Whew! What a whirlwind week for Florida Gator recruiting. After picking up a few surprise flips and losing a couple others, the 2014 recruiting class is sitting on 20 commitments as of today. With three weekends left before signing day and the dead period about to expire, expect things to continue to move very quickly moving forward.
The Gators have room for a maximum 25 signees and expect the staff to try to fill all 25 slots. Before we go over who is left on the board and what positions the staff will try to fill with the remaining slots, let’s make two things clear.
First, the loss of five star recruits Dalvin Cook and Ermon Lane, while tough to swallow for fans, is not nearly as important as one might think. Second, recruiting success is more about filling needs than it is about any one or two guys, five star recruits or not, and the Gators have certainly met their most important needs. Cornerback and offensive line are their two biggest priorities this recruiting cycle and they have four and six committed respectively including their top targets followed by defense lineman, tight end, and quarterback where they have their top targets committed as well.
After taking five receivers and two running backs in last season’s recruiting class, the staff was looking to take a maximum of one back and 1-2 receivers. Of course, Lane and Cook were the top guys on their board but those two positions were the smallest needs in this class. Brandon Powell, a former Miami running back commit who flipped to the Gators as soon as he received a Gators offer, actually has a very similar skill set to Cook despite his smaller stature and brings the one thing the Gators lack at the position right now: speed. He is a versatile guy that can be used in a number of ways and will allow new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to stretch the field horizontally opening the middle of the field as well as the vertical passing game.
Despite having both Jeff Jones (1/24) and Derrell Scott (1/17) listed higher on the board and scheduled to visit, at this stage of the process it comes down to who commits first. While both are considered longshots at this point, the staff most certainly would take one of either of those two players were they to choose to commit but do not count on it. Powell was the bird in the hand that the staff chose to take over the two in the bush.
At receiver, there’s a few guys left on the board that the staff is pushing for. Junior college player Eric Lauderdale is the main focus and the consensus is that Florida leads for him. Lauderdale looks like a complete receiver. At 6’2 197 he’s not just tall but has length and he’s strong enough to fight through press coverage, break tackles in the open field, and go up and fight for jump balls. He also has speed to get deep and is very athletic for a tall guy with good moves to make people miss. Additionally, he’s an excellent blocker in space and has fantastic hands. Lauderdale has two visits left to Arizona State on the 17th and then Oregon on the 24th. He’s expected to decide shortly after his last visit to Oregon. My feeling is that he’s all Gator.
The staff recently made an offer to two Florida State commits C.J. Worton, scheduled to visit on January 31, and Treon Harris as well as USF commit Deiondre Porter both of whom are scheduled to visit this weekend. Both Harris and Porter are high school quarterbacks that are being recruited as athletes and could be utilized in multiple ways including as wildcat qb’s. The staff is almost certainly looking to sign two wideouts in this cycle most likely to be Lauderdale and the first to commit of the others. Like with the running backs, the staff isn’t waiting on anyone. Get on board or be left behind.
The remaining board consists of adding one more defensive end, another offensive tackle, another corner, and a second qb. The top remaining overall recruit on the board regardless of position is defensive end Lorenzo Carter. Carter is a consensus five star recruit who is supremely talented and could play either at end or linebacker in the Gators scheme. After getting a surprise commitment from Gerald Willis at the Under Armour All American Game, the staff would love to reel in Carter as well securing a haul similar to two years ago when they signed bookends Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler. Prior to to the season, the Gators appeared to lead for Carter but that lead began to shrink as time went by and Georgia began to gain ground. For his part, Carter made an unofficial stop in Gainesville with his family after the UA game and came away very impressed. Like Willis, however, it looks like this one could come down to a battle between the Gators and the home state team, in this case the Georgia Bulldogs. LSU can’t be counted out either at this point. At defensive end, particularly with Willis in the fold, it appears to be Carter or bust for the remaining slot.
