Having delved into the finer points of the Gators’ newly-inked signing class of 2013, it’s time for the sometimes fun — sometimes not so fun — task of breaking down the players who the Florida coaches earnestly pursued but were not able to catch.
Part IV: The Ones that Got Away
QB Tanner McEvoy
Though Florida has had very little success with junior college quarterbacks in the past, McEvoy definitely passes the eye test. He has a very strong arm, he is a big, tall guy who sees the whole field and runs really well. On film he looks like a slightly more refined Max Staver, who signed with Florida this year out of the Brentwood Academy in Tennessee. This certainly makes sense since he has a very similar body and style but has two extra years experience in JUCO ball under his belt. Had he signed with Florida, he would have been a perfect replacement for the Jeff Driskel Insurance Policy that was Jacoby Brissett, now that he has departed the program. But McEvoy chose Wisconsin over Florida for the same reason Brissett transferred to North Carolina State: neither wants to spend the next two years riding the pine behind Driskel when they can be a starter at another FBS school. Missing out on McEvoy puts pressure on quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Brent Pease to develop Skyler Mornhinweg on the fast track to be serviceable in spot duty should Driskel miss some plays due to injury. If Driskel misses any number of full games due to injury, the Gators are probably in trouble.
WR James Clark and WR Ryan Timmons
These two guys have serious game speed. Clark has the perfect skill set to play the slot receiver position in the Pease offense. He will likely play as a freshman and get a lot of short stuff to get him in the open field and let him do his stuff. That way he can lean on his pure athletic ability until he learns the playbook. He gets downfield fast and could be a deep threat either on a fly or a jet sweep — basically anywhere he gets the ball, even behind the line of scrimmage, he is a threat to take it deep. He is a very athletic guy who can sky for high balls. Timmons has a very similar skill set to Clark, however he looks to be a tad less polished and a step slower (or, more accurately, less fast). Timmons is a very good prospect with some special skills, but is less explosive than Clark. One of the most closely followed Gators targets late in the process, Clark essentially committed to Muschamp the Sunday before signing day, essentially costing the Gators Ryan Timmons as well, who coaches told Sunday after Clark’s silent commitment that we had no room left. Then Clark signed with Ohio State, changing his mind in NSD Eve, while Timmons signed with Kentucky. Clark should be able to shred the slower, less talented defenses in the Big Ten, while Timmons will have a tougher time against the stout SEC defensive backs every week. Both could have helped the Gators, however they were the sixth and seventh receivers offered in this class for a reason. The staff would not trade one of our five signees for either one of them.
RB Ryan Green
Green was a guy the Gators staff wanted as a third running back in this class with possibilities of moving him around if he didn’t quickly dent the backfield depth chart. Green runs well in traffic between the tackles, which is one reason he kept Muschamp’s attention throughout the process. When he finds open space, he goes north and south quickly. He doesn’t really jump out at you on film, but he consistently finds yards and breaks long ones. Sounds like a lot of successful SEC backs in the last several years. I always got the impression that he liked Florida more than FSU, but in the end he chose the school where he has a real chance of starting as a true freshman over the school where he would come in fighting not to be buried on the depth chart that is flat loaded with possible superstars at his position. Another nice-to-have that was not a critical get.
OL Ira Denson
Denson has good feet, pulls well and finishes plays downfield. He has great size for a guard and could develop into a good college player. However, while many Gators fans were very high on Denson, the Florida staff was not. Bottom line, they did not believe he was good enough to offer a scholarship to Florida. That describes most of the FSU offensive linemen signees in the last decade. Particularly in light of the amazing offensive line class Florida signed this year, and the fact that the UF staff never pursued Denson at all, this is not considered a loss.
DT Montravius Adams
This is a versatile kid who played at defensive tackle, defensive end, and offensive tackle, but defensive tackle is where he is projected. I am clearly in the minority, but I don’t find him that impressive as a defensive lineman. He plays very passively for a defensive tackle or end, and at his size he should be crushing people on most every play. I do like him a lot as an offensive tackle, since he does not exhibit to me the aggression and demolition drive needed to play defensive tackle in the SEC. Coaches no doubt believe they can instill that in him, and it is really all he needs. But we have seen many defensive linemen wash out because of this lack of killer instinct, so it is not a given that he would have been a great asset to the Gator program. Time will tell on this one, but I would not trade Gator signees Caleb Brantley or Bear Cummings for him.
