Florida Gators Recruiting: Dead Period Ends, Let the Games Begin

Myles Autry a running back from Norcross, Georgia is a new name on the Gators recruiting board. Photo credit to varsitypreps.com

Myles Autry a running back from Norcross, Georgia is a new name on the Gators recruiting board. Photo credit to varsitypreps.com

The recruiting cycle stretch run has begun with the end of the in-person contact dead period and only three weeks left to national signing day. What does this mean for the Gators? For the staff, it means they will be on the road like a truck driver.

The Gators are currently sitting on 21 commitments with 25 scholarships to give. However, one commit, offensive guard Dontae Angus likely will not qualify and will probably end up in prep school or JUCO. A couple of others are kind of up in the air right now.

Defensive back J.C. Jackson, who previously flipped from FSU has long been considered a soft commit. The cousin of Ermon Lane he reportedly was overheard after the Under Armour game making a statement to the effect that he’s going to FSU with Lane. Lane, who recently decommitted from Florida, for his part has yet to commit to FSU but is widely expected to sign with them in the end. Jackson’s uncle recently made a statement saying that Jackson has shut down his recruitment and is for sure headed to Gainesville. We’ll just have to wait and see what he decides to do.

Then there’s the curious case of tight end Cyontai Lewis, a teammate of Alabama running back commit Bo Scarborough whom the staff has been recruiting for a couple of years and are still working on. Many felt that taking Lewis’ commitment was a reach for the Gators. While they are desperately in need of production at the tight end slot, there’s been some rumbling that Lewis wasn’t a good fit talent-wise. It seemed odd that the staff allowed him to commit so early and many felt it was a ploy to secure Scarborough’s commitment. If so, it didn’t work. While the staff is still recruiting Scarborough hard and are expected to visit him again in the next few days, there’s been no evidence that he is either slipping in his commitment to the Tide or interested in the Gators. So where does that leave Lewis? With three tight ends committed, an odd number despite the loss of Kent Taylor to transfer, will the staff honor Lewis’ commitment or will he be an odd man out? We should know sooner rather than later I would think.

So, of the 21 committed at least one is most likely gone leaving room for five more with a maximum of seven. A lot of names are being bandied about for those final spots as the staff tries to lock down some top targets and scurries to find some playmakers to close out the 2014 class. With the final five/seven spots, the staff is looking for some mix of a corner, a defensive end, an offensive tackle, two receivers or one and a running back/receiver hybrid, and a second quarterback.

At defensive end, it’s pretty much Lorenzo Carter or bust. The staff is pretty happy with the line class they have committed at this point and getting Carter would be the icing on a top rated defensive line class. The Gators are literally in a dog fight with the Georgia Bulldogs for his services. They appeared to lead coming out of the summer, but then seemed to lose ground over the season as he made multiple visits to Athens. A quick trip to Gainesville after the Under Armour game gave Gator fans a glimmer of hope as he and his family came away impressed with the trip. After Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left for the same position with Louisville many thought that might tip the hand in the Gators favor but then Jeremy Pruitt left FSU to take over the DC job with the Bulldogs. Oddly, Carter had been developing a good relationship with Pruitt and FSU had actually been getting in the picture with his recruitment. Many feel that bringing Pruitt in will seal the deal with Carter and his family. He’s basically a signing day decision so it’s a wait and see situation but rest assured the Gator staff won’t quit until the LOI is signed. The staff is expected to visit with him on Thursday as is the Georgia staff.

At corner, the staff is pushing to get Adoree Jackson’s signature. Jackson, from Junipero Serra high school in Gardena, California would be a major coup for the Gator staff and would add to what is already considered the top defensive back class in the country. Jackson is a two way and multi-sport superstar. He’s made it known he wants to play corner and receiver in college and loves what the staff did with Loucheiz Purifoy. He’s also a budding track star and wants to run track in college. It doesn’t hurt that the Gators have the top men’s track program in the country. Most analysts consider the Gators the front runner to gain his commitment on signing day although he still lists six schools as his finalists.

