Big Names Expected for Florida Gator Junior Day

Martez Ivey is the top offensive line recruit for the Gators in 2015. photo credit to maxpreps.com

Martez Ivey is the top offensive line recruit for the Gators in 2015. photo credit to maxpreps.com

While the Florida Gators host only one official visitor on the final recruiting weekend for the 2014 class, a large, stellar 2015 group is expected in for UF’s junior day. While by no means is this an exhaustive list of all the expected visitor, the following names are a snapshot of some of the top guys coming in.

The group is led by receiver George Campbell, 6’4 185, from Tarpon Springs, Florida East Lake who is ranked 2nd overall in the nation by ESPN. Campbell is a tall receiver with speed. He reportedly runs a sub 4.4 40 yard dash which is fast period but especially for someone that is 6’4. Campbell had made a very early commitment to Michigan but has since backed off of that and the Gators have positioned themselves very well with his recruitment and could be the team to beat. Undoubtedly, he’s the top receiver and top offensive prospect on the Gators board. He’s considered an athlete on many recruiting services because he could very well play multiple positions in college particularly on special teams but for certain the Gators are recruiting him as a wide receiver. He would be a perfect fit to provide the vertical threat the Gators have been lacking for some time now.

Martez Ivey, 6’6 271, is another five star prospect expected to make it in this weekend. The ESPN Top 100 (#7 overall) offensive tackle from Apopka, Florida high is the top offensive line prospect on the Gators board and quite possibly top line prospect in the nation going into his senior year. He was the anchor for the Florida Class 8A runnerup team which won the state title last season. While Ivey has offers from everyone including Alabama, the Gators have built a strong relationship and may be the team to beat here as well.

Right behind Ivey in the ESPN Top 100 is linebacker Jeff Holland from Jacksonville Trinity Christian who is also expected to make the trip down this weekend. Holland, 6’2 224, is the top linebacker on the Gators’ board for 2015 and one of the best in the country in next year’s cycle. He’s a highly versatile player who played running back, receiver, wildcat qb, defensive end, and special teams in addition to linebacker at Trinity Christian. The Gators want him specifically as a linebacker, however. They missed on their top targets at linebacker this year and will be looking to load up again with 4-5 in next year’s class. Holland is the cream of the crop and, like Ivey and Campbell, the Gators have set themselves up real well here.

Quarterback Torrance Gibson, from American Heritage high in Plantation, Florida is the top qb recruit on the Gators board for 2015 and is the 11th ranked player in the nation overall by ESPN. Gibson, the top dual threat quarterback for 2015, threw for 1,865 yards with 19 touchdowns and 3 interceptions while rushing for 1,032 yards and 10 td’s. With the Gators moving to a spread offense for the upcoming season under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, the staff feels Gibson is a perfect fit and he is the main guy they will pursue. If George Campbell is their #1 offensive target, Gibson is #1A.

Tarvarus McFadden is the Gators' top corner recruit for 2015. Photo credit to twitter.com

Tarvarus McFadden is the Gators’ top corner recruit for 2015. Photo credit to twitter.com

Probably, there is no other spot on the field that the Gators have recruited better than at defensive back under Will Muschamp, a former defensive back himself, particularly at corner where they have gotten a five star in each of the last two cycles and have three potential first rounders in this year’s NFL draft. They look to continue that streak for 2015 with top recruit and consensus five star Tarvarus McFadden who is also from American Heritage high along with Gibson. At 6’3 188, McFadden is extremely tall for a corner, with long arms, great speed, good hips, and great instincts. Muschamp likes taller corners and McFadden may be the tallest in some time. Despite his height, he appears to be naturally fluid as a cornerback, able to flip his hips in coverage and make plays on balls that most smaller corners cannot make. He’s another that the Gators have really set themselves up well with and expect them to be a finalist for his services as well.

Jacques Patrick is a big running back from Timber Creek high in Orlando. The 6’1 220 pound prospect rushed for over 1,200 yards as a freshman. He then rushed for over 2,000 yards apiece as both a sophomore and a junior. He’s one of the top running backs in Florida for the 2015 class which is loaded with top backs and he’s also one of the Gators biggest targets at the position. However, Florida State and Alabama should provide formidable competition for his services.

Linebacker Tevon Coney will be on commitment watch this weekend in Gainesville.  Photo credit to scout.com

Linebacker Tevon Coney will be on commitment watch this weekend in Gainesville. Photo credit to scout.com

One guy that very well could commit this weekend when he visits is outside linebacker Tevon Coney from Palm Beach Gardens high school. Coney, 6’2 215, grew up a huge Gator fan and was excited when he received an offer from them a little over a week ago. He was supposed to visit last weekend but his plans fell through and instead hit up Miami for their junior day. Coney, like Holland, is a speedy outside linebacker with great instincts and good pass rushing skills. The Gators will seek to load up on linebackers in the 2015 cycle and Coney should commit sooner rather than later.

Tampa, Florida Sickles high prospect Ray Ray McCloud is being recruited by Florida at two different positions. At 5’9 175, he’s a little smallish for running back which he wants to play in college but is being recruited as such by the Florida offensive staff. On offense he’s got great moves and speed and is a legitimate threat to score every time he touches the ball. He’s also getting a look by the Florida defensive staff as a defensive back. Either way he’s a speedy playmaker who the Gators would love to pick up and they will have the opportunity to see him up close this weekend.

Finally, Apopka’s Chandler Cox is a versatile athlete that has a Florida offer and will be in Gainesville this weekend as well. Cox was a backup quarterback who was pressed into duty when the starter went down to season ending injury and led his team back to the state Class 8a title game. He can play multiple positions including fullback, tight end, special teams, and wildcat quarterback. He is also a big Gator fan and likely you will see a commitment from him sooner rather than later.

This weekend will be huge for Gator recruiting for 2015 with so many big name players coming in. The good news for Gator fans is a lot of these players have solid relationships with the Gator staff and will certainly be giving the Gators a good look. It’s quite possible as well that the Gators get a commitment or two coming out of this weekend. Either way these are some of the top names to follow for 2015 moving forward and the Gators’ staff has really set themselves up for another top ten recruiting class next year.

As always, stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest FREE updates, news, info, and analysis on Gator recruiting and athletics.

Florida Gators Start Slow, Finish Strong for 62-51 Road Victory

Patric Young was too much for Mississippi State in the post. photo credit to gamedayr

Patric Young was too much for Mississippi State in the post. photo credit to gamedayr

Once again the Florida Gators started slow on the road but used a strong second half to down the Mississippi State Bulldogs 62-51. It was the #3 Gators 12th consecutive victory and continues their unbeaten start (7-0) in conference play.

As has been their m.o. playing on the road, the Gators started slow in the first half, allowing the Bulldogs to hang around. The SEC’s 2nd leading three point shooter Michael Frazier started slow as well going o-6 from beyond the arc. But largely on the strength of a 7-0 run the Gators built a nine point lead 27-16 by the under 4 minute time out. Mississippi State then went on a 8-0 run to close the half and the Gators’ lead dwindled to one at 27-26.

