It’s finally here. National Signing Day is upon us. The day that is to recruiting junkies what Christmas is to young children. It is the day that will make or break many recruiting classes, and that holds true even for a recruiting power like the Florida Gators.
Entering National Signing Day, the Gators hold the commitments of 25 players in hand, and hope to make a few more key additions while holding up to the players that comprise the consensus #1-ranked recruiting class in the land. Urban Meyer and his staff have done a remarkable job of putting this group together, and all the fruits of their hard labor should taste sweet on Wednesday. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a little drama heading into Wednesday.
Where does Florida stand right now?
In a year where Florida had to reel in a group of talented young players, the Gators hit an absolute home run. Florida’s 25 commitments comprise arguably the top recruiting class in the nation – even if they don’t bring in another prospect – and the Gators do look to have a few more aces up their sleeve at this time.
The Gators brought in an incredible 11 prospects who enrolled for the spring semester (and will subsequently be available for spring practice). This includes the first two commitments in this class, and arguably the biggest recruiters for Florida on the trail this year – quarterback Trey Burton (6-3, 220, Nokomis, FL/Venice) and offensive lineman Ian Silberman (6-6, 265, Orange Park, FL/Fleming Island). Both prospects were in Gainesville seemingly every free weekend they had, and both did a fantastic job spreading the good word for Florida at every good opportunity.
Florida faces heavy losses in the secondary following the 2009 season, and has used this class to restock the cupboard at the position. Matt Elam (5-10, 205, Palm Beach Gardens, FL/Dwyer), Jordan Haden (6-0, 205, Ft. Washington, MD/Friendly), Joshua Shaw (6-1, 185, Palmdale, CA/Palmdale) and Jaylen Watkins (6-0, 175, Cape Coral, FL/Cape Coral) gives the Gators some new faces to compete for playing time in the spring. Those guys will (presumably) be joined by Jonathan Dowling (6-3, 185, Bradenton, FL/Southeast), Cody Riggs (5-9, 160, Ft. Lauderdale, FL/St. Thomas Aquinas), and Travon Van (5-11, 205, San Diego, CA/Helix/Milford Academy) after they sign with the Gators tomorrow morning.
The Gators also did a fantastic job restocking the defensive line, putting together one of the top groups in the country. Top-ranked defensive end Ronald Powell (6-4, 235, Moreno Valley, CA/Rancho Verde) headlines a talented group which also includes Under Armour All-America Game MVP Dominique Easley (6-3, 266, Staten Island, NY/Curtis). Lynden Trail (6-7, 210, Miami, FL/Booker T. Washington) is a Jarvis Moss-clone who will provide Florida will a lengthy and athletic pass-rusher coming off the edge, while Sharrif Floyd (6-3, 310, Philadelphia, PA/George Washington) will prove to be a active and disruptive presence on the interior. This group is rounded out by Leon Orr (6-4, 320, New Port Richey, FL/Gulf), who is already enrolled in classes at the University of Florida. Orr is a very talented defender, who could also end up on the offensive line as well.
Another position of need for Florida was at wide receiver, and the Gators responded by rounding up a great group of prospects there. Under Armour All-American Solomon Patton (5-9, 171, Mobile, AL/ Murphy) has joined Robert Clark (5-9, 165. Palm Beach Gardens, FL/Dwyer) on campus, as the duo give the Gators a speedy pair of additional options at the position during the Spring. They will be joined by top-ranked Chris Dunkley (6-0, 178, Pahokee, FL/Pahokee), who clearly has the highest profile of any prospect in this group. Quinton Dunbar (6-2, 175, Miami, FL/Booker T. Washington) – a high school teammate of Lynden Trail – completes a very talented and versatile group at the position.
Another area that the Florida staff felt needed to be addressed with the departure of three talented seniors (led by Brandon Spikes) is linebacker. The Gators landed a marquee name in Michael Taylor (6-0, 205, Atlanta, GA/Westlake) who is a fast and instinctive (if not overly big) player at the position. He was extremely impressive and had a fantastic showing during the week of the Under Armour All-America Game. Taylor will be joined by a pair of long-standing commitments in Gideon Ajagbe (6-2, 205, Coconut Grove, FL/Ransom Everglades) and Neiron Ball (6-3, 210, Jackson, GA/Jackson). Ajagbe is an extremely athletic player who lined up all over the field at the high school level. Ball played mostly defensive end for Jackson, but figures to play in space considerably more as he moves on to college. He has also enrolled at Florida for the spring semester.
