BRADENTON — The Florida Gators seem to have found their running back of the future as four-star prospect Mike Blakely (5-9/195, Bradenton/Manatee) announced this morning that he will attend the University of Florida.
Blakely revealed his choice Tuesday at Manatee High School in a press conference attended by family, friends, teammates and members of the media. The Hurricanes’ running back is the 18th verbal commitment to Florida’s Class of 2011. National Signing Day is Feb. 2, 2011, but Blakely hopes to sign earlier so he can enroll at Florida for the spring semester and be eligible for 2011 spring practice.
It is the second straight days that Florida has received a verbal commitment. On Monday, Clay Burton, the brother of current Gator all-around talent Trey Burton, de-committed from the verbal commitment he gave to the University of Notre Dame to accept Florida’s scholarship offer. The younger Burton is a 6-4, 240-pound defensive end for Venice High School.
Blakely, who had scholarship offers from just about every major school in the country, had narrowed his choices to Auburn, South Carolina and Florida. In the end he went with his heart and chose Urban Meyer’s program in Gainesville. Blakely told Gator Country.com that, at one point, it was “90-10 percent” that he was going to chose Auburn, but it became apparent that his heart was with the Gators. He has said he’s done with recruiting and will take no more visits.
This seemed to be a match from the start, Blakely’s high school, ranked No. 2 in Class 5A behind St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, runs a very similar spread offense to what Florida runs. His position coach is former Gator fullback Rod Frazier, and the family that Blakely lives with attended Florida.
Though short in stature, Blakely is a solid 195 pounds, reminding some of another compact Florida running back of recent years from Southwest Florida – Earnest Graham of Cape Coral. Blakely is very quick and agile and has surprising strength for his size.
Blakely displayed his skills on ESPN earlier in the year when Manatee hosted Plant High School, which was led by All-American James Wilder Jr. Blakely was the better of the two running backs on that night, accounting for four touchdowns (one passing) and 148 yards rushing on only 15 carries.
Blakely has been slowed by an ankle injury of late, but it didn’t stop him from scoring two touchdowns and throwing for another in Manatee’s 35-6 victory last Friday night at Sarasota Riverview. After one of the touchdowns, Blakely performed several Gator “Chomps” to the delight of the Manatee partisans and Meyer, who was in attendance with offensive coordinator Steve Addazio.
Florida signed four-star running back Mack Brown last year and Brown will apparently redshirt this season. Blakely, though, seems to be the more natural fit in Meyer’s spread offense. Either way both should compete for playing time next season.
Blakely is rated the No. 6 running back according to ESPNU and the No. 69 player overall in the latest ESPNU 150.
FLORIDA’S VERBAL COMMITMENTS FOR 2011
1. De’Ante Saunders, DB, 5-10, 185, DeLand, Fla. / DeLand H.S. (October 20, 2009)
2. A.C. Leonard, TE, 6-3, 238, Jacksonville, Fla. / University Christian H.S. (November 29, 2009; de-commitment from Florida, October 13, 2010; re-commitment to Florida, October 19, 2010)
3. Jeoffrey Pagan, DE, 6-3, 270, Asheville, N.C. / Asheville H.S. (April 11, 2010)
4. Jeff Driskel, QB, 6-4, 225, Oviedo, Fla. / Hagerty H.S. (April 19, 2010)
5. Javares McRoy, WR, 5-9, 170, Lakeland, Fla. / Lakeland H.S. (de-commitment from Texas Tech, verbal to Florida June 11, 2010)
6. Hunter Joyer, FB, 5-11, 250, Tampa, Fla. / Tampa Catholic H.S. (June 17, 2010)
7. Tommy Jordan, OL, 6-5, 290, Ridgefield, Conn. / Ridgefield H.S. (June 21, 2010)
8. Ryan Shazier, OLB, 6-1, 205, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / Plantation H.S. (June 21, 2010)
9. Ja’Juan Story, WR, 6-3, 190, Brooksville, Fla. / Nature Coast H.S. (June 28, 2010)
10. Kyle Christy, P, 6-2, 185, Brownsburg, Ind. / Brownsburg H.S. (June 28, 2010)
11. Trip Thurman, OT, 6-6, 305, Dover, Del. / Dover H.S. (July 24, 2010)
12. Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, 5-11, 170, Pensacola, Fla. / Pine Forest H.S. (July 24, 2010)
13. Chase Hounshell, OL, 6-5, 265, Mentor, Ohio / Lake Catholic H.S. (August 11, 2010)
14. Nick Waisome, CB, 5-10, 168, Groveland, Fla. / South Lake H.S. (August 18, 2010)
15. Valdez Showers, ATH, 5-11, 180, Madison, Mich. / Madison Heights H.S. (August 25, 2010)
16. Chris Johnson, S, 5-10, 195, Ocala, Fla. / Trinity Catholic H.S. (October 7, 2010)
17. Clay Burton, DE, 6-4, 240, Nokomis, Fla. / Venice H.S. (de-commitment from Notre Dame, verbal to Florida October 25, 2010)
18. Mike Blakely, RB, 5-9, 195, Bradenton, Fla. / Manatee H.S. (October 26, 2010)