It appeared to be a somewhat lackadaisical effort by the Gators in the first half as the Gators were beaten to loose balls and contested rebounds and repeatedly beaten by drives to the lane. The Bulldogs at times appeared to be a step quicker to the basket than the normally sound Gator defense and offensively the Gators simply missed easy baskets in the lane which is important to do on the road.

“I thought we got spread out a little bit in the first half I thought some,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “It really was a game in my opinion that I thought offensively both teams had plays around the basket to finish to make, and both teams did not do a great job around the basket. There was a lot of missed lay ups by both teams.”

They also missed some great open three point looks particularly during that Bulldog run to close the half.

“We got up by nine there towards, right under the 3:40, four minute time out,” Donovan continued. “And it was probably to be honest with you a little bit of a fraudulent nine point lead because they missed a lot of shots. And then all of the sudden we get a truck load of really good looks by Frazier and by Wilbekin closing out that half and we missed them all. We didn’t close the half great”

As usual, though, the Gators made some halftime adjustments which helped them take the lead for good in this one. Defensively, they did a much better job closing down the lane keeping them from easy lay ups and foul shots, something they didn’t do very well in the first half.

“We got too gapped and too spread out (in the first half),” Donovan said. “And then I thought in the second half we did a much, much better job of closing down alleys and gaps and we didn’t really let them get to the basket.”

They also did a better job of getting the ball inside to Patric Young who had a great game finishing with 12 points on 6-11 shooting. The game actually started on two quick Young baskets in the paint and it was obvious that the Bulldogs had little answer for his power and strength under the basket.

“We got him off to a really good start, I thought in the game,” Donovan said. “The first four points was scored by him. We ran a play and kind of rolled him to the basket and we got him deep post position and we found him he made a lay up inside. Scottie came off of a wing pick and roll and Ware was kind of back leveling. He got caught in a tough situation, Pat’s rolling and Scottie found him. Then he picked up his second foul in seven minutes.”

However, he quickly got two fouls and sat the rest of the first half finishing with only 7 minutes. It was obvious the plan in the second half was to reestablish that power inside game with Young.

“I thought in the second half we needed to get him involved,” Donovan continued. “We tried to go to him and just get him some post touches and then I think once he got that dunk and then he scored on another play it kind of helped us where we had a little bit more balance inside and out.”

The other big story for the Gators was the slow shooting start for Michael Frazier who went 0-6 from three before finally draining a basket. He hit three consecutive baskets in the second half finishing with 9 points on 3-9 shooting from outside the arc but they were all clutch sparking the Gators to a big second half lead and ultimately the victory.

“I thought in the second half he made a couple of big threes for us that really stretched our lead out,” Donovan said. “And there was certainly one big one I think maybe inside a couple of minutes to go we ran some action and we got it thrown back to him and he made a three by our bench that took the lead from nine to twelve and it kind of stayed there. But I was happy the way he responded shooting the basketball with a level of confidence maybe moreso than in the first half.”

Donovan, for his part,  never wavered on giving the Frazier the green light to shoot the three despite his struggles. After the game Donovan mentioned that sometimes Frazier lets misses get to him more than he should and needs to work through that.

“When he’s open I want him shooting,” Donovan said. “I really do. I thought he had four great looks, I thought he let the game come to him. And I thought again for him and this is something he’s got to get over, he has about as much guilt when he misses an open shot of any player I’ve ever coached. It internally affects him in a negative way. And he’s got to move past it.”

He continued shooting until his shot came to him and he responded big time in the second half as the Gators coasted to victory at the end. The Gators were led by forward Casey Prather who had 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the floor. The Bulldogs had no answer for his quickness and athleticism as he appeared to get to the basket at will on backdoor cuts and put backs.

It wasn’t one of the prettier games for the Gators either offensively or defensively but more importantly they won another tough SEC road game. With the victory, the Gators moved to 18-2 on the season and 7-0 in conference play. Next up for the Gators is a three game home stretch beginning on Saturday against Texas A&M. Tip off is scheduled for 4 pm eastern and will be broadcast by the SEC Network.

Countdown to Signing Day: Strange Things Happen on the Road to Signing Day for the Florida Gators

Isaiah McKenzie is quickly becoming the most intriguing recruit left on the Gators' board.

Isaiah McKenzie is quickly becoming the most intriguing recruit left on the Gators’ board.

Less than a week from national signing day and things seem to change daily for the final few recruits left on the Gators board. Less than a week ago it appeared the Gators were in a numbers crunch with more leans than spots available. Now it appears they may not even max out the 25 scholarships available. Strange things happen on the road to signing day. Let’s dive right in.

Isaiah McKenzie the speedy receiver from Ft. Lauderdale appears to be overtaking J.C. Jackson as the most intriguing recruit left on the Gators board. The Gators, though late in the game on his recruitment, appeared to have a good shot at landing him after his official visit two weekends ago. When he left Gainesville, it appeared he was likely down to Notre Dame and Florida. That was before tripping to Ole Miss this past weekend.

Originally the thought was Ole Miss would be a distant third and the trip was a mere formality. But after leaving his visit he made statements to the effect that he loved the visit and Ole Miss had moved into the lead in his recruitment with one visit left to Notre Dame, to whom he had been considered a soft commit for months. Earlier in the week he appeared to be losing interest in the Fighting Irish as well.

Now it looks as though Virginia Tech is his “dream” school and he basically said he would go there if offered. Apparently, the offer came on Wednesday and that has thrown his recruitment wide open. He was scheduled to visit Notre Dame this weekend but it will be interesting to see if he takes that visit or possibly heads to Virginia Tech. Regardless, it appears the Gators are fading fast and it’s unlikely that they’ll be anything but a hat on the table for McKenzie. This one appears to be down to Ole Miss and Virginia Tech both of whom were not even considered in the ball park a week ago. Strange things happen on the road to signing day.

Are things looking up for the Gators and Lorenzo Carter? Photo credit to  AJC. com

Are things looking up for the Gators and Lorenzo Carter? Photo credit to AJC. com

Lorenzo Carter the consensus five star defensive end from Norcross, Georgia has been pursued by every major school out there. After visiting Florida last summer he listed the Gators as his leader. Over the course of the season, however, he made multiple trips to Georgia while failing to return to Florida for the FSU game as originally scheduled. This led to speculation that the Gators had fallen and Georgia had taken the lead. After the Under Armour All American game, however, he and his family made an impromptu stop in Gainesville to visit unofficially and came away with high praise for UF from both him and his family.

Since that point he made an official to LSU, long thought to be a long shot in his recruitment, and he came away impressed from that visit as well. When Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham surprisingly left to take the same spot with Louisville many thought that might tilt things in the Gators’ favor as most figured his recruitment to be down to UF and Georgia. But after Georgia head coach Mark Richt announced that FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt would take over for Grantham that appeared to appease Carter who had developed a relationship with him while at Florida State.

