Gators gaining ground on prospects

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Just as new Florida head football coach Will Muschamp is putting together his coaching staff, the Gators seem to be gaining ground on recruits that did not previously give serious consideration to signing with UF. Some are considering joining recruits who have already pledged to sign with Florida on Feb. 2. And the news of Charlie Weis joining the staff has created a buzz.

Oviedo (Hagerty HS) quarterback Jeff Driskel has been committed to UF since April, and hasn’t wavered in his enthusiasm to be a Gator despite a turnover in coaches following former Florida coach Urban Meyer’s resignation last month.

Muschamp made the official announcement earlier on Monday that Kansas City offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will join the Gators’ staff in the same position following the Chiefs’ playoff run.

Following the third day of practices at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex for the Under Armour All-America game, Driskel was excited to hear the official news about Weis being his future coach despite not being familiar with him personally yet.

“I don’t know much about him,” Driskel said. “I haven’t been able to talk to him. He’s been able to win at the college level and the pro level, he’s going to be able to recruit, and if you can win at the pro level you are going to be all right in college.”

Driskel will enroll at UF following Wednesday’s game (7 p.m., ESPN), and Weis will join him once the Chiefs’ postseason is complete.

Weis has had postseason success in the past, winning three Superbowl championships while coaching Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

“I’m looking forward to working with him and I’m looking forward to him developing me,” Driskel said. “He’s coached a lot of big-time names and I like that. Everything’s going to be good in Gainesville.”

Weis also won a Superbowl championship with the New York Giants in his first season as a professional coach, serving as an offensive assistant under Bill Parcells.

“Like coach Muschamp said, he’s going to try to bring in more pro-style stuff,” Driskel said. “Bringing in pro coaches is obviously the first step in that. Hopefully the team responds well and hopefully everybody is eager to learn a new system.”

* * *

Miami (Jackson HS) safety Robensen Therezie (5-10/190) will be on the same team as Driskel in Wednesday’s game, so he’s familiar with the quarterback’s talent.

“There’s a lot of competition, it’s been a great experience having fun and getting to know the other all-Americans,” Therezie said. “I’m at the same level of talent, so I fit right in.”

Therezie has the typical mindset of a competitive athlete. He has a better memory of the plays he doesn’t make than the plays he has success on.

“I’ve dropped four picks, but I caught one,” Therezie said. “I’m kind of of a cover guy and a run-stopping guy. I can hit like a linebacker, but I have pretty soft hands. It’s just been a bad week.”

Therezie credited his “Click-Clack” teammates for making his experience more challenging.

“(Miami Northwestern HS receiver) Eli Rogers is the toughest guy I’ve faced,” Therezie said. “He’s very tricky when he comes off of the ball.  He knows where to get you. When you’re going against Eli, you have to put a hand on him so he won’t get you with the moves.”

Therezie is anticipating a better atmosphere to showcase his ability during the game on Wednesday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

“There’s going to be a lot of passing, so I’m looking for some picks and some hits,” Therezie said. “I get a little somethin’ in on offense too with my speed.”

Therezie said said his strengths are his speed and coverage ability, and “going up for the ball against a 6’4” receiver,” but added that UF commit Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, Nature Coast HS, 6-3/190) is the toughest player on his team to intercept passes thrown his way.

Therezie rated Keihl Frazier (Greenland, Ark., 6-3/215, Auburn commit) is the toughest quarterback on his team to intercept passes from, and Driskel (6-4/224) is also very difficult to defend.

It is fitting that Therezie has such high praise for players committed to Auburn and Florida. He is considering scholarship offers from both schools, plus another SEC team.

“I have it narrowed down to three — Alabama, Auburn University and the University of Florida,” Therezie said.

“When it comes to Alabama, I like Nick Saban. He would be my position coach. He’s a great coach, I’ve been watching him for a while.

“I have a great connection with Auburn, like a family. When I went up there, they showed me what they had to offer and it was great. I can really communicate with coach (Gene) Chizik.”

Therezie has been in contact with the new Florida coach and likes what he has heard so far.

“I spoke with coach Muschamp for the first time,” Therezie said. “He seems like a very high-energy guy, somewhat like coach Meyer. He’s a great guy and he’s a defensive coach. That’s what I also like Florida, and it’s in my home state.”

Having a head coach who will pay special attention to his side of the ball is attractive to any player, and Therezie is no different.

“Knowing that the head coach is the defensive coach and he’s a great position coach and he also coaches the corners and safeties, that’s kind of a big thing to me, getting coached by one of the best coaches in college football,” Therezie said. “I don’t know too much about him except that he used to coach in Texas and he wears boots.”

Therezie will have the opportunity to see if Muschamp actually wears the cowboy boots he’s heard about in person this month.

“I visited two of schools, the top two, and I visited Florida but it was unofficial,” Therezie said. “I’m going to visit Florida two weeks prior to signing day.”

* * *

UF also announced that Seattle defensive line coach Dan Quinn was hired as the Gators’ new defensive coordinator/ defensive line coach during Monday’s practice. Quinn and Muschamp were on the same NFL staff under Nick Saban while at the Miami Dolphins in 2005.

The news about Quinn was of particular interest to Tampa (Alonso HS) defensive end Anthony Chickillo, who is currently committed to the University of Miami.

“I just heard about it today,” Chickillo said. “I’ll meet with them next week because I’m taking my official. He’s an NFL guy, so he must be pretty good.”

The Gators appear to have made Chickillo (6-3/240) a priority for the 2011 signing class, evidenced by an an-home visit soon after Muschamp was hired.

“I talked to coach Muschamp last night,” Chickillo said. “He just called me to see how I was doing and how everything was going out here. He told me he’s heard I’ve been dominating people and he told me he wants me to do that for him. I just told him ‘I’ll be there next week, coach; and I’m looking forward to my visit.’”

During his recruitment to the University of Miami, Chickillo developed a good relationship with the Hurricanes’ former recruiting coordinator, Aubrey Hill. The Gators hired Hill to serve as the wide receivers coach on Sunday.

“I just heard that coach Aubrey Hill from Miami is going there.,” Chickillo said. “I’m really close with him, he recruited me to go to Miami. We’ll see when I take my visit.”

* * *

Nocatee (Charlotte HS) running back Mike Bellamy broke off several long runs early during Monday’s practice, but did not practice during the second half of the workouts as a precaution due to a lingering injury.

“I’ve been having some hamstring problems, so I just limit my time,” Bellamy said. “If I’m not doing anything then I’m alright. I was just stretching and pretty much just enjoying the time, saving it for Wednesday. There’s nothing wrong.”

Bellamy has been verbally committed to Clemson, but that could change in the wake of Tigers’ head coach Dabo Swinney firing offensive coordinator Billy Napier and running backs coach Andre Powell on Sunday. Clemson struggled on offense in 2010 and finished 6-7, the Tigers’ first losing season since 1998.

“I’m just going to wait and see what happens,” Bellamy said. “If I don’t like the decision then I’ll de-commit. I have plenty of time, I’m not even thinking about it right now. I’m having fun here and enjoying it.”