The Florida Gators got a surprise commitment at the Orange and Blue Debut last week, when Chris Wilkes announced that he would be a walk-on member of the University of Florida football team next season.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Wilkes originally signed with the Ole Miss Rebels in 2008. The Dr. Phillips (Orlando, FL) High School product spurred college football, instead deciding to go try his luck in Major League Baseball after being drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 22nd round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft.
The right-handed pitcher had mixed success in the minor leagues, starting his career 7-1, but then going 9-12, finishing his career 16-13 with a 3.57 ERA between the rookie, A-, A+, A and AA league ranks.
Frustrated and ready to move on, Wilkes asked for his release from the Padres organization to focus on football and subsequently, decided on Florida.
Although Chris Wilkes’ video is five years old and his skills have likely diminished a bit due to being out of the game, there are still some key skills you are looking for in a quarterback. With the uncertainty Florid is faced with at the backup quarterback position, ‘never say never’ about Wilkes gaining an opportunity to play.
Upon initially watching his video, you notice that Wilkes doesn’t move great on his feet, even when he took off on a designed run. He isn’t very fast and his drop-back isn’t very quick, in fact, it is quite slow. Wilkes will need to improve drastically in his footwork to be able to able to drop-back in the SEC. That being said, footwork is something that can be easily improved.
Wilkes has good arm strength and seemingly, good accuracy. While he does push the ball on long passes, he is able to throw the ball 50-60 yards in the air. I imagine with five seasons of baseball conditioning and strength training that range has likely stayed consistent or improved. The ball does wobble a bit in the air and isn’t a very tight spiral coming out of his hand. As everyone knows, in the SEC a shaky throw is likely to find itself in the hands of a cornerback or safety. Wilkes also struggles a bit when he is being rushed and makes some erratic throws when he gets flustered.
Wilkes does have great size and a good frame to work from. He will be able to see over the offensive line easily and will be a tough task for anyone to take down.
Wilkes does have a few good skills and could be an effective player, however, it will be at least two years before he could ever step in, even into a back-up role. His best qualities are that he does have strong arm strength and rather good accuracy, Wilkes does have a role on the Gators…it may just take a few years to figure out what that role is.
*Note: Chris Wilkes must be a walk-on player because his former professional status in the MLB.