Florida State and Alabama, the other finalists, were lurking in the shadows for the longest time and were considered only wild cards in his recruitment. When his parents mentioned the hardship they faced when another sibling went to school out of state many felt that would mean he would likely end up at Georgia which is only an hour away from his home. The fact that they mentioned a strong and longstanding relationship with the Georgia staff further entrenched that feeling the home state Bulldogs would get his signature. However, his parents also mentioned how much they loved Florida and the staff there. Obviously, he and his family had the longest and strongest relationships with those two schools, once again making those two schools the leader.

What all this means is his recruitment is wide open despite the opinions of many recruiting analysts who felt it was Georgia for the longest time. The latest developments in the Carter saga is the weather which apparently prevented FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher from making his scheduled in-home visit with the family on Wednesday. According to Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, who has been instrumental in providing up to date coverage of Carter’s recruitment, Florida head coach Will Muschamp was expected to make his in-home on Thursday afternoon and luckily would likely not be prevented by the weather.

Carter, for his part, is scheduled to take his official visit to Georgia this weekend which is expected to start immediately following his basketball game Friday evening and run through the end of the contact period on Sunday evening. All this bodes ill for Florida State, good for the Gators, even better for the Bulldogs who get the last visit and likely last word. Reportedly, he will make his decision by Monday and inform the coaching staffs at that point but will not announce until signing day.

Most analysts are still predicting Georgia while a large many, oddly to me, think Alabama is his destination. Not quite sure where that’s coming from simply because I’ve heard little mention of them throughout this process. Of course, you can never count out Nick Saban and company, but I just don’t see it. I still think he ultimately ends up at Georgia with distance being the deciding factor. Personally, I think he really loves Florida and if it is simply his decision maybe he chooses the Gators but with the close knit nature of his family, a longstanding relationship with the Georgia staff, and them getting the final visit and final word, I think they are too much to overcome for Florida. For what it’s worth, Carvell apparently is picking Florida as the destination which is huge because he’s close to the family and probably has a better natural feel for the situation than anyone else. He thinks the lack of a position coach ultimately hurts the Dogs in the end.

Receiver C.J. Worton, from Miami South Dade high school, who backed off of his long time committment to FSU on Tuesday still appears to be wide open. The standout receiver who led his team to the Class 8A state championship was thought to be ready to commit to the Gators, considering he decommitted coming off an official visit there, but has yet to do so. West Virginia and Central Florida appear to be squarely in the thick of the race for his commitment. West Virginia consistently has one of the top offenses in the nation and has a long established spread offense which could be a strong lure over heading to Gainesville where they are switching to a spread this season but have no prior track record to showcase. UCF has the lure of playing with his older brother J.J. who is a star receiver for the Knights. The hometown Miami Hurricanes were thought to be receiving an official visit this weekend, the last before signing day, but that it appears that visit may not happen.

I still feel like Worton ultimately signs with the Gators. The idea of playing in the SEC and a premiere school like Florida is likely too much to pass over. However, don’t sleep on WVU or UCF here. The longer this one goes, the worse for the Gators but for now I’m sticking with the Gators as his destination.

Damien Prince is visiting Florida this weekend. Will he be in the Gators' class? Photo credit to the washingtonpost.com

Damien Prince is visiting Florida this weekend. Will he be in the Gators’ class? Photo credit to the washingtonpost.com

Damien Prince, the five star offensive lineman from Maryland, had is in-home on Wednesday with Coach Muschamp and is scheduled to take his official to Florida this weekend. The good news for Gator fans is that he will be the only official visitor unless they sneak another in at the last minute. This will allow them to focus attention on him and give him the full court press. This one is certainly down to two teams Florida and the home state Maryland Terrapins. As previously reported, good friend Jalen Tabor, who is already enrolled at Florida, is recruiting him hard and the staff has made it abundantly clear he is their top choice at tackle. While I think Maryland led for much of his recruitment simply due to proximity to home, I believe this one has turned in the Gators favor. As long as things go well this weekend, I believe he chooses the Gators on signing day.

Two other recruits the Gators’ have given a look to in case they miss out on Prince are Tucson, Arizona’s Andrew Mike and Havana, Florida’s Derrick Kelly. At this point, I don’t see either coming to Florida with Mike signing with Arkansas and Kelly heading to Baton Rouge to play for the LSU Tigers. Neither are off the board at this point but I think the staff has a good feeling about Prince and they’ll take him and be done. However, were things to go south this weekend, I think the staff would likely go after Kelly rather than Mike. That’s the only scenario in which I see the Gators taking him.

J.C. Jackson, the talented cornerback who flipped from the Seminoles to the Gators over the summer, has been rumored to not end up in the Gators class almost from the moment he pledged. Most figured he would end up flipping back to the Seminoles. After visiting Florida two weekends ago his father said he had shut his recruitment down and would not be taking anymore visits. As soon as that was announced, however, it appeared Miami worked their way into the picture. The Seminoles have been trying to talk him into visiting and head coach Jimbo Fisher made an in-home visit this week hoping to convince him to visit. Will Muschamp also visited this week attempting to squash a visit to Tallahassee. It appears that Muschamp won out here as his father publicly stated J.C. wouldn’t be making any visits this weekend. That would appear to eliminate the Noles. However, since his visit to Florida, J.C. has visited Miami multiple times including this past weekend for a basketball game. While I think Florida still leads here, there is a strong possibility that Jackson ultimately flips to Miami on signing day. If so, it would be a fitting end to a very strange recruitment.

Strange things happen on the road to signing day indeed.

Stay tuned to Swamp Music for the lastest FREE information related to Gator recruiting and athletics.

Florida Gators’ Chris Walker Freed, Caution is Urged

McDonald's All American Chris Walker is finally cleared to play at Florida by the NCAA. photo credit to gamedayr

McDonald’s All American Chris Walker is finally cleared to play at Florida by the NCAA. photo credit to gamedayr

Free at last… freshman sensation and former McDonald’s All American Chris Walker has finally been cleared to play by the NCAA. After sitting out the fall semester while he finished up necessary coursework to graduate high school he was cleared to enroll at Florida for the spring semester. The NCAA, however, did not clear him to play while they investigated unmentioned allegations. For Florida students, fans, and alumni, the pace of the investigation took seemingly forever. T-shirts were worn at basketball games saying “free Chris Walker” and the hashtag #FreeChrisWalker trended on Twitter for weeks.

A statement from the NCAA was released on Wednesday which announced Walker’s suspension as being 12 games total for accepting impermissible benefits from agents and other unmentioned people. He will be eligible to play on Tuesday against Missouri.

Now that Walker is cleared to play, the bigger question remains how much of an impact will he have on this Gator team which has won eleven straight games and has risen as high as #3 in the AP poll? After all, up until this month when he was cleared to practice, Walker hadn’t played competitive basketball since leading his Bonifay Holmes County high school team to a state championship last season in which he scored 30 points and had 15 rebounds in the championship game.

Donovan, himself, had cautioned fans on Monday about expecting too much from Walker when he finally does see the court.