Another consensus five star remaining on the board for the Gators is offensive tackle Damien Prince out of Maryland. Considered a longshot previously, the Gators have picked up some steam with the hiring of offensive line coach Mike Summers who had been recruiting him to USC and has built a strong relationship with him. The flip and subsequent early enrollment of cornerback Jalen Tabor a close friend of Prince’s bode’s well in the Gator’s favor too. Tabor has made it well known that he’s recruiting Prince hard to come to Gainesville and Prince himself admitted that the hiring of Summers was a positive in terms of possibly getting him to sign with the Gators. He is scheduled to make his official visit on January 31 and has decided to make his decision by signing day despite previously planning to go as much as a week beyond that.
While the staff already has commitments from seven offensive lineman, one (Dontae Angus) isn’t expected to be in the class on signing day and another (Taven Bryan) is expected to end up at defensive tackle. The only other tackle remaining on the board for the Gators is Andrew Mike out of Sabino High School in Tucson, Arizona whom the staff recently offered. Like Prince, Mike has a great relationship with line coach Summers whom he also recruited while at USC. Mike is likely a longshot to sign with the Gators and realistically it’s Prince or bust come signing day.
At corner, with the surprise flip of Jalen Tabor and subsequent decommitment of Chris Lammons, the Gators have four corners on board (Quincy Wilson, Duke Dawson, and J.C. Jackson) already and are still looking for one more. The top guy on the board is two way super star Adoree Jackson, who is looking to play both wide receiver and corner in college as well as competing on the track team. As such, Florida has to be considered to be the front runner for his services. The Gators showed a willingness to play Loucheiz Purifoy as both a corner and a receiver as well as on special teams and the Gators are the only one of his finalists with a top rated track program as well. While he lists six schools as finalists, the Gators appear to be in good shape with Jackson.
It should be noted here that both Treon Harris and Deiondre Porter could both compete at corner slot, part of the versatility that they both bring to the table. J.C. Jackson is an enigma at this point. He was originally committed to Florida State before flipping his commitment to Florida over the summer. Since then he’s appeared anything but solid to Florida. The cousin of recent wide receiver decommit Ermon Lane, he has previously expressed interest in going to the same school as Lane and was even quoted as saying after the Under Armour game that he was going to FSU with Lane and Cook. Speculation has been that it’s only a matter of time before he decommits but this past weekend an uncle of Jackson made statements to the effect that Jackson is done with recruiting and fully intends to go to Florida. Time will tell if that statement is true but many analysts still believe Jackson will not be in this class.
For the remaining slot it appears the staff would like to add another quarterback. This is where it gets tricky. Both Treon Harris and Deiondre Porter could be recruited as quarterbacks. With the Gators moving towards a spread offense it appears they’ll be looking for a solid dual threat guy to serve as a third quarterback behind Driskel and Grier and either of those guys could fill that roll. There have been a few names bandied about but all are extreme longshots at this point. Suffice it to say that outside of Harris or Porter, your guess for the second qb would be as good as any recruiting analysts.
With 20 commitments, and assuming Jackson stays and Angus goes, that leaves 6 spots to fill. My prediction for those six spots (in order of most likely to least likely) is Damien Prince, Adoree Jackson, Eric Lauderdale, Deiondre Porter, Lorenzo Carter, and C.J. Worton. I don’t see either Jeff Jones or Derrell Scott signing with the Gators unless somehow the staff blows them away on their visit. Of the two FSU commits taking visits to Florida, I think Worton is more likely simply because I have a gut feeling that he’s the odd man out for the Noles and will likely take the offer on his visit. As is the case every year with this staff there is certainly the possibility of a name coming out of nowhere on signing day particularly if they miss on any of the above. There have been the usual rumors floating about of a surprise commit or two but again, you won’t hear of them unless the staff misses on one or more of their main targets.
As always, stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest in FREE up-to-date information regarding Gator football recruiting as we cruise into national signing day.