Four more offensive skill players round out the early commitments to Florida – quarterback Tyler Murphy (6-2, 190, Wethersfield, CT/Wethersfield), running back Mack Brown (5-11, 190, Lithonia, GA/King), along with tight ends Gerald Christian (6-3, 230, Palm Beach Gardens, FL/Dwyer) and Michael McFarland (6-5, 230, Tampa, FL/Blake). Christian was an Army All-American selection who has already enrolled early, and figures to compete for immediate playing time in Gainesville. Brown gives the Gators that long-awaited “feature back” that Urban Meyer has been searching for ever since he took over as head coach at Florida. Murphy is an incredibly athletic player who gives the offense another talented player behind center. Meanwhile, McFarland is an absolute specimen who just needs to be coached up a bit before he is ready to contribute on the field in the SEC.
All in all, it’s a class long on skill and speed around the perimeter, giving the Gators a much-needed infusion of athleticism so that Florida can once again compete for a SEC title heading into the 2010 season this fall.
Who will finish out this class?
All eyes have been on a number of prospects in recent weeks. Players like top-ranked offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, wide receivers Markeith Ambles, James Louis, Ivan McCartney, and Da’Rick Rogers, quarterback Andrew Hendrix, linebackers Jordan Hicks and Telvin Smith, defensive back Demar Dorsey, and multi-talented athlete Jeremy Deering have come and gone. However, it appears Florida has a chance to make a nice splash on the day in which the Class of 2010 signs to add to an already incredible crop. A look at the prospects that Gator Country feels will help close out an incredible group.
WR Adrian Coxson (6-1, 195, Baltimore, MD/City College HS)
– The highly regarded receiver has been very high on the Gators ever since a November official visit to Gainesville. After decommitting from Penn State in January, Florida has been rumored to be the team in the drivers seat to land Coxson. While Georgia and Notre Dame made late pushes to try and grab his signature, the Gators look as if they will cap off an amazing wide receiver class with Coxson. Confidence level: 90%
OL Chaz Green (6-5, 295, Tampa, FL/Tampa Catholic)
– A selection to the Under Armour All-America Game, Green was long thought to be headed to Tennessee, but after an official visit to Tennessee at the beginning of October (a weekend where the Vols demolished Georgia), Lane Kiffin and company moved into command to sign the double legacy to the University of Tennessee. Kiffin’s subsequent departure greatly disrupted Green’s recruitment, and after a mid-January trip to Gainesville, Florida looked to once again recapture the lead for Green. While Kiffin (now with the USC Trojans) got the final word as Green took an official visit to Los Angeles last weekend, all indications are that he will announce for the Gators at 3:30 on the afternoon on the ESPN family of networks. Confidence level: 75%
LB Darrin Kitchens (6-2, 205, Homestead, FL/Homestead)
– Sort of a late-bloomer on the recruiting scene, Kitchens led Miami-Dade county this year in sacks with 19. After taking visits to Florida, Florida State, Syracuse and Texas Tech, it appears the Gators will win the battle for one of the fastest-rising prospects in the entire country. Confidence level: 60%
Could anything crazy happen on Wednesday?
Obviously, anything can (and will) happen on National Signing Day. There don’t appear to be any real surprises on the horizon for Florida at this point – and that is a good thing.
There has been a lot of talk that running back Mack Brown was planning to (and secretly did) make a visit to Florida State on the last weekend before National Signing Day. That visit didn’t appear to take place, but the rumors persist. While Brown reportedly received letter-of-intent paperwork from Florida State, don’t expect Brown to sign with the Seminoles on Wednesday.
Likewise, athlete Travon Van is a name that has had a lot of rumors attached to him in recent weeks, and it doesn’t appear things are quite over for him just yet. The San Diego native has letter-of-intent paperwork from both Miami and USC, but all indications that Gator County is receiving says the multi-talented athlete from the Left Coast will be in Gainesville this coming summer. Van plans to send his letter-of-intent paperwork in at 9 AM PST (around noon in Gainesville) on Wednesday.
While rumors still persist that long-time commitment (and Under Armour All-American) Demar Dorsey could receive letter-of-intent paperwork from Florida on Wednesday, the likelihood of that happening is almost nil.
Where will the top prospects from around the country go?
(Number is denoted in correlation with the prospect’s overall ranking in the ESPN 150)
#8 Seantrel Henderson, OL (St. Paul, MN/Cretin-Derham Hall) – Justin’s pick: Ohio State
– An absolute mountain of a man, Henderson is an incredible looking prospect at the offensive tackle position. Although Florida, Miami, Notre Dame, and USC (among others) made a valiant effort – the safe pick seems to be the Buckeyes.
#12 Demar Dorsey, DB (Lauderdale Lakes, FL/Boyd Anderson) – Justin’s pick: USC
– Florida State was the leader going into the weekend, but Dorsey had a great official visit to Los Angeles, and the Trojans are now the team to beat for the one-time Florida commitment from everything I am hearing.
