Here’s part two of our Grading the Gators series where we are looking back at Florida’s signing class and breaking down how the Gators did bringing in talent to fill needs they have on both sides of the ball.
In part one we took a look at quarterback, running back, wide receivers and athlete. Today we will break down Florida’s haul at cornerback and tight end. The Gators lost a lot at both positions and bringing in a good crop of cornerbacks and tight ends was critical this class.
Tight End (3):
(EE) DeAndre Goolsby (6-4, 230, Derby, KS, Derby)
The Gators coaching staff has said to anyone who will listen that they will move to a new offensive scheme in 2014. Having two converted defensive ends at tight end doesn’t really spell spread, up-tempo offense, so finding players who fit that bill was important this recruiting cycle.
Goolsby is just that kind of player. He’s much more advanced as a pass-catcher and receiver than he is at blocking but Goolsby compliments what the Gators have at tight end already and enrolled early this past January. Goolsby will be aided by enrolling early because he has a long way to go as far as being able to block at this level but getting into Florida’s strength and conditioning program will help him bulk up.
Goolsby won’t be a great blocker this year and it will be interesting to see how or if that affects his playing time. In the past Muschamp hasn’t played tight ends who couldn’t block but the Gators need playmakers and Goolsby can be that for them.
Spivey’s Take: Goolsby is a guy that could play early next year if he adds a few pounds. Goolsby is a good pass catcher and is a solid blocker but still a little work to do in that department.
Richard’s Take: Not a downfield threat but a pass-catching tight end that can move the chains. Will need to add upper body strength and improve blocking to be a total package at tight end.
Muschamp’s Take: “DeAndre Goolsby is a guy we targeted early on. Derrick Lewis went out and evaluated him in the last spring evaluation, really liked his movement skills, his growth potential, his toughness, his point of attack and those things, and excited to have him on campus and a guy that can do some different things for you.”
C’yontai Lewis (6-5, 220, Tuscaloosa, AL, Northridge)
Lewis is a wide receiver in the body of a tight end. He’s a supremely athletic player with great hands. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage and can fight off press. He has long strides and high points the ball well. Lewis has done a good job of adding weight (Florida listed him at 220) but you would like to see a tight end of his size play around 240-250 and still maintain their ability as a pass-catcher.
I think there is an outside chance that Lewis can play as a freshman but he would be better suited to redshirt, grow and learn the system before he gets thrown out there.
Spivey’s Take: Athlete is the best way to describe Lewis who is more of a flex tight end than traditional tight end. Lewis has a good hands and decent speed for 6-5 player. The one thing Lewis brings to the table that nobody can question is toughness.
Richard’s Take: A huge target with mammoth stride length. Looks like a 100-meter dash runner as he gallops down the field. Basketball player leaping ability will need to work on crisp route running.
Muschamp’s Take: “We challenged him to come to camp. He came to camp and had an outstanding camp, and a guy that showed all the athleticism and ball skills to be really, really good. And then the growth potential on that, now, when he committed to us, I want to say he was probably 205 pounds and now he’s about 225, 228 pounds, and he’s going to continue to grow because he’s a young 17. So I think that that’s exciting.”
Moral Stephens (6-3, 230, Perry, FL, Taylor County)
This is a bit of a head scratcher to me. Stephens was a receiver in high school and is not refined as a blocker, much like the other two tight ends in the class. Florida didn’t really need to sign three tight ends this cycle but they did. Of the three players signed, I think Stephens has the longest way to go.
He’s not a player that will get on the field as a freshman but maybe, down the line, can develop into a player that the Gators can use at tight end in the future.
Spivey’s Take: Stephens is much like Lewis in that he’s more of a flex tight end than traditional tight end. Stephens has good height to go up and get balls.
Richard’s Take: Much like Lewis, more of an athletic vertical threat than a blocker. He’s a wide receiver by trade, so he has those skills.
Muschamp’s Take: “He did an outstanding job in camp. We really liked him, and then when we had some attrition, it opened up a spot for him, and we’re really happy to have him. He’s a guy that vertically down the field can really make plays on the ball.”
Quality Grade: B+
Goolsby and Lewis will be able to make impacts pretty early on in their careers. Goolsby may even get a crack at it this season but overall this is a pretty good haul for the Gators. There is a lot of athleticism in this class, something Florida didn’t have much of at the position a year ago.
Quantity Grade: A
The Gators didn’t really need to sign three tight ends and the signing makes me wonder about Colin Thompson’s long-term future as far as his health. If Thompson can’t keep playing because of issues with his foot, then signing three tight ends makes sense. If not, it’s not a bad move to sign three because both Tevin Westbrook and Clay Burton will graduate following next season and you’ll still have four and can create separation between the three of them with redshirts.
(EE) Jalen Tabor (6-1, 188, Washington, D.C, Friendship Collegiate Academy)
Tabor is a stud.
With the Gators losing Jaylen Watkins, Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson this year, the door is wide open for Tabor to find a starting job opposite Vernon Hargreaves III.
He enrolled early at Florida in January and I think that, coupled with his ability, size and skill set leads him to becoming the first cornerback to start on opening day as a freshman since Roberson did.
