Speed wasn’t a pressing need in this recruiting class for the Gators, yet when the fastest football player in the nation caught Urban Meyer’s eye, there was no way the Florida head coach could pass him up. The Florida Gators 17th commitment came in the form of South Lake High School’s Jeff Demps, a 5-9, 170-pound athlete who has speed to burn SEC defenders.
Demps made it official Wednesday afternoon at ESPN Zone in Orlando and it will air tonight. He chose the Florida Gators over the Tennessee Volunteers and the late push of the Kentucky Wildcats.
“Next year I will be playing for the University of Florida,” Demps said after making an announcement on ESPNU and in front of a crowd at ESPN Zone in Orlando. “I made the decision a couple of weeks ago and just felt that Florida offered a great atmosphere, great coaching, and great academics.”
Demps gave serious consideration to Tennessee. The Groveland prospect took two visits to Knoxville to check out the Volunteers. The first visit was for the AAU national track meet where Demps turned in the fastest time in the country by a high school senior with a laser-timed 10.25 100 meters. The second trip was on his official visit to see the Volunteers dismantle Georgia on October 6.
Tennessee put plenty of effort into convincing Demps to become their speed running back, something the team is lacking, and despite losing Trooper Taylor and offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, the Volunteers remained in the race until the end.
Demps spoke highly of Tennessee’s recruiting efforts.
“Tennessee has great coaches and a great program,” Demps said. “Everything up there is real nice and I could see myself playing there, I just saw some things at Florida that I didn’t see at Tennessee.”
Kentucky, which had a great season culminating with a win over Florida State in the Music City Bowl, was a late entry into the Jeff Demps sweepstakes. The Wildcats made a good pitch but it wasn’t enough to overcome the presence Florida had during the entire recruiting process.
“Kentucky came on strong, but late,” Demps said. “I just didn’t see as much at Kentucky as Florida.”
Although Demps hasn’t taken his official visit to Florida — he’ll do that January 18 — he made plenty of trips to Gainesville. He was on hand for the Gators’ big rivalry games against Tennessee and Florida State.
Meyer and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen have been all over Demps since the beginning. Demos says they were elated when he finally told them he was going to be a Gator.
“I told them I was coming and they were extremely happy,” Demps said. “I talk to Coach Meyer every other day and Coach Mullen is one of my favorites.”
The biggest asset to Demps’ game is his speed. He is one of the top track performers in the nation. He consistently runs sub-10.3 times in the 100. This speed makes him lethal with the ball in his hands. Though some people question his size, he has great strength which allows him to break plenty of tackles. Make no mistake about it, though, it is the speed that Urban Meyer covets as well as Gator Track Coach Mike Holloway.
“I talk to Coach Holloway about track at Florida also,” Demps said. “I am glad to get a chance to run track in college. Coach Holloway says he is excited to get me up there. I will run the 100 meter dash, the 200 meter dash, and the 4×100 meter relay.”
Demps could play a variety of roles for the Gators. He could line up at running back, wide receiver or even return kicks. Wherever he lines up, Demps will be a home run hitter for the Gator offense for years to come.
South Lake Head Coach Walter Banks thinks Demps is special.
“The speed is just ridiculous,” Banks said. “I have never seen one that runs that fast. He can get 30 yards easily and just runs past people.”
Demps believes he is an all around person as well as player and has many qualities that suit what Meyer is trying to build at Florida.
“I bring a lot of speed and versatility,” Demps said. “I bring a good work ethic to the program and leadership.”
Coach Banks believes as good of a player as he is, Demps is an even better person and that should not be overlooked.
“He is an awesome player, but he has more attributes off the field than on the field,” Banks said. “He shows leadership in the classroom and the weight room and inspires other kids to work also.
“We have a special needs program for mentally challenged kids and last spring we had one of the kids challenge Jeff and he let the kid win just to see the smile on the kids face. It really made the kid’s day.”
A world class athlete with world class people skills and demeanor is now a Florida Gator and that should make every Gator fan proud.