FN (Spot) Lights: Defensive backs

Despite the fact that the University of Florida signed seven defensive backs back in February (one, Travon Van, subsequently enrolled at Marshall), the secondary has once again become one of the focal points (along with the offensive line) of the Class of 2011.

The offensive line got some Friday mid-afternoon when offensive tackle Trip Thurman (6-5, 305, Dover, Del. / Dover) gave the Gators their 11th verbal commitment for the Class of 2011 (click here for update: http://www.gatorcountry.com/swampgas/showthread.php?t=158746). Now the secondary need could be addressed by one of the four cornerback prospects who will be in attendance tonight with Thurman at Florida’s annual Friday Night Lights camp in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium starting at 7 p.m.

One prospect who has seen his stock rise considerably over the past is Loucheiz Purifoy (6-0, 170, Pensacola, Fla./Pine Forest).

“It feels good to know that colleges are starting to respect me,” Purifoy said when reached by phone on Thursday evening. Purifoy has picked up offers from Alabama and Auburn in the last couple of weeks. Florida State is starting to show a strong interest in the gifted Panhandle athlete as well.

Although other schools have moved into the battle for Purifoy, he’s still keeping a close eye on the school that was the first to offer him a scholarship back in June.

“Florida was the first to recognize my abilities,” Purifoy said of the Gators. “They are still my top choice.”

While Purifoy is high on the board for the Gators, he isn’t the only one. After an intense recruiting battle that has waged back and forth for Nick Waisome (5-10, 170, Groveland, Fla./South Lake), the process finally appears to be winding down for him as a decision date creeps up on the horizon (he is expected to make an announcement sometime next month. The Gators have been in control for a while, but Florida State is making one last push to come out in front for the services of the talented cornerback from Central Florida. Georgia continues to be a factor as well.

Waisome is expected to compete, and I’m told to watch out if he matches up with Florida wide receiver commitment Javares McRoy (5-9, 170, Lakeland, Fla.) as the two have developed a bit of a playful rivalry on the camp circuit this summer.

Another highly-regarded defensive back is Marcus Roberson (6-1, 175, Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), who will be in Gainesville on Friday. Roberson, who is coming off a visit to Auburn last weekend, said the Tigers moved ahead in the race for his signature. However, the Gators have made Roberson a big priority in regards to recruiting for the secondary in this class, and it would be no surprise to see Florida make a big push to move back towards the top this evening. Roberson has the range and ability to line up at either cornerback or free safety on the next level.

Coming off a visit to Florida State, the Gators will likely be spending a lot of time around long-time commitment De’Ante Saunders (5-10, 185, DeLand, Fla./DeLand) to make sure he is still in the fold for the Gators. Reports out of Tallahassee stated that “Pop” is starting to tell people (quietly, I might add) that he is “open” in his recruitment at this point. However, for now, the two-way prep star remains committed to Florida for the time being.

Looking ahead to the junior class at the cornerback position – a very deep crop, I might add – Donaldven Manning (5-10, 160, Miami, Fla./Jackson) and Brian Poole (5-10, 192, Bradenton, Fla./Southeast) are two players to keep a very close eye on in the Class of 2012.

The safeties should be well-represented in the Swamp as well. Dondi Kirby (6-2, 195, Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) leads the charge at the position. The rangy, long-limbed free safety prospect is expected to make first trip down to Gainesville this weekend. He will head up a impressive group of safeties from the state of Florida and beyond.

One of those players to keep a particularly close eye on is Chris “Juice” Johnson (5-9, 205, Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic). Johnson, has been high on the Gators for quite some time. He is certainly a possibility (just like Purifoy) to commit at Friday Night Lights. Johnson, who was a part of the 4×100 relay team at Trinity Catholic which took home gold in the FHSAA Class 2A state meet back in May, has been highly regarded on the board for Florida ever since camping in Gainesville last month.

Joining Johnson in the “slightly overlooked” category is Ahmad Christian (5-9, 185, Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian), a two-sport star who is also being recruited by Florida to play baseball. Christian will be joined by Alex Dixon (6-0, 180, Clearwater, Fla./Countryside), another talented prospect who has seen his stock rise considerably in recent months.

The Class of 2012 will be well represented as well. Jarvis McCall (6-1, 190, Seffner, Fla./Armwood) will lead a strong contingent from that program. Other names to watch include Latroy Pittman (6-1, 200, Citra, Fla./North Marion) and Eddie Williams (6-4, 210, Panama City, Fla./Arnold), who should get looks on both sides of the ball throughout the course of the night.