“My biggest fear for Chris is you have a highly exposed player and sometimes when a guy isn’t playing the ‘legend of Chris Walker’ grows greater than who he really is,” Donovan said. “You know, it was the same thing with Doe Doe last year. He’s sitting out and everyone is talking about this guy like he’s Magic Johnson. And Chris Walker now is, ‘Oh my, this guy is going to end up being Kevin Garnett,’ and he’s not that.”

As great of a talent as Walker is, there is a huge leap from playing high school ball at a small panhandle school to playing competitively in the SEC. Very few freshman are able to come in and be effective right off the bat. And they have the benefit of fall camp and preseason games as well as a preconference schedule. Walker has had none of that.  While he has practiced keep in mind that practice during the heart of the conference schedule is much different than in fall camp. During fall camp there is a lot more instruction than what can be given during the season. Much of practice now focuses on match-ups and correcting mistakes on the fly.

Donovan did stress that the staff has been giving him personalized instruction in an attempt to get him up to speed.

“We’re spending a lot of extra time with him,” said Donovan. “He was here this morning and he’ll be here this afternoon and we’re doing as much as we can.”

For his part, Walker appears to be picking things up and getting better prepared for his debut.

“He’s more prepared than he was a couple weeks ago,” according to Donovan. “I think the biggest adjustment he’s made is just having a better feel and understanding of what we’re doing offensively and defensively. When you walk into a situation, and we have 60 different offensive sets and he doesn’t know one of them, I mean that’s a long way to have to come. So, there’s certain concepts and things he’s got to get under belt which he has done a better job of figuring out and he’s improving on.”

Of course for Walker, it’s more than just picking up on concepts and learning his role on the team, it’s also putting on necessary weight and muscle to be competitive in the post in a very physical league. Walker was very slight when he arrived at Florida at 6’10 and barely over 200 pounds and it’s obvious he will need to bulk up to be effective.  As strong and physically imposing as Patric Young is he learned quickly that the SEC is full of big, strong guys in the post who are very skilled. The type of guys Walker can expect to face in the SEC are light years from anything he faced at Bonifay. The staff has been working with him on that as well.

“I think he’s getting stronger too just being on a consistent weight-training program,” Donovan mentioned. “It’s been good. I think the education part for him on nutrition and what he’s eating has been good. So, I think he came in here at like 203 pounds, and right now he’s at about 210 or 213. He’s moving in the right direction there. He’s made some growth and some strides.”

How effective will Chris Walker be once he finally takes the court for the Gators? photo credit to fansided

How effective will Chris Walker be once he finally takes the court for the Gators? photo credit to fansided

Make no mistake, however, Walker is a supreme talent. The McDonald’s All American, one of two the Gators signed last year along with point guard Kasey Hill, is a high flying acrobat who plays above the rim. He will automatically be the most athletic big man on the Gators roster. He’s also a great rebounder. He’s 6’10 but plays bigger with his long arms and he should provide an immediate presence on the boards for the Gators who surprisingly haven’t been as dominant in that regard as their roster dictates they should be.

Those long arms and athleticism should have an immediate impact on the pick and roll. Once he sets a high screen teams should be forced to make decisions. Smaller guards will need to fight through the screen. Any switching will likely lead to easy paints in the point for Walker. His size and length should force double teams to protect the basket opening up guys like Casey Prather for backdoor cuts and outside shooters like Michael Frazier or Dorian Finney-Smith. Fans will likely see more alley oops and points from offensive rebounding. In short, what Walker should bring immediately is exactly what the Gators need right now.

As a team the Gators are playing at a high level defensively, none better than what they showcased against Tennessee holding them to 26% shooting and 1-19 from three point range. What they have lacked this season is points. Don’t get me wrong they’re getting balanced offense such as what Billy Donovan preaches religiously.

“I’ve never been a big believer of having just one guy,” Donovan said. I’ve always been a big believer, you want four to six guys in double figures. I tell our guys all the time, ‘you don’t know who’s night it’s going to be in terms of having a big offensive night.’ I just think you want to be balanced.”

For the most part, the Gators have been balanced this season. But what they need is more scoring. Too often the Gators have had long periods of limited scoring which have given opponents opportunities to make runs. Thankfully the Gator defense has been strong and has limited the amount of runs opponents have been able to mount against them. However, once they get into the NCAA tournament or in games against tougher opponents than what they’ve faced thus far in the SEC schedule, those offensive lapses could become problematic. The Gators are hoping Walker’s presence will help them manufacture more points, easy points in the paint, points which could start runs for the Gators or prevent them from opponents. If so, the Gators could very well be dangerous come tournament time.

Just don’t be in a hurry to give them the trophy just yet, however. Walker will certainly need an adjustment period. There’s also the question of how effective he will be on the defensive end. Will he be a liability? Will he upset the timing, rhythm, and cohesiveness of the Gators’ defense? Time will tell, but one thing is clear, Donovan won’t redshirt him. Questions have repeatedly been raised about that prospect with it being so late in the season and the likelihood he may not be real effective once he begins play. Donovan squashed that on Monday.

“No, I wouldn’t (redshirt Walker),” Donovan said. “And we’re going to have a situation somewhat similar to that next year with Alex Murphy who is probably going to miss the first 10 games because he transferred mid-semester and he’ll have to sit out. That could potentially happen for him. You don’t typically do it. I don’t look at Chris (Walker) missing 19 games because he wasn’t even here. He’s missed, I think from Memphis on. That’s probably a better number of games. But as long as he’s in practice every day, that’s OK. As long as we can get him enough, so-to-speak, game repetition in terms of what we’re doing out there and he’s been there and he would give us some depth in our front court. But I’m not overly worried about it. I think he’s playing well and doing well so we’ll keep him out there.”

How effective he ultimately will be remains to be seen. Suffice it to say though that fans should temper their expectations.

“I think whenever he gets able to play if that’s (savior) their expectation of Chris Walker they’re going to be very, very disappointed because he’s not that. And my biggest fear for him is there is a level of anticipation and excitement of whenever he gets cleared to play, but I hope there is at least a level of understanding in terms of how much he’s missed in terms of coming in to where he’s coming in, and if anybody is expecting him to be savior it would really be unfair. He’s got a lot of growing to do. He’s got a lot of physical growing, mental growing, he’s got to understand the college game a lot more. There’s so much that’s in front of him to get better at and I just hope people will not look at it and say, ‘wow. I was expecting something different.’ Hopefully for him, I don’t want to have to see him go through that.”

Free at last. Chris Walker is free at last. Well, at least he will be on Tuesday. And Gator fans can finally get a glimpse of the circus act they’ve been salivating over for more than a year. Just in time for a stretch run in conference play and perhaps a long run in the NCAA tourney where they have made three consecutive Elite Eight appearances. Without him, they’ve won 11 in a row, a run to #3 in the country, and a push toward a number one seed in the NCAA. With him perhaps the sky’s the limit.

Countdown to Signing Day: Latest Word

FSU receiver commit C.J. Worton with receiver's coach Joker Phillips on his official visit to Florida.