Damien Prince is a top rated offensive tackle from Maryland and is seriously considering the Gators. Photo credit to the washingtonpost.com

Damien Prince is a top rated offensive tackle from Maryland and is seriously considering the Gators. Photo credit to the washingtonpost.com

At offensive tackle, two names top the Gators list. First and foremost is the top guy on their board and that’s Damien Prince from Bishop McNamara high school in Forestville, Maryland. He’s the top guy on their board and while the Gators have been recruiting him for a while, they were thought to be down on the list and most expected him to sign with the home state Terrapins. However, with the staff picking up the pace of his recruitment, with them bringing in offensive line coach Mike Summers, and with good friend Jalen Tabor enrolling at Florida at the last minute, the Gators have picked up some steam in his recruitment. Prince reportedly has a good relationship with Summers who recruited him while at USC but wasn’t going to get him there as distance was too much of a factor. Florida is much closer and Tabor is working hard to recruit him to the Gators. Those factors plus a new offensive coordinator who brings some pizazz to the table may just be enough to lure him to Gainesville. Originally, the plan was he was going to wait for a week or two after signing day to decide but last week he announced he moved up his signing date to NSD.

The other name at tackle that the Gators recently extended an offer to and are trying to secure a visit from is Andrew Mike from Sabino high school in Tucson, Arizona. This is a guy that Summers is high on and was recruiting to USC and might be a nice plan b if things go south with Prince. He’s still a longshot at this point with the Gators getting in on his recruitment so late, but if they get him on campus and considering the staff’s track record at flipping recruits late, anything can happen between now and signing day. Would they take both? Not likely, unless things fall through at other spots.

Assuming they get the top three guys listed above, that leaves two to four slots left to fill. This is where the fun begins. While the need at receiver and running back is small numbers-wise this cycle, there is a HUGE need for playmakers. Originally the staff planned for one running back and two to three receiver’s in this cycle. Coming out of summer they had their top two guys committed, Dalvin Cook and Ermon Lane. However, as we all know now, both of those guys recently decommitted from the Gators. The staff wasted little time extending offers to Jeff Jones, a Minnesota commit, Derrell Scott who is uncommitted, and Brandon Powell, a former Miami commitment. Both Jones (1/24) and Scott (1/17) scheduled visits to UF. Powell, who was scheduled to enroll early at Miami, did them one better. He committed on the spot and enrolled at Florida two days later.

The staff isn’t done, however, as they are still recruiting Jones and Scott and are reportedly interested in speaking with Myles Autry a running back from Norcross, Georgia and a teammate of Lorenzo Carter. Autry is a long-striding speedster with great balance and good footwork. He famously tweeted during the Army All American game about wanting to play with Gator quarterback commit Will Grier in college.

“Man Just Working Hard With @willgrier_. He Really Got Me Considering University Of Florida Now! They Moved To My Top Now! #GatorNation

and

“I’ll Love @willgrier_ To Be My Quarterback In College #GoGators

He may well have that chance as the staff reportedly may try to see him in person when they visit Carter tomorrow and could very well extend an offer. Will they take another running back in this class particularly with next year’s class loaded in state? Certainly if it’s one of the above. Right now they are looking for playmaker’s period. They need guys that can make plays in space with them switching to an up-tempo spread offense and as such the staff has really widened their board to find a couple of more guys that fit that bill. Autry is talented enough to line up at receiver, as a punt/kick returner, and as a wildcat qb as well. He reminds me a lot of Percy Harvin with his quick first step, playstation moves, and ability to simply run away from people.

At receiver, the staff has one guy committed, former FSU commit Ryan Sousa, and are looking to take at least two more possibly three guys depending upon how things shake out. Junior college receiver Eric Lauderdale is their top choice and he still maintains that the Gators lead for his services. After him, it gets murky.

The staff recently offered  Isaiah McKenzie from American Heritage high school in Plantation, Florida. McKenzie, nicknamed “the human joystick”, is small at only 5’8 165 but has similar skills to Solomon Patton. He can lineup in different spots, in the backfield, in the slot, and at wideout and he has the speed and elusiveness that the staff is seeking. He’s reportedly considering a visit this weekend to the Gators and is also looking at Tennessee and Ole Miss.

Another guy the Gators are looking to visit with is Jamil Kamara from Virginia Beach, Virginia who is currently committed to the