Gators evaluating DT Rod Crayton

Despite already holding a commitment from junior All-American defensive tackle Caleb Brantley of Crescent City, Fla., the Florida Gators are still in hunt for prospects to help continue building depth up front in the Class of 2013. One possibility has quickly emerged on the board in Dadeville, Ala., lineman Rod Crayton, who made a trip to Florida for the first junior day event of the year on Jan. 28.

“He’s enjoying his visits and the process,” said Dadeville assistant Matt Harrison. “We’ll go through the spring, and sometime during the summer, narrow it down to four to six choices.”

Auburn, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Penn State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have all extended scholarship offers to Crayton, despite the fact he measures in at slightly under the 6-foot-1 mark where most colleges like to see as a minimum height for defensive tackles. However, there is a good reason for the considerable interest, despite the lack of ideal height for Crayton.

“There might not be a stronger high school kid coming out this year,” Harrison explained. “I might believe (there is a stronger prospect), but I would have to see it.”

Crayton reportedly bench presses 430 pounds for four reps (with a one-rep max of right about 500 pounds), and also squats 575 pounds for six reps for good measure. Add his immense strength with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, and it’s easy to see why a number of colleges are willing to overlook his height.

Still, although Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn spent plenty of time speaking one-on-one with Crayton during his UF visit in January, the Gators have yet to extend an offer to the wide-bodied tackle. The Gators are still evaluating Crayton, as is Nebraska and Oklahoma. If UF does offer Crayton in the coming weeks, expect Florida to be a player for the top-notch interior pass-rusher, despite his ties to the state of Alabama.

“He’s still high on Florida,” Harrison said of Crayton. “If UF does pull the trigger and offer, they will definitely end up in his final five or six schools.”

For now, the Gators will continue to evaluate the junior lineman as the defensive line board continues to come into focus. Harrison said the group will consider taking a second trip to Florida in the spring, along with 6-5 junior receiver Terry Toller, as well as possible trips to Lincoln, Neb., and Norman, Okla., to check out the Huskers and the Sooners. No doubt, the Maxpreps All-American will continue to be a hot prospect on the trail as the spring evaluation period starts to creep ever closer.

“He’s one of the few kids I’ve ever coached where I don’t have to get on him about giving 100 percent,” Harrison said of Crayton. “He gives it his all on every play.”

As a junior, Crayton recorded more than 100 tackles and 11 sacks on a Dadeville squad that finished the season with a record of 12-1.