Tabor is the body size of the new cornerback; he’s over 6-feet tall and long. He’s physical and plays with a mean streak on the field and reminds me a lot of a younger Richard Sherman. He even had Will Muschamp call watching him exciting, high praise for the ball coach that is hard on his players in the secondary.
Spivey’s Take: If there is one player who’s ready to play next year for Florida it’s Tabor. Tabor is a long athletic corner who has the mindset of a top cornerback. One word to describe him SWAG.
Richard’s Take: A prototypical long-armed cornerback, a staple in Muschamp’s system. While he might not necessarily play immediately, he’s got the talent to challenge Brian Poole for a starting spot opposite Vernon Hargreaves II.
Muschamp’s Take: Jalen Tabor, the 6’1″, 190‑pound corner, that’s what they’re supposed to look like. He’s got really good movement skills, and a guy that, watching him move around, has been exciting.
(EE) Duke Dawson (5-10, 190, Cross City, FL, Dixie County)
The second of two early enrollee’s at cornerback, Dawson was the second player to commit to the Gators in the signing class. He enrolled early and is on campus, taking classes and working out with the team.
Dawson is a very physical cornerback. He plays press very well and does a good job of affecting receivers at the line of scrimmage. He has good hips and can run with receivers. He’s a player that Muschamp wants to use all over the secondary. I think his first chance to play will come at nickel but he could also play the boundary as well.
Spivey’s Take: Dawson is underrated in my opinion but a player that is very physical at the line of scrimmage and should be a nice fit at the nickel back position in the Florida defense.
Richard’s Take: Physical defensive back that’s been committed to UF seemingly since day one. Not talented enough to make an impact on day one, but that won’t be needed.
Muschamp’s Take: “Duke Dawson, again, another guy, 5’11, 190‑pound, bigger DB that can go line up inside, can line up at corner, can line up at nickel, can do a lot of different things for us and as far as covering down.”
J.C. Jackson (5-11, 185, Immokalee, FL, Immokalee)
Another physical corner, Jackson is probably the best athlete that the Gators signed in the secondary. He’s a cornerback — his best position and where he wants to play — but he could see time in all three phases of the game. Jackson is electric as a returner and was a homerun threat at receiver in high school.
On defense, Jackson looks a lot like Loucheiz Purifoy but he’s already a better cover corner than Purifoy was. Jackson will make an impact for the Gators as a freshman on special teams and he will give great depth and play some on defense as well.
Spivey’s Take: Jackson is a great athlete that has above average speed that allows him to play man-to-man coverage well and he’s also a talented receiver and return specialist. Simply putting it Jackson will be on the field somewhere for Florida.
Richard’s Take: He’s a cornerback by listed position; he’s physical –sometimes too physical for his own good. I like JC on offense personally (he played receiver in high school). I think in the slot he’s a game breaker although he’s raw as a route runner. Too physical for a typical cornerback, too fast for a linebacker. Florida needs game breakers that they can put in space and Jackson is that.
Muschamp’s Take: “I think that he saw his best opportunity to come in and play corner at Florida. You know, seeing Marcus and Loucheiz and Jaylen, our three top corners leaving and moving on that were upper classmen, seeing his opportunity here to play here at Florida, it was something he was excited about.”
Quincy Wilson (6-1, 200, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, University School)
Wilson was long presumed a Gator but Florida fans don’t really know how close it was between Florida and Ohio State. Once he pledged his commitment to the Gators, Wilson began recruiting anyone and everyone to come join him at Florida.
Wilson is a bigger bodied corner, already over six feet tall and 200 pounds. That size and the physicality that he plays with have made many people question whether a move to safety could be in his future. For now, Wilson wants to play corner and show that he is capable of playing the position at the highest level.
Wilson is athletic and can make the kind of plays that smaller, quicker cornerbacks can make but his size allows him to get his hands on receivers and play physical with taller players, something that is harder to do for smaller defensive backs.
Spivey’s Take: Wilson bleeds orange and blue and will give 100% on the field but the question is where does he end up playing on defense at the next level. I think he starts at cornerback next season.
Richard’s Take: A cornerback trapped in a safeties body, but a player that has a nose for the ball and can make athletic plays. If he stays on the outside he’s a dominating physical specimen, if he moves back to safety I wouldn’t want to go over the middle deep on him.
Muschamp’s Take: “So there’s no question that the camaraderie they build helps us or other schools if they’re going with the other schools. But certainly he did a fantastic job of holding some guys together.”
Quality Grade: A
Adding Adoree’ Jackson to this list would have made it a bottom of the ninth grand slam but Muschamp and the coaching staff still knocked this one out of the park. All four players in the class have the potential to be very good players at Florida and all four could see playing time as freshmen.
The theme for the coaching staff here was physicality and all four of those corner fit the bill.
Quantity Grade: A
Losing Watkins, Purifoy, Roberson and now Cody Riggs means the Gators had a huge need and finding four players to come in (five when you include athlete, Deiondre Porter) fills a big void.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment of our grading the Gators feature. We will be examining both lines of scrimmage, the meat and potatoes of Florida’s signing class.