A battle for the hearts and minds

In the last 18 months, no school has been a bigger thorn in the side of Florida coaching staff (as it relates to recruiting), than the University of Miami. Randy Shannon has done a pretty good job of convincing top-level talent in the Miami-Dade and Ft. Lauderdale areas to stick around and play for the hometown Hurricanes, and that is something that Urban Meyer and his staff want to change. The Gators scored several victories on the recruiting trail over Miami last year, and now they want to translate that on to the football field.

The stakes have never been higher. Almost every big-name recruit in the state is planning to be in Gainesville on Saturday. Meyer is pinning his hopes on a big win to impress the masses. After Saturday, he wants to be able to look a recruit in the eye, and tell him “Son, do you want to be a part of a winner, or do want to be a part of a team that wants to be a winner?”

With so many big-name recruits at the game, we are going to focus here on the 2009 prospects of whom Florida and Miami are going head-to-head against on the recruiting trail, and of whom are expected to be in attendance on Saturday night:

(Jason Pughe contributed to this report)


QB/ATH DENARD ROBINSON (6-0, 180, Deerfield Beach, FL): An incredible athlete who has run the 100m in 10.72 seconds, Robinson is a very intriguing prospect at the quarterback position. He could potentially give the Gators a Pat White-type at QB or potentially move to wide receiver if it doesn’t work out for him behind center. Miami had some interest in him as a defensive back earlier in the process, but never offered in writing. Robinson is set on having a shot at the QB position. Florida looks to be in very good shape here.

RB TRENT RICHARDSON (5-11, 225, Pensacola, FL Escambia): Richardson is currently committed to Alabama, but is still open, taking visits, and considering his options. LSU and Florida are widely believed to be the two teams with the best chance of stealing Richardson from Alabama. However, Miami has tried to enter the picture in recent weeks and Richardson is using the game as an opportunity to check out two schools on his short list live and in living color.

WR JHERANIE BOYD (6-2, 185, Gastonia, NC Ashbrook): Boyd was thought to be leaning towards Clemson as late as last week, but with the terrible performance on national television by the Tigers last Saturday, the UF staff certainly hopes to make a big move with Boyd this weekend. He is said to be waiting on a Miami offer but with an October decision looming for Boyd, he may not be able to wait long enough. It is no secret that Boyd is the top “big WR” on the board for the Gators in the 2009 class.

WR ANDRE DEBOSE (5-11, 172, Sanford, FL Seminole): Unlike his teammates Ray Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye, Andre DeBose seems poised to make his own decision. Miami and LSU took a lead on Florida towards the end of the summer but the Gators have made a big move back into his top three along with the Tigers and the ‘Canes. Simply put, DeBose is lightning in a bottle and proved it again with a 4-TD performance last Friday night. In terms of his position on the board and the fact that UF and Miami are two of his top three schools of choice, there may not be another prospect on the board for whom a big win could go further with than DeBose.

TE ORSON CHARLES (6-2, 225, Tampa, FL Plant): Florida has faded for Charles, who became notorious in recruiting circles after accidently breaking Florida’s 2006 National Championship trophy at the Orange & Blue game. Florida is still high on the athletic TE/H-Back prospect out of Plant, but Charles seems to be looking strongly at Miami and FSU at this point. It will certainly be interesting to see if the staff can make any headway with Charles following this weekend.

OL XAVIER NIXON (6-6, 265, Fayetteville, NC Jack Britt): Possibly the top offensive tackle in the nation, both Miami and Florida are on Nixon’s short list of schools, which also includes Clemson, LSU, North Carolina, N.C. State, and Notre Dame. Nixon will be one of two prospects on an official visit this weekend, so a great trip for Nixon is even more vital for Florida’s chances. The one good thing here is that Nixon is truly a luxury in this class and not a necessity. However, you simply can’t say no to one of the best offensive line prospects in the nation, no matter how many you have on the roster already.