FSU receiver commit C.J. Worton with receiver’s coach Joker Phillips on his official visit to Florida.

With only one week remaining until national signing day, the crunch is on for recruits who have yet to decide on a school and for staffs who seek to nail down the final few available slots. The Florida Gators have roughly four slots available at this time with a number of recruits left on their board. That number, of course, is highly fluid with questions remaining about a couple of guys currently committed to UF.

One recruit, offensive lineman Travaris Dorsey has questions about whether or not he will qualify academically. It’s a big enough issue that head coach Will Muschamp made a visit to his school last week to check on his academics. For what it’s worth, Dorsey claims that he is ok and will be able to qualify. Of course, don’t they always say that? Reportedly, the staff does plan to allow him to sign a letter of intent (LOI) on Wednesday.

The other recruit that is an even bigger question mark is corner back J.C. Jackson. He has been committed to Florida since last summer when he flipped his commitment from Florida State. Almost as quickly as he flipped to Florida it appeared that there were major questions about whether he would stay committed to the Gators. Partly due to his tight lipped nature which always leads to conspiracy theories by fans and partly due to his familial relationship with former Gator commit Ermon Lane (he’s a cousin), questions have been raised about whether or not Jackson would end up in the Gators’ class on signing day.

Despite the rumors, people around him have repeatedly indicated that he was solid to the Gators, mostly an uncle who has never established why or how he is a de facto spokesman for J.C. To say this recruitment has been odd would be an understatement. Regardless, on his official visit to Florida two weekends ago the staff put the full court press on Jackson and his father and appeared to nail this commitment down. Since that point, however, things have gotten even more foggy. For the longest time this recruitment appeared to be a two horse race between Florida and Florida State. However, since the OV to Florida it appears that Miami has inexplicably not only gotten into the race but has appeared to make up a lot of ground on the other two schools. Jackson has made numerous trips to Miami including this past weekend.

Now it appears that Miami has pulled even with Florida while Florida State has dropped considerably. Originally Jackson was scheduled to take an official visit to FSU this upcoming weekend, the last before signing day. After the Florida visit, it was reported that J.C. had shut his recruitment down and wouldn’t be taking the FSU trip. That led to speculation that Jackson was solid to Florida. Since then, however, it appears that his recruitment is far from shut down and is as wide open as it’s ever been. Reportedly, the Noles are out and it’s down to Florida and Miami. Very odd recruitment that continues to become more odd by the day. If it’s true, it may very well be that he doesn’t end up in Florida’s class as previously predicted by many but ends up as a Hurricane rather than a Seminole. This one is certainly trending away from Florida by the day.

While one trends away another trends towards the Gators. Receiver C.J. Worton, who took an official visit to Florida this past weekend and was scheduled to visit the Seminoles this weekend to whom he has been committed for a year, officially decommitted from the Noles via Twitter:

And with that the speculation began. This news can’t be anything but good for the Gators. Coming right on the heels of his official to Florida, with Florida ties and relationships with Florida players not to mention the opportunity for early playing time as the Gators seek playmakers for the soon to be installed spread offense, everything points to Worton signing with the Gators on NSD. To this point he has not officially committed to the Gators and there are other schools recruiting him but if his facebook cover shot is any indication he has possibly already silently committed to the Gators.

While some fans have decried his lack of “star” power as he is rated a three star player on most major recruiting services, anyone who has seen his highlights knows he has great potential. He’s projected as a slot receiver, a very important position in a spread offense as Gator fans saw with the last great slot receiver, Percy Harvin. While Worton certainly isn’t Percy, he doesn’t need to be. At 6’1 175 he’s a tall receiver who plays even taller. He’s very good at going up and grabbing balls over defenders, he has great hands catching everything in his vicinity, and he’s speedy enough to get separation from the linebackers and safeties he’ll be lined up against. In the Florida class 8A state title game against Apopka Worton had 6 catches for 159 yards and three touchdowns including the game winner. If he does indeed end up in the Gators’ class he very well could be the most underrated recruit they sign.

From underrated to top rated. The highest rated recruit left on the Gators board is two-way, two sport standout Adoree Jackson who narrowed his list of finalist schools from six to four today. As expected, the Gators made the final cut.

This set off a firestorm on social media sites as seems to be the case these days anytime a high profile recruit eliminates schools or decommits from schools over social media. Tennessee Volunteer fans inexplicably appeared to be the most upset for whatever reason they errantly had hope he might sign there. And despite his narrowing of the list from six to four, I still believe this is a two horse race between USC and Florida.

As has been reported previously, Jackson moved to Southern California to finish high school for the express purpose of attending college at USC. The staff turnover appeared to give Florida the needed boost take control of his recruitment. He’s long been considered a Gator lean largely due to his interest in playing both football and track in college, his relationship with Mike Holloway the head coach of the Gators 2nd ranked track team, and his relationship with Florida defensive backs coach and ace recruiter Travaris Robinson. Adoree is a legitimate Olympics candidate in track so the Mike Holloway angle cannot be ignored.

I still believe Florida has a great shot here particularly with the defensive back class the Gators are bringing in, their recent history of being top rated nationally on defense and sending db’s to the NFL, and the staff’s willingness to utilize him both defensively and offensively at Florida. However, it appears the new staff at USC has really done a nice job of stepping up to save his recruitment and there is a very, very good chance that he ultimately stays the course on his original plan. He is set to announce his final official visit on Thursday. That should be very telling on where he plans to sign. While many have had him leaning towards the Gators for months, I still feel like the Trojan’s have the edge right now.

Isaiah McKenzie who visited Florida two weekends ago and appeared to be enamored with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and how he might fit into the new spread offense, tripped to Ole Miss this past weekend. While this recruitment appeared to be a two horse race between Notre Dame, who he’s been a soft commit to for some time, and Florida, it appears that Ole Miss has positioned themselves squarely in the race as well. Reportedly, he had a lot of positive things to say about Ole Miss and stopped just short of naming them his leader. Very surprising, but in the last few weeks before signing day, surprising is the norm. He has his final official visit to Notre Dame this weekend before making a signing day decision but it’s safe to say this one is certainly trending away from the Gators.

A couple of guys whose names keep being bandied about are receiver Travis Rudolph and defensive end Davon Godchaux. Rudolph, out of West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman high, is committed to Florida State but the staff continues to recruit him. Reportedly, the staff actually secured an in-home visit with him and his parents this week. For his part, he continues to be publicly committed to the Seminoles.

However, as long as the staff continues to recruit him the rumors will continue to fly. Florida obviously needs playmakers at receiver and, inexplicably, Florida State continues to lose committed recruits at the position. I think the staff does put the full court press on but ultimately he is all Nole. If, and it’s a big if, there is a surprise signing day flip that previously hasn’t been mentioned, this one would be the most likely.

