It may have come as a bit of surprise to casual fans of the recruiting scene that the Florida Gators ended up accepting the commitment of a fullback – Hunter Joyer (5-11, 250, Tampa, Fla. / Tampa Catholic) – following a summer camp session in the Swamp on June 17.
After all, what sense does it make for Urban Meyer, the maestro of the spread option, to take a pound-it-between-the-tackles player who will help open up running lanes for the Gators’ stable of talented ball carriers? The answer may lie in the fact that Meyer, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and the offense may be looking in a new direction for the future.
“I figured there was some reason they wanted me to come back,” Joyer said of his second camp appearance during the week of Urban Meyer Football Camps last month. “It was an honor to work with the coaches. They told me they really liked my workout. When we got back home (to Tampa), my Dad called Coach (Dan) McCarney and he told me I had an offer to play for the Florida Gators.”
It was during that workout, a grueling 45-minute session with the sun blazing directly overhead of the Swamp, that Joyer seemed to win over several Florida assistants, along with Meyer. Disregard the speed he has for a big guy (a 4.75-second time, laser confirmed, in the 40-yard dash), the incredible strength (Joyer can bench press nearly 500 pounds) or his versatile game (he rushed for 1,000 yards as a sophomore at Wesley Chapel, as a lead blocker he helped direct Tampa Catholic to the Class 2A state title game as a junior).
It was that performance, in the sweltering heat, that really seemed to win over the Florida coaching staff. Joyer had been won over long ago about the Florida program.
“I couldn’t turn them down,” he said.
Of course, it helps that Florida had a huge advantage over most of the other major programs to show a serious interest in his talents – Louisville (where his older brother Kamran is a redshirt freshman offensive lineman), Stanford and Texas A&M – in that Gainesville is considerably closer to home than Louisville, Ky., Palo Alto, Calif., and College Station, Texas.
“That played a big role,” Joyer said. “If I went to Stanford, my family couldn’t come to the games. I’m just a two-hour ride away from home on the weekends. That’s something else that is nice about going to Florida.”
But the real question, is how the role of Joyer figures into the equation for the Gators offense moving forward. Joyer has a relatively simple answer, as it relates to the bigger picture.
“They wanted a fullback for next year,” he explained as to what the coaches explained his role would be. “They need a short-yardage guy to replace Tebow.”
The fact of the matter is, Florida simply cannot replace Tebow with one player. That would be an impossible feat. However, by throwing numbers at the problem (Florida has currently lined up three additions at tight end and one at fullback in the 2010 and 2011 recruiting classes), the Gators have effectively put themselves in a position to replace the short-yardage production of one of the great quarterbacks in college football history. It won’t happen overnight, but there is currently a plan in place, and it seems to be coming together quite effectively.
“Everyone is excited,” Joyer explained of the mood in Gainesville when he camped with the Gators last month. “We’re just going to try to keep it going.”
And Joyer had one last prediction that was sure to perk up the ears of Gators fans. He thinks the recruiting roll that Florida went on through the month of June (where the verbal commitments of six pledges were procured) will continue throughout the summer.
“I’ve been staying in touch with some recruits,” he explained. “I think there will be some more (commitments) pretty soon. We’re definitely going to get this thing rolling pretty soon.”
With quality prospects like Hunter Joyer in the fold, that can only be construed as a good sign for the Gators on the recruiting trail moving forward.