DE Robert Nkemdiche
Some recruiting services’ top prospect in the nation (a distinction which I believe belongs to Vernon Hargreaves III), he has everything you want in a defensive end. He is actually a pretty good running back, as well. He could easily put on 20 pounds and become another Christian Okoye. At defensive end, he has long arms and big mitts and uses them really well to get around offensive tackles and tight ends and get to the quarterback or running back. While he may be a little over-rated as the No. 1-rated player in the country, he is one of the elite in the class of 2013. He has a great physique and Carlos Dunlap-like athleticism at that size. There is no doubt that he would have been a great asset to the Gator program for the next three to four years, but I would not call this a tragic loss. Firstly because Florida was never a leader for his services — the very fact that UF earned a visit and a ton of respect and praise from him is a testament to the recruiting ability of the staff. Secondly, Florida signed three exceptional defensive ends this year to go with two last year — one of which is a better prospect than Nkemdiche and has proven that value already against SEC competition. Mostly however is the fact that I do not see Robert as that much better than the rest of the elite defensive ends this year. At the Under Armour game, while he looked excellent and made plays, he did not look markedly better than the other defensive ends, such as Elijah Daniel (whom Florida lost to grades this year). It looked like Mississippi State signee Chris Jones was the best defensive end in that game, and then there were the many quality defensive ends in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl that may have showed out better as well had they been on the same field. He would have been a luxury, but he likely would have made some big noise as a Gator and I have no doubt will do so for Ole Miss.
DE Tashawn Bower
Tashawn is fast off the edge, which is the most appealing of his many appealing factors. He is raw compared to his cohorts in this year’s class, but he has a very high ceiling. He needs a year of development and could very well be a monster. He was surrounded by great signing day drama when the erroneous report was sent out that he had sent his Letter of Intent to Florida, only to sign with LSU instead, but had that not happened to whet Gator Nation’s appetite and toy with its emotions, it is likely that nobody would ever have mentioned wishing Florida had landed Bower. Not because he is not a great prospect, but because as mentioned before, the Gators are in a great position at defensive end and Bower is less of a sure thing than many Florida has in the fold.
LB Quinton Powell
Given his commitment, de-commitment and almost re-commitment, it is a wonder that Urban Meyer didn’t see his soul mate of indecision in Powell and swoop in to sign him in the end. Powell is very athletic but extremely raw and undersized at just 190 pounds on a 6-foot-2 frame. He plays fast and has good instincts, which is what the coaches found appealing about him. He has a good upside but will not be an immediate contributor. He played a lot more free-lancing defensive end than linebacker in high school, so he will need at least a year, probably two to refine his position as well as add a lot of weight. The Florida coaches wanted him if he were committed to the program, but given his waffling that led to his de-commitment and then inability to pull the trigger again late in the process when the staff gave him another chance, I personally do not think he has the dedication or the clear-headed focus to do what it takes to transform himself from a raw, undersized project to a player with the physical, developmental and mental maturity to be a contributing linebacker at Florida. And given that Florida signed by far the best linebacker class in the county this year to go with a strong returning cast, it would have been a long shot for Powell to have an impact on the program, even long-term.
CB Mackensie Alexander
This is a good, physical player that Florida tried to get in on after it became clear that Jalen Ramsey was going to opt for Florida State. I for one am glad he chose to sign with Clemson. First off I did not like the fact that he was trying to “call his shot” by making himself and much more lightly regarded brother Mackenro a package deal. Taking an “I run the show” attitude is a bad start for any kid entering Muschamp’s program. However the thing that really turned me off about Alexander is his Deion Sanders routine on the field. He showboats after every play, no matter how big or inconsequential it is. Playing with emotion is part of being a great defender, but he does not just show emotion in a healthy competitive manner. His is more of a pro wrestling pre-scripted “look at me” display of selfishness that really bothers me. I can see why the staff was never very warm on him until they were desperate to fill the Ramsey slot that they had been very confident in having occupied for some time at the end of the recruiting cycle. Alexander may become a star performer for Clemson, but in terms of attitude and team chemistry, I think Florida dodged a bullet here.
CB Jalen Ramsey
Ramsey is a very good kid and a guy who would be a starting wide receiver in most programs if he weren’t such a valuable defensive back. His athleticism really jumps out when you watch him play. He is strong in run support, is a technically sound tackler and a good hitter for a cornerback. He would have been a great addition to the Gator program and his absence from this class created the only real shortfall in numbers at any position, as the staff wanted to sign two corners. But as I mentioned in an earlier installment of this series, Ramsey’s stock and value in the eyes of the fan rocketed far beyond his actual talent level, simply by the fact that he held out until the last minute to declare his college of choice. The visions of having he and VH3 in the same class led many to equate their talents and impact on the program to similar levels. But the fact is Ramsey is not in Vernon’s class; he is not near his talent level. Nor is he the same caliber player as the returning starters at cornerback for the Gators this year. While UF needed him for numbers and he certainly is a great talent and could have been developed into an excellent corner in Gainesville, this loss was not nearly what it was made up to be by the simple fact that his late commitment created a false surge in his perceived value.
Well, that is the final installment of Breaking Down the Class, but it is not the final word on this recruiting season. I will have one more column to put a final wrap on this great recruiting season, and that will finally clear the path for total focus on basketball, baseball and the rest of the spring sports. And of course, recruiting for the 2014 class. And spring football. It never really ends. Thank goodness. Until then, remember that every day is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.