Godchaux, has been rumored to be looking around for a while. He was at one point considering taking a visit to Florida. That visit had been squashed a couple of weeks ago, likely by LSU to whom he is currently committed. If Florida were to miss on top choice Lorenzo Carter, Godchaux would be a nice plan b. However, that’s simply not going to happen. The rumored visit to Florida was likely due to the staff putting out feelers in case Carter doesn’t come and maybe he thought he could take a free trip. More likely than not Godchaux is solid to the Tigers and this rumor should just be put to rest.

Speaking of Lorenzo Carter, he doesn’t appear to be any closer to making a decision with a week to go until signing day. Public statements indicate he is still torn between four schools,  Georgia, Florida, LSU, and Florida State, with all four scheduled to make in-home visits this week. Despite being long rumored to be a Georgia lock, he really does appear to be torn on this decision. Ultimately, I believe it is a two horse race between Georgia and Florida, but don’t count out LSU necessarily because he continues to bring up LSU as a school who puts out defensive lineman to the NFL. That’s obviously their selling point and it appears to be working at least a little bit. Of course, we all know Florida and Georgia do as well and both are much closer to home and he has a much longer standing relationship with the two. As always with recruiting, anything can happen between now and signing day but my gut feeling is Georgia leads and the Gators are a close second.

As always stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest in FREE news, analysis, and opinion related to Gator recruiting and athletics.

Perseverance: Surprising Gators Jump to Into the Top Five

Billy Donovan may have produced his most masterful coaching job yet helping this team to a #3 national ranking. Phot credit to thebullgator.com

Billy Donovan may have produced his most masterful coaching job yet helping this team to a #3 national ranking. Phot credit to thebullgator.com

The Florida Gator men’s basketball team continue to win. And continue to rise in the polls. After handily beating the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, the Gators 11th consecutive victory, they rose into the top five of the national polls settling at #3 in the AP and #4 in the USA Today coaches poll.

The Gators trail only the three unbeatens left in college basketball in the coaches poll, Arizona, Syracuse, and Wichita State and lie one spot ahead of Wichita in the AP poll.

The news isn’t surprising if you watched Saturday’s game as they masterfully dispatched the Vols with a disruptive full court press and suffocating mix of zone and man-to-man half court defense. They held the Vols to 26.8% shooting and 1-19 from three point range. Masterful defense at it’s best. Perhaps their best defensive performance of the season.

However, considering where they were at the start of the season, you might be a little surprised at how far they’ve come. The Gators started the season with lots of concerns and a depleted roster. After losing 2/3 of their offense and their top three scorers from last season, there were more questions than answers coming into the season. Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin began the season… off the team. Booted indefinitely for undisclosed violation of team rules it wasn’t even clear if Wilbekin would even be available to play this season. Transfer Damontre Harris who was expected to play a big role for the Gators was kicked off the team before ever playing in a game. McDonald’s All American Chris “Sky” Walker the high flying acrobatic power forward missed the fall semester while he finished up high school courses. Despite being cleared to enroll by the university, the NCAA still has yet to clear him to play.

For much of the pre-conference schedule the Gators couldn’t even line up a full ten guys to practice. The lineup changed weekly as head coach Billy Donovan struggled to keep a lineup together to even compete. Injuries sidelined freshman point guard Kasey Hill and leading scorer Casey Prather. Despite their struggles, the Gators persevered… and won. The only blemishes? A tough, hard fought road loss to a very tough Wisconsin team and the one point loss to Connecticut on a buzzer beating shot. Since then they’ve rattled off eleven straight starting with a huge victory over the Kansas Jayhawks.

Perseverance.

It’s defined as “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”

That pretty much sums up the Gators basketball performance this season. They’ve done it in spite of a lack of lineup consistency. for a game that relies a lot on communication and timing, the lack of consistency in the lineup particularly in practice make it very hard to perform successfully in game action.

“One of the areas we were behind on I felt,” Billy Donovan said. “We were behind in terms of these guys playing together because of suspensions, injuries, and a lack of cohesiveness.”

Yet they’ve continued to win in spite of it.

Perseverance

Scottie Wilbekin has been the glue and the oil for this Gator team which is up to #3 in the AP poll. Photo credit to usatoday

Scottie Wilbekin has been the glue and the oil for this Gator team which is up to #3 in the AP poll. Photo credit to usatoday

A lot of the Gators success is due to the improved play and maturity of point guard Scottie Wilbekin. Since his return from suspension, Scottie has been the glue that has kept this team together as well as the oil that has helped it flow smoothly. From leading the press defensively to running the offense, Scottie has been the undisputed leader of this basketball team. He just has a better feel for what his role is this season than maybe he did in season’s past. From driving the lane, making the extra pass, and dishing to open shooters or dropping it to big men in the paint to hitting clutch shots to shut down opposing team point runs and hitting free throws to close out games, Scottie has kept this team from losing it’s composure at all the right times.

“I think one of the things that happened (was) when he first came back he was getting a lot of assists,” Donovan said. “Then I thought after a few games it went the other way. He was scoring more points and he wasn’t getting as many assists. I thought he got too offensive-minded in terms of trying to create and maybe do a little bit too much. I think now he’s back to playing a little bit more balanced. I think he’s done better.”

Another player who has stepped up his game considerably this season is power forward Casey Prather. An athletic swing man who in year’s past was limited to being a role player off the bench, Prather has become the Gators leading scorer this season. Coming in to his senior year Prather averaged a paltry 3.1 points per game but has broken out to become the SEC’s ninth leading scorer with a 16.8 ppg average.

Casey Prather is the most improved player in the nation this season. photo credit to nydailynews.com

Casey Prather is the most improved player in the nation this season. photo credit to nydailynews.com

Never known as a jump shooter, Prather is the Gator’s most athletic big man who is a great rebounder and gets his points on putbacks and slashing athletic post moves. He has a quick first step and can get to the rim with speed and authority, often before a defender ever has a chance to make a move. His meteoric rise, making him perhaps the most improved player in the nation, has been a pleasant surprise for the Gators. It has also been necessary for a team devoid of the normal roster full of marksman-like outside shooters.

One guy who is known as a shooter that has stepped up as well has been guard Michael Frazier. Every Donovan team has at least one designated three point shooter, ala Lee “for three” Humphrey and Erik Murphy. This year it’s Michael Frazier who is second in the SEC this season shooting 45.6% on three point attempts. Frazier has been deadly accurate from outside and has hit some big three point shots to energize the O’dome crowd or take the life out of opposing team’s fans. Of late, however, Frazier has shown he’s not just a catch and shoot three point specialist. Coach Donovan stressed the need to use his shot fake and put the ball on the floor a little more to not only help him get more open looks but also to break down an opposing defense.

“Coach told me I could use my shot fake to make plays for my teammates and any time I could do that it’s good for our team,” Frazier said.

Against Tennessee, the shot fake and dribble into the lane opened center Patric Young up for a monstrous one-handed Sports Center top ten dunk which shook the O’Dome and sent the home crowd into a frenzy. When teams see him putting the ball on the floor rather than just jacking up threes it forces them to respect the drive and should allow him a lot more open three looks in the future.

