On Tuesday the Florida Gators football team welcomed in the 2015 recruiting class, or as the professors and students on campus call them, “UF19.”
Fathers carried WalMart bags into dorm rooms, mothers helped unpack and a bunch of wide-eyed freshman took it all in as they moved away from home to Gainesville to begin college.
Among those freshmen — who seemingly look younger and younger each year — are a few that stick out in a crowd. You see, a Division I football players don’t typically look like your every day freshman in college.
Tuesday morning Florida Gator Head Coach Jim McElwain welcomed in the 20 football recruits that signed last February as well as several transfer students. With a roster filled with holes, several of those freshmen will be asked and counted on to make an impact early.
Luckily for Coach McElwain and the Gators, this freshman class should be ready to make an impact and there are several players that appear ready to step in and contribute from day one.
1. Jordan Scarlett – Running back
When you talk about someone who doesn’t look like a freshman, Scarlett fits that bill to a tee. At 5-11, 210 pounds, Scarlett looks every bit of an upperclassmen SEC running back and he’s only 18 years old.
Scarlett has above-average speed, especially considering his size, can make tacklers miss and doesn’t shy away from contact. Scarlett is also a good blocker, something Florida hasn’t had at running back in some time. Scarlett was used as a lead blocker in goal line situations in high school.
He will team up behind Kelvin Taylor, but as any SEC fan knows, you need more than one running back to make it through the season. Scarlett should quickly jump up to the second spot on the depth chart and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sharing carries equally with Taylor sooner rather than later.
2. Martez Ivey – Offensive Tackle
Getting Ivey to sign on the dotted line seemed like a formality for most of his high school career but when that fax came in you can be sure the coaching staff released a collective sigh of relief.
Ivey has a very projectable frame. At 6-5 and 280-pounds, he’s long and lean but has a frame that should be able to add muscle in Florida’s strength and conditioning program.
Most expected Ivey to garner playing time in some form or fashion as a freshman, but that timetable and the need for Ivey to play was exacerbated by Rod Johnson’s career-ending injury. Ivey will play and he may even need to start at some point. Its’ going to be on the job training for the freshman with loads of promise.
3. CeCe Jefferson – Defensive End
The Gators did miss out on Byron Cowart — who was the most complete defensive end in the class — but don’t think of CeCe Jefferson as a mere consolation prize.
Jefferson brings the same laid-back, goofy attitude that made Gator fans fall in love with Jacksonville Jaguar Dante Fowler Jr. and Jefferson could turn into the same type of nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.
Jefferson is big, but similar to Fowler has some work to do in the weight room. With the guidance of the nutritionist and the athletic facilities at Florida, Jefferson will be able to trim the “baby fat” you always hear strength and conditioning coaches talk about and turn his 6-2, 245-pound frame into a scary 250-2665 pounds in a hurry.
Jefferson will likely take a similar career path that Fowler took as well. Expect Jefferson to be heavily involved in the third down pass rush packages until his role is expanded as he gains experience throughout the season.
4. Antonio Callaway – Receiver
A somewhat smaller receiver at around 5-11, Callaway makes up for his size with great hands and body control. He has the speed that you need to have as an undersized receiver but Callaway’s hands and the way he is able to control his body to adjust to passes sets him apart. Callaway has a great burst and explodes in and out of his cuts as a route runner.
After the catch Callaway uses that speed and quickness and is a threat to make a 10-yard catch a 50-yard score whenever the ball is in his hands.
With the present state of receivers at Florida, everyone has a chance to earn playing time and a starting job. Only Demarcus Robinson’s spot is all but guaranteed and that leaves a big opportunity for Callaway to make an impact early.
5. Mason Halter – Offensive Line
Halter is a graduate transfer from Fordham University who has one year of eligibility left and is eligible to play immediately. Halter isn’t a freshman, but he is a new face and he comes in at the position with the most pressing need for contributors early.
A two-time All-American at Fordham, Halter played mainly tackle but if Ivey comes on quickly, is a player that could slide inside. The trick to a transfer is how they can adjust to the size and speed of defensive linemen in the SEC. Tyler Moore was Freshman All-Big Ten at Nebraska but less than serviceable for the Gators when they faced off against SEC opponents.
If Halter can adjust to the major jump in talent, he will be a welcomed addition to a Florida offensive line that is as green as they grass that they’ll play on.