OL JARED WHEELER (6-4, 300, Plantation, FL American Heritage): Wheeler seems to have faded on the board for the Gators but he has made several visits this year to the Florida campus. If the Gators were to turn up the heat at some point, you would have to think he might be receptive to the pitch. For now, he’s a guy the staff is keeping a close eye on while a number of schools like Miami are after him tremendously hard. That just goes to show you just how good the offensive line situation for Florida currently is.


DE DYRON DYE (6-5, 225, Sanford, FL Seminole): At the beginning of the recruiting process, Dye was believed to be Florida’s in with the “Seminole Trio.” However, as Ray Ray Armstrong has become enamored with Miami, Dye has seemed to follow in his footsteps. However, Dye’s father is said to be pro-UF, so the Gators have that going in their favor. Landing two defensive ends in this class has become a priority for the staff, so look for them to really put the heat on Dye from here on out.

DE RYNE GIDDINS (6-4, 235, Seffner, FL Armwood): Giddins is probably the top defensive player on the board for Florida and the Gators have made a tremendous move in recent weeks. Giddins will be traveling to the game with junior teammate Alton Bailey, a 2010 prospect to watch. Now that the Florida staff has really locked in on Giddins as a target, look for him to be a high priority recruit all the way until the very end.

DT ANTWAN LOWERY (6-4, 335) Miami, FL Columbus): Lowery seemed all but headed to Miami when he announced he would be making an August 1st commitment. Then something funny happened. Lowery decided to postpone his commitment and then Miami gave Curtis Porter the green light to commit, which he did. Whereas, in July I would have thought Porter would be a Gator and Lowery a Cane, now we could be in for the exact opposite scenario. Lowery is a bit on the heavy side, but he has rare athletic ability for a kid so big. If he can lose some weight and get that motor running consistently, he could be dominant on the college level.

LB JON BOSTIC (6-2, 225, Wellington, FL Palm Beach Central): Bostic has long been at the top of the board for the Gators and Florida is believed to be his favorite. Miami made a real run at him towards the end of the spring and at the beginning of the summer but the Canes have really faded in recent months. LSU now appears to be the top competition for Bostic but make no mistake — Miami would love to throw a wrench into Florida’s plans of landing the big ’backer prospect and give the Gators a game in hopes of impressing the top LB prospect in the state of Florida.

LB JARVIS JONES (6-3, 230, Columbus, GA Carver): For the longest time Clemson and Georgia seemed to be the favorites for Jones. They are still very much in the thick of things but it’s amazing how much Jones has gone out of his way to say he loves the Gators in recent months. LSU and Miami are very much in the picture, too, but Florida really seems to be coming on for Jones who would make for an incredible pairing with Bostic if they were both to decide on attending school in Gainesville.

CB MICHAEL CARTER (5-11, 155, Pompano Beach, FL Ely): The lithe, but athletic defensive back is widely held as the top cover corner prospect in the state of Florida. Whispers had him heading to Miami just a few weeks ago but those rumors have proved to be untrue. Miami and Florida are battling hard for Carter along with Georgia and Minnesota. Carter has family in Gainesville and a great game experience on Saturday night could have him that much closer to ending up a Gator on National Signing Day.

ATH RAY RAY ARMSTRONG (6-4, 210, Sanford, FL Seminole): Of all the prospects on this list, Armstrong would seem the most likely to end up in Coral Gables. Armstrong is such a versatile prospect. The Gators are recruiting him as a safety but he could end up at linebacker, tight end, wide receiver or possibly as a defensive end. He can just flat out play football. Put him on the field and he will find a position to play. Of all the guys that the staff hopes to influence with a big win over the Canes, Armstrong might be the one that they hope to impact the most.

COMING TOMORROW: An analysis on the 2010 prospects who will be in attendance on Saturday, who are shaping up to be Miami-Florida battles on the recruiting trail as well.