weeks of [inaudible] It really is a make or break recruiting, right now, and they need to be able to try to rein in as many recruits as possible, because there’s a lot of recruits out there that are really shaky about who is this Kurt Roper guy? Or what does Will Muschamp’s future look like? This is their opportunity to prove where there might be some changes and some differences.
Andrew: Daniel, that’s a great point. Nick, I think you’ll agree with me when I say this as well. This year Florida’s having a seven on seven tournament on their campus.
Nick: [inaudible] challenge as well.
Andrew: Exactly. Right, and Nick and Dan, you guys have both been with me when we’ve been at events like that. It’s crazy to see the athleticism these guys have, but I think that’s another great thing to have is to have that seven on seven. A guy like Dion [Kane] that just committed to Clemson, coming with his high school team next Saturday in a world that he may not [getting] back up. Now he’s almost has to with the seven on seven team. I think you look at that as a positive.
You see some of the guys like Ray Ray McCloud coming in. That’s another big visit coming in. You have Sheriron Jones, the quarterback from California, coming in. That’s a visit that really is going to be make or break for the quarterback class right now. You look at [inaudible] kind of leading elsewhere. You look at [inaudible] who just eliminated Florida. It’s going to make or break for the quarterback class.
It’s really a quarterback that they need to get in to start trying for these big receivers like George Campbell, Dion [Kane] and those other guys. [Inaudible] is coming in as well. It’s just a big time for Florida. As Daniel said, it’s really need to get a couple recruits in here to get the ball rolling just so the class isn’t empty adding in the fall.
Nick: Okay, real quick guys. Florida currently is on [inaudible] Are any of those commits, let’s say down the line, Florida finishes up recruiting. Any of these eight commits, any of them stand out to you as a guy that can make an impact? Maybe not as freshman or making an impact to other freshmen or early on in their career?
Andrew: Daniel, you want to fire away this time?
Dan: I have two, and one of them I’m going to leave to Andrew because he mentioned him earlier. That would be Tyler Jordan. I see him coming in pretty quick right there. He has the size, the frame, the athleticism, and the ability to play that center position. And once Max Garcia graduates this year there is a bit of an opportunity for him to jump in right away and take that spot, getting on the offensive line as a freshman is a very tough thing to do, but if there’s one player that I think might have the opportunity it could be him.
The player that I’m most excited about from this class is Derek [Dillam]. I think that a lot of people didn’t realize who he is as a player until they started to read more about him or watch some of his game film. A lot of people like to look at star, and they’ll go to rivals.com and they’ll see that he’s ranked a three star and ranked in the mid 40s of wide receivers in the country. Let me tell you this kid is a lot better than what the ranked 45th wide receiver in the country. In my opinion he’s probably the most electric in terms of just speed.
You’re going to see, he’s coming from a great program. He’s coming from Louisiana where there is a lot of speed on the opposite side of the football. You see him during his game film running by a lot of these very fast players. And so, when you look at him and Kurt Roper’s offense you see a huge match there. And Florida really is desperate for play makers, especially at the wide receiver position, so he’s probably the player that I’m most excited about.
Andrew: I’m going to actually go a different way, and it’s the position that may not be the easiest to get on the field because of players right now, but I’m going to go Marcus Lewis. Will Muschamp is a guy that plays five to six defensive backs at a time, and with the potential loss of some guys on the defensive back positions, [Javar Gorman]. You never know about a Marcus [May] or what’s he’s going to produce if he stays healthy. That’s a lot of [inaudible] in Marcus Lewis getting on the field and finding his way to play.
At 6 foot 1 he’s what Will Muschamp wants a DB and five to six DBs at a time he could very well get on the field with a guy like [Vernon] and [Tabor] and either of those guys. At a nickel position, or even rotate to give [Vernon] a breather at the cornerback position. If I had to go right now I’d do Marcus Lewis, but I think everybody knows that [TC] Jefferson and Byron [Covert] get in the class, those are the new guys you got to look for to get on the field early.