The Gators continue to roll like an out of control locomotive climbing up the polls into the top five. For a team that had so many question marks coming into this season, the ride has been remarkable. If they get Chris Walker eligible, which is expected any day now, they could very well be unstoppable. Do they have enough for either Arizona or Syracuse? That remains to be seen, but if they continue to play well and improve they very well could compete for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. For now though they’ve gotten the attention of poll voters. For a team that has gone to the Elite Eight three consecutive seasons, a Final Four berth could realistically be in their future. And this could very well be coach Billy Donovan’s most remarkable coaching job yet.

Countdown to Signing Day: Weekend Rap, Final Board

Cornerback Quincy Wilson is the undisputed leader of the 2014 Florida Gator recruiting class.

Cornerback Quincy Wilson is the undisputed leader of the 2014 Florida Gator recruiting class.

With national signing day a mere week and a half away, the Florida Gators are trying to put the final touches on what is already considered a top ten class by most major services. On the second to the last recruiting weekend, the Gators hosted a small group which included cornerback commit Quincy Wilson, Florida State receiver commit C.J. Worton, and uncommitted offensive tackle Andrew Mike.

Quincy Wilson, the effervescent and ever-confident cornerback, has been the foundation of this Gator recruiting class since committing back in August. At 6’1 196, Wilson has all the necessary physical tools to succeed at Florida which has a long history of putting out top flight defensive backs going back to the 80’s when Jarvis Williams and Louis Oliver were roaming the backfield. Quincy is a long, tall, physical corner who fits the mold that head coach Will Muschamp prefers in his cornerbacks. He’s a natural at the position with great skills and instincts and will likely compete for a starting job this fall.

Perhaps, even more importantly, Wilson has been the glue that has held this class together in spite of the Gators’ struggles on the field this past season finishing with it’s first losing season since 1979. Quincy has been an ardent recruiter and supporter of Gator Nation not only to recruits in this year’s class but also in next year’s as well. He’s well known and well liked among south Florida recruits and his confidence is infectious and has made him a fan favorite.

By all accounts, Quincy had a great time on his official visit this weekend helping to recruit fellow south Florida player and Florida State commit C.J. Worton. A prolific social media star, Quincy has over 6,000 followers on Twitter, he has sung the praises of Gator Nation at every opportunity and had many good things to tweet this weekend.

C.J. Worton appeared to have a great time this weekend as well on his official visit to Florida. A long time FSU commit, he received an offer from the Gators coming out of all star week and has been looking around since. Many have felt for weeks that Worton ultimately will not be in the Seminole class on signing day. With the Gators missing out on their top two targets at receiver, Ermon Lane and Eric Lauderdale, the staff couldn’t have picked a better weekend to bring Worton in. For one, they had such a small group they were able to give max attention to Worton and make him fell welcome, secondly his host was fellow commit and early enrollee Will Grier who will likely by his quarterback should he pull the trigger for Florida, and finally who better for Worton to hang out with than Gator commit and South Florida superstar Quincy Wilson?

FSU receiver commit C.J. Worton with receiver's coach Joker Phillips on his official visit to Florida.

FSU receiver commit C.J. Worton with receiver’s coach Joker Phillips on his official visit to Florida.

For what it’s worth, Worton did not commit this weekend either publicly or silently and still publicly remains committed to FSU. His word is that he had a good time and has a lot to think about before signing day. Unfortunately, for the Gators, FSU gets that all important final visit next weekend right before the silent period leading to signing day. As is often the case with another team’s commit, if he doesn’t commit to your school the weekend he visits and his original school gets a late visit, it usually bodes ill for your team. Fortunately, for the Gators I’m not so sure that is the case here. 

For one, there’s a reason he’s looking around so late. For a guy who’s been committed to FSU for a year it’s very odd that he would start looking around and taking visits this late. Absent staff turnover, which is not the case here, it’s usually a sign there are problems in the relationship. Sometimes the staff continues to recruit players at his position and it upsets the recruit and causes him to look around ala Mike Davis a couple of years ago and sometimes the staff has stopped recruiting that player and to save face he remains committed until he finds another school. With FSU only having one other receiver committed and it’s class more than full, the former is certainly not the case. Could it be the latter? That situation doesn’t make sense either with only one other receiver committed and rumors that he might flip as well floating about.

Secondly, his family likes Florida. An older brother, Cody, was a walk on at Florida under Urban Meyer and his mom reportedly loves the academics and is impressed with the staff. That’s always a positive sign when the family is on board. With the FSU visit coming up this weekend we should know by Sunday which way he’s truly leaning. I feel certain though that should he not sign with FSU he will be a Gator.

Finally, offensive tackle Andrew Mike’s visit was somewhat tight lipped other than the standard “he had a great time” that every recruit says. Have you ever heard one say, “man that visit sucked. Those people don’t have a clue what they’re doing”? I’ve seen recruits screw up visits royally but I’ve never heard of a school doing that. For what it’s worth, this one is likely a Arkansas-UF battle in the end with hometown Arizona Wildcats being a wildcard no pun intended. Like with Worton, Mike did not commit on his visit and will be talking things over with his parents over the next week or so before he makes a decision.

With top OL target Damien Prince still on the board and coming the final weekend, it’s unclear if the staff would have allowed Mike to commit on this trip if he so desired. With the Gators board dwindling by the day it’s very possible the staff could take both Mike and Prince but it is as of yet unclear if they actually will.

Absent the sleeper recruits that pop up near signing day every year, the Gators board has been reduced to cornerback/receiver Adoree Jackson, offensive tackles Damien Prince and Andrew Mike, receiver’s Isaiah McKenzie and C.J. Worton, quarterback Treon Harris, and defensive ends Lorenzo Carter and Rocel McWilliams. There are other names that may or may not be fallback guys but these are the guys that have committable offers and are the main guys that we should focus on moving forward.

To be clear, the Gators are done at running back, they are satisfied with Brandon Powell and are not recruiting anyone else at this point. They are also not going to take a linebacker in this cycle. A lot of rumors have been bandied about concerning Richard Yeargin III a linebacker who decommitted from Notre Dame a couple of days ago. The staff is not recruiting him and he is not a candidate. He’s likely to choose his original runner up school Clemson. There was a lot of fodder over the summer that he tried to commit to Florida but was not allowed to by the staff before choosing Notre Dame. That story does have some wheels. After taking four top rated linebackers last cycle, the staff had only a few top guys targeted, mainly Christian Miller, but were unable to secure a commitment and decided that they will not reach for one this cycle. 2015 is loaded with top recruits that favor the Gators and they want to be able to load up on top talent next year.

Under Armour All American and two way. two sport star Adoree Jackson is the highest rated recruit left on the Gators board for 2014. Photo credit to ESPN.

Under Armour All American and two way. two sport star Adoree Jackson is the highest rated recruit left on the Gators board for 2014. Photo credit to ESPN.

