Here’s five things I’m looking for during the ESPN Under Armour All-America game this Saturday airing on ABC at 2pm.
1. How good is Jamie Harper?
We’ve all seen the film. There are plenty of cutbacks in a fraction of a second and elusive spin moves to make your head spin. Yet the knock on Harper (Jacksonville, Florida) has remained throughout the process. It’s the competition he faces. While playing in the 2A classification, Harper doesn’t exactly play stout defensive teams every week. This week during practice, he will be trying to run on defensive tackles Brandon Thompson (Thomasville, Georgia) and Gator target Rod Davis (Houston, Texas), along with Clemson commitment DaQuan Bowers (Bamberg, South Carolina) and Chase Clement (Marietta, Georgia). You’d be hard pressed to find a more impressive group of defensive line talent than that. In the Under Armour All-American game on Saturday, Harper will go up against Gator target Omar Hunter (Buford, Georgia) and Texas commitment Jarvis Humphrey (Cedar Hill, Texas).
ESPN lists Harper as their third best running back, and the 13th best player in the nation. If you’ve seen his film, it’s easy to see why. This is the week for Harper to erase all the doubters of his ability. He could solidify himself as an elite running back in the nation with a good performance during practice and the game.
2. How special is Will Hill?
When the Gators received a commitment from ESPN’s top rated athlete in the nation, Urban Meyer knew there was a special player waiting to play in Gainesville. Hill (West Orange, New Jersey) is slated to play free safety when he shows up on campus during the summer, but what makes him special is his overall athleticism. Hill plays both ways for his Saint Peter’s High School team, leading the team at quarterback when his team has the ball. His play during his final two high school seasons were enough for him to be ranked as ESPN’s number two overall player.
In Orlando this week, Hill should play safety most of the time. He will join Notre Dame commitment Jamoris Slaughter(Stone Mountain, Georgia) and UCLA commitment EJ Woods (Culver City, California) at the safety position for the red team. Don’t expect that to rule out him playing elsewhere. The red team will have plenty of talent at the wide receiver position in Julio Jones (Foley, Alabama), Josh Jarboe (Ellenwood, Georgia) and Daryl Stonum (Stafford, Texas) to name a few, but I’m hoping Hill gets some repetitions there as well. This is an all star game and recruits should be given a chance to show off all their talents. Hill’s 6-3, 203-pound frame would give him the chance to be a threat at wide receiver, even if it is unlikely for him to play their in college.
3. Can Janoris Jenkins contain elite receivers?
Will Hill won’t be the only Gator commitment in the secondary for the red team. He will be joined by Pahokee standout Janoris Jenkins, who won’t be able to take many plays off during practice or the actual game. Outside of Jones, Jarboe and Stonum, the red team is also full of elite receivers. During the summer, rumors spread about a 40-time Jenkins reportedly ran near 4.6 or higher. That didn’t keep plenty of elite schools from offering the cornerback, and Florida eventually won the race for his commitment. At Friday Night Lights, Jenkins stole the show. The elite receivers in attendance were shut down by Jenkins and the Florida staff was obviously impressed.
Now he will have his chance to prove it against the nation’s best. Julio Jones is the best receiver in this year’s class, and Jenkins will get to see him every day in practice. Can the 5-10, 167-pound cornerback handle the physical nature of Jones’ play? If so, look for an immediate jump in his ranking as ESPN’s eleventh ranked cornerback.
4. Is there any kick out of range for Caleb Sturgis?
Watch out Tim Tebow. The legend of Caleb Sturgis could soon be growing as his rival. Since he first started kicking for St. Augustine High School, the Gator Country message boards have been lighting up with plenty of stories about the kicker. After hitting a field goal over 50 yards in his team’s state championship game, ESPN’s sixth best kicker will bring immediate stability and excitement to the Florida kicking game.
What people say about Caleb Sturgis is you must see him in person to truly understand it. This will be the first opportunity for me to see the Gator commitment live, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity. A benefit to his Florida commitment is that Sturgis will be starting classes at Florida on the Monday after the game. This will give him one full semester to become accustomed to college life, before he becomes focused on making kicks for a potent Gator offense next season.
5. How does Ricky Barnum hold up at guard?
The Gators have been recruiting Barnum (Lakeland, Florida) as a guard during the process, but he played offensive tackle throughout his high school career. He told me last week that this would be his first time sliding inside for the guard position, so it will be interesting to see how he looks. He will be thrown immediately into the fire as he faces ESPN’s number two and three defensive tackles in Hunter and Humphrey. There have been questions surrounding Barnum’s guard play, which probably came from his 260-pound frame. There is also a chance that Barnum could get some play at the center position, as the red team only has one true center prospect in uncommitted Miami Northwestern prospect Benjamin Jones.
The Gators remain hard in pursuit of Barnum and this week could go a long way in proving that he is ready to play inside at the college level.