VETTEL: 2005 Freshmen Falling Behind

Transitional recruiting classes are traditionally a mixed bag. Steve Spurrier’s first class in 1990 is one example as is Ron Zook’s class of 2002. While it’s too early to make any bold pronouncements about Urban Meyer’s first group of freshmen, it seems clear the rookies of 2005 are having a tough time keeping up with this year’s newcomers.

Florida signed just 17 high school seniors in February of 2005, deciding to leave vacancies for the following year rather than “reach” for some borderline candidates. That philosophy makes a lot of sense, but it left UF with a class that was short on numbers. The class of ’05 also appears to be a bit short of “star” caliber players although there are several very promising players in the group.

The class of ’05 has already lost four of its 17 freshmen. Brian Ellis, a tight end/defensive end from Daytona Beach Mainland did not qualify for UF and is at a California Junior College. Kalvin Baker, a linebacker form Columbus, Georgia got involved in some off the field programs and struggled on the field and moved on quickly. Josh Portis came all the way from California to run Urban Meyer’s offense, but got frustrated with a lack of playing time as a true freshman and is now at Maryland. And Avery Atkins, perhaps the best of the bunch showed incredible promise in year one, but succumbed to off the field issues as well. He’s likely going to be a small college All-American at Bethune Cookman.

Let’s look at the 13 remaining members of the class of ’05, position by position.

Running Back —– Kestahn Moore proved to be well worth the recruiting effort with some solid play as a freshman, He rushed for 277 yards, Averaging almost six yards a carry. He was superb in the Iowa game (13-88) and is my pick to lead the Gators in rushing this season.

Wide Receiver —– Nyan Boateng, David Nelson and Louis Murphy are three guys who have flashed potential in their limited time in Gainesville. However they all seem to be behind true freshmen Percy Harvin and Jarred Fayson. The receivers of ’05 offer size, but not great speed. Still, they should contribute this year and in the future.

Offensive Line —– Ronnie Wilson looks like he’s going to be a great one. He’s a powerful blocker with an engaging personality and Florida can’t wait to get him back from his ankle injury. Simon Codrington is battling for playing time at a guard spot, but seemed to be losing ground to Maurice Hurt before Hurt got hurt. Eddie Haupt impressed me early but has had injuries along the way. This fall he has struggled with the shotgun snap, so center might not be his position in the future. If he can get the hang of the snap, however he’d be the early favorite to replace Steve Rissler in 2007.

TE, QB, DT —– None

Defensive End —– Darryl Gresham Jr. was signed here, but moved to end fairly soon after arriving at UF. He reminds of me of guys like Willie Rodgers and Willie Cohens. Has a chance to be a contributor.

Linebacker —– Right now you would have to say Jon Demps, Ryan Stamper and Eric Sledge are all behind ’06 freshmen Brandon Spikes, Dustin Doe and A.J. Jones. Demps has suffered another major injury and will miss the entire season. Stamper has been decent but doesn’t seem to have the instincts of Doe. Sledge might be a classic tweener in that he doesn’t have the speed for safety or the size for linebacker.

Defensive Back —– Dorian Munroe is one of Florida’s top three safeties and a guy I think can be a major factor. Like Reggie Nelson, Munroe seems to have a knack for being around the ball and looks like he would be very effective in the nickel spot.

Kicker —– Jonathan Phillips could not win the kicking competition last fall and is probably third behind Chris Hetland and Eric Nappy for field goals and extra points. But both of those guys are seniors, so he’ll get another shot to win the job in ’07. He has been solid on kickoffs.

There is no reason to be down on the class of ’05. After all they are just redshirt freshmen and sophomores at this stage. And despite their limited number, the class will produce some solid players and maybe a star or two. But it is clear to me that the class of ’06 will have more guys play right away and produce more all-SEC caliber players. To go one step further, I look for this year’s incoming freshmen to out perform last year’s group this fall. And that’s something that doesn’t happen very often.