Adoree Jackson is the highest rated recruit left on the board and is likely a signing day decision. He continues to drag out the drama of who will receive his final visit next weekend. For his part, he has never officially visited UF but did visit on his own dime last summer and says he has seen all he needs to so it’s not important for him to take an official there. You can take that with a grain of salt. The other major player, USC, is also a school he hasn’t taken an official to but has also visited unofficially numerous times as he is going to school in the area. Being from the midwest, Jackson reportedly moved to SoCal to live with his sister and play football/track with the express desire to go to USC. With the staff changes those plans appeared to be up in the air and the Gators were thought to have gained the upper hand in his recruitment due in large part to his relationship with UF track coach Mike Holloway and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson his position coach and UF’s ace recruiter.

Recently, however, his recruitment has been trending away from UF. Many feel the new staff at USC has quieted his concerns and has all but gained his verbal committment. New head coach Steve Sarkisian is a great recruiter as witnessed by his recent flip of Alabama quarterback commit Ricky Towns and many feel he has convinced Jackson to stick with his original plan. I, as have many, have long felt Jackson would be a Gator but my confidence in that is dwindling by the day simply because he has stopped talking about UF almost entirely. The fact that he is unlikely to take an official to Florida at first didn’t bother me because he’s been there, has a great relationship with the staff, and UF has a top rated track program. However, if he does indeed take an official to USC on the final weekend you can pencil him into the Trojan class. For what it’s worth, he lists six schools as finalists but I personally believe it’s a USC/UF battle in the end (sorry FSU). My gut feeling here is Trojan.

Damien Prince is another top guy at a position of high need. With the Gators losing the middle of their offensive line and loads of experience it is important the staff bring in as much quality talent there as they can. Prince is a guy they got in on late but recent developments have worked in Florida’s favor. First, the Gators secured a commitment and early enrollment from top corner Jalen Tabor from nearby Washington, DC and a close friend of Prince’s. Tabor has been very public about his recruitment of his good buddy to the Gators. That alone can’t hurt. Secondly, the home state Maryland Terrapins, where many thought he would end up due to distance, recently lost his position coach which also helps the Gators’ fortunes. Add in reports that the staff sold his mother on going to UF and you have a solid trifecta in Florida’s favor. It helps a bunch that they get his last visit and that his buddy Tabor is enrolled and will be there to show him around and sell him on playing together. This one is certainly trending up for Florida and my gut feeling is on signing day he will be a Gator.

This brings us to Isaiah McKenzie the speedy slot receiver who tripped to Florida last weekend and took an official to Ole Miss this past weekend. Not much word on how this visit went, but realistically this recruitment is likely a Notre Dame/UF battle in the end. He is considered a soft commit to Notre Dame by many services and they get his last visit next weekend. The Gators visited with him this past week just a couple of days after his official visit which shows how much the staff wants him in this class as they look for offensive playmakers to fill needed roles in new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s spread offense. The word coming out of last weekend’s visit to Florida was very positive and he publicly stated that the new system is a good fit for his skill set. The biggest question will be how tight is his bond with Notre Dame and how much does that final visit play a role in his final decision.

As is usually the case with recruiting, relationships are key and the final visit can be a deal maker or breaker. With Notre Dame having a much longer established relationship with McKenzie AND with them getting the final visit, it may be too much ground for the Gators to make up here. For what it’s worth, Gator people feel good about their chances here but my personal feeling is Notre Dame is too much and the Gators were too little and too late on this one. I think he’ll be in the Fighting Irish class come signing day.

At quarterback, it’s very clear the staff wants one more in this class to pair with top choice Will Grier who is already enrolled. it’s also very clear that one guy is FSU commit Treon Harris. Harris has long been a Nole commit but they recruited him as a defensive back and he really wants a shot at quarterback in college. He visited UF last weekend with his parents and reports were that he and his family were impressed with Florida and how they plan to use Treon. Auburn has snuck in the back door getting a visit from him this past weekend and is recruiting him as an athlete. Might they have tipped his hand a little with their spread offense which had them playing the Noles for a national championship this past season? Possibly, but my feeling is not likely. I truly believe this will be an FSU/UF battle in the end and I don’t see him ending up in the Noles class. As I said before, any time a long time commit starts looking around and visiting this close to signing day it’s not a good sign for the team he’s commited to. The Gators are the only team to recruit him specifically as a quarterback and my feeling is that he flips to the Gators on signing day.

At defensive end, it’s no secret the Gators top target has long been Lorenzo Carter out of Norcross, Georgia. The Gators have been locked in a tight recruiting battle with the home state Georgia Bulldogs for some time and now it appears LSU, where he visited last weekend, and FSU have crept in as well.

All American Lorenzo Carter is the top defensive line target remaining for the Gators. Photo credit to  AJC. com

All American Lorenzo Carter is the top defensive line target remaining for the Gators. Photo credit to AJC. com

Carter named the Gators as his leader after visiting last summer but that lead appeared to dwindle over the season as he failed to make it back to campus for the FSU game while taking multiple visits to Athens. Many have felt for months that Georgia was the team to beat until defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left to become the DC at Louisville. However, when Georgia head coach Mark Richt hired FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as their new DC they appeared to save this recruitment just as many felt Florida might regain the edge.

After the LSU visit, Carter made it public that his recruitment was still wide open despite reports otherwise and he wouldn’t be naming any leaders. He also is taking a final visit to FSU this coming weekend before making a final decision. He also said that Florida has not lost any ground in his recruitment. What does this mean? It means the Gators are solidly in the thick of things. His family, while stating they will support his decision wherever he chooses to go, did make the statement that an older daughter going to school out of state was a hardship because they were unable to visit, which means a lot in regards to his recruitment. I, personally, don’t see him tripping all the way to Baton Rouge. Georgia looks to be the leader and likely destination here in spite of what he says with Florida a close second and FSU a distant third. Of course, it’s possible the Noles make up some ground on his visit this weekend but with the turnover they haven’t had time to build the relationship that either Georgia or Florida has. His family has also stated that they were impressed with Florida and the staff but in the end I think distance and Jeremy Pruitt are too much for the Gators to overcome and he will be a Bulldog on signing day.

Which brings us to Rocel McWilliams out of Pensacola, Florida. McWilliams was a surprise visitor last weekend to UF but came away impressed with everything. The Missouri commit admittedly has a lot to think about. He was set to attend Missouri with teammate Lawrence Lee when the Gators offered in late December. His visit last weekend left him torn between the school and staff he had long committed to and built a great relationship with and a dream school. His family are huge Gator fans, especially his father, and while they publicly support his decision regardless, he admits they are strongly pushing him to Florida. Add in distance, a six hour drive to Gainesville versus a 16 plus hour drive to Missouri and the Gators have a lot of going in their favor right now. He took his official to Missouri this weekend and while still publicly committed to the Tigers he has stated he is still confused and not sure what his final decision will be. Personally, I think that bodes well for the Gators. In the end, I think he will go with family ties and distance and his heart and ends up a Gator on signing day.

And as always stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest updates and FREE news, analysis, and opinion relating to Florida Gator recruiting and athletics.