#17 Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE (Portland, OR/David Douglas) – Justin’s pick: UCLA
– The Army All-American selection looked to be headed to Cal at one point, but “Owa” looks to be between UCLA, Oregon State, and Nebraska. I like the Bruins chances here.
#23 Markeith Ambles, WR (McDonough, GA/Henry County) – Justin’s pick: Tennessee
– Although Ambles took several visits following the departure of Lane Kiffin from Knoxville, I like the Army All-American to stick with his original commitment to the Volunteers.
#27 Christian Jones, LB (Winter Park, FL/Lake Howell) – Justin’s pick: Florida State
– From all accounts, this one came down to the FSU, Notre Dame, and Florida. While the Gators made a valiant effort to land the double Seminole legacy (both his father and brother played their college ball in Tallahassee), the family ties will win out in the end.
#30 Da’Rick Rogers, WR (Calhoun, GA/Calhoun) – Justin’s pick: Tennessee
– Rogers will join teammate Nash Nance as Derek Dooley has done a pretty good job of salvaging this class with only a partial staff to help keep it all together.
#33 Keenan Allen, DB (Greensboro, NC/Northern Guilford) – Justin’s pick: California
– No surprise here, as Allen should help spur on a very nice finish for the Golden Bears.
#49 Sean Parker, DB (Harbor City, CA/Narbonne) – Justin’s pick: USC
– Along with Demar Dorsey, Parker could give the Trojans a very solid (and much needed) safety combination on National Signing Day.
#53 Christian Green, ATH (Tampa, FL/Tampa Catholic) – Justin’s pick: Florida State
– The cousin of star Florida State wideout E.G. Green has a chance to follow in his footsteps in Tallahassee. Georgia will make a late run (especially in the wake of Da’Rick Rogers departure), but fall short in a effort to land the talented Tampa prospect.
#80 James Louis, WR (Delray Beach, FL/Atlantic) – Justin’s pick: Minnesota
– I know this with a high level of certainty: Louis will not sign with Ohio State. Where will the Under Armour All-American end up? The Golden Gophers – who hold a commitment from teammate Donnell Kirkwood – seem to be as good of a guess as any.
#94 Corey Lemonier, DE (Hialeah, FL/Hialeah) – Justin’s pick: Auburn
– A lot of talk of Lemonier heading to Tallahassee in recent weeks. There has also been a lot of chatter that he will end up on the Plains, and that’s the pick I’m going to go with as well.
#95 Kadron Boone, WR (Ocala, FL/Trinity Catholic) – Justin’s pick: Louisville
– Boone figures to join a strong class coming together at Louisville. He will have a chance to compete for early playing time for the Cardinals.
#100 James Stone, OL (Nashville, TN/Maplewood) – Justin’s pick: Alabama
– There’s a lot of talk that Tennessee will be able to keep Stone in-state, but the allure of playing for the defending BCS national champions may be hard to turn down.
#104 Damien Robinson, OL (Olive Branch, MS/Olive Branch) – Justin’s pick: Ole Miss
– Tennessee looks to be closing strong, while Dan Mullen’s presence can’t be ignored at Mississippi State, while Larry Porter is doing an excellent job closing down the stretch at Memphis. All these schools are legitimate contenders (as are some others) for Robinson’s signature. At the end of the day, I think Houston Nutt and the Rebels will win this battle for one of the top remaining uncommitted offensive linemen.
#108 Dietrich Riley, DB (La Canada, CA/St. Francis) – Justin’s pick: UCLA
– At one time, Riley seemed destined to play for the USC Trojans. Now, he will head crosstown and play for the rival Bruins instead.
#109 Ivan McCartney, WR (Miramar, FL/Miramar) – Justin’s pick: West Virginia
– “Sticks” figures to join a pair of former high school teammates (Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey) who signed with West Virginia last year. Miramar head coach Damon Cogdell played linebacker for the Mountaineers in the mid-90’s.
#121 Willis Wright, WR (Miami, FL/Miami Springs) – Justin’s pick: West Virginia
– Wright could excel on either side of the ball, he figures to join McCartney in giving the Mountaineers a very nice pair of receivers on National Signing Day.
#133 Ricky Heimuli, DL (Salt Lake City, UT/Brighton) – Justin’s pick: Utah
– While USC made quite a push to land the highly regarded defensive tackle, Heimuli figures to stay in his hometown and help contribute to the Utes.
#136 J.R. Ferguson, DL (Fredrick, MD/Hargrave Military Academy) – Justin’s pick: Miami
– Ferguson has connections to both Florida State and Miami. While he has a good friendship with Florida State commitment Darious Cummings, the guess here is Miami. Ferguson’s father played high school ball with Randy Shannon, and now the son has a chance to play for Shannon in Coral Gables.