Nick: And last question, I think we all agree that recruiting this year is really going to hinge on what the team looks like on the field in the fall. Assuming a better seed than last year, where do you think Florida falls? Are they top 10 class, top 5 class, somewhere outside of that, outside the top 10? Where do you guys think that Florida will fall, assuming a typical football season? We’ll start with Andy.
Andrew: Assuming there is significant improvement on the team.
Nick: Improvement from last year.
Andrew: Sure. I don’t know how much of it is going to hinge on the record, because I think you can look at Florida, who could be an 8-4 team next year, because they do have a very tough schedule. They do have a really young team and be drastically improved, but I think that Florida shows a marked improvement where it looks like not only will Will Muschamp stay but Kurt Roper looks to stay and looks like the offense is really going to thrive. I see Florida being able to have a top 2 or the top class in the country if all the dominoes fall the way that they should.
Florida is very, very lucky this year that if they can produce they have a lot of Gator fans that are very good players that are in traditional Gator hot spots, whether they be Jacksonville or Orlando or Tampa. So you look at a guy like Martez Ivy, look at like a CeCe Jefferson. You look at George Campbell. You look at a lot of these players the ability to come.
Florida, if the cards fall right, could have four or five five stars commit to them by national signing day, so they could have the top class in the country, if there is a marked improvement. If there is just a mediocre improvement I still see Florida being able to land the likes of maybe CeCe Jefferson and maybe falling in that top 6 class. If they show a marked improvement they could have the number 1 class in the country. And maybe one of the best classes Florida’s ever had on paper.
Nick: For you, Dan, it hinges on not necessarily the overall record, but how the team looks and this coaching staff’s security following this season.
Dan: Absolutely. I think that it’s solely falls on that, because at the end of the day, players are committing to coaches. As much as we don’t want to say that, they want to play under coaches that will better utilize their skill sets, that they get along with, that they feel like they want to be coached under. If Florida can show that improvement and the idea of them being let go at the end of the season, or in the middle of the season, a lot of the negative recruiting that’s widely going on right now against Florida. If they show a drastic difference and a drastic improvement, Florida could go 7-5 next year, or 7-6 or 8-4, and still have a very good recruiting class, because the staff will likely return. They just happen to be falling into a very tough schedule where a lot of the teams that they’re facing are very, very good as well.
Andrew: I agree with that. I think it’s more of will Will Muschamp be back. Is Will Muschamp a [hotseat] factor going into next year? I think that’s the main thing. And you say, hot spot, it is crazy that the Jacksonville, Tampa, really Orlando area is just loaded with talent this year. You get a guy like CeCe Byron, Holland Ivy, the number one offense tackle in the country. Get those three guys to come in, and then Jeffrey [Holland] that’s four of your top really 50 recruits in the country, along with a guy like George Campbell another five star. Sheriron Jones the quarterback out of California.
You’re looking a top 5 class. I think Florida, there’s no reason Florida should not year in and year out be a top five class. There’s just too much talent in the state of Florida to not be. I do think it’ll be tough to catch Alabama. They have such a sizeable lead in the recruiting audible] right now for the number one spot. They have some of the best players in the country already committed. Jacques Patrick, and a few other top guys. It’ll be tough to catch them, but a top 5 class is absolutely possible with just a sizeable improvement and security for Will Muschamp and the guys.
Dan: I think what’s also important, just quickly, is that a lot of the recruits that Florida’s really high with right now are in base positions of need for Florida, whether that’s on the defensive line or whether that’s on the offensive line. Florida is desperate for talent in both of those areas, and then a play maker at wide receiver, and then reloading the rest of the positions, maybe getting in a couple of good line backers. Not only is it a top class because of the average star ranking or the talent of those players that are committed, they’re in areas where Florida drastically needs help.
Nick: It certainly is an exciting time around Gator Country right now. We look forward to Will Muschamp’s camp upcoming the rest of the summer, the upcoming season. I would like to thank Andrew. I would like to thank Dan, and of course Jalen Thompson for coming on and joining us today. That’s going to wrap up first edition of GatorCountry.com’s recruiting podcast. For recruiting analyst Andrew Spivey for Dan Thompson, I’m Nick de la Torre As always, catch all of your recruiting podcasts right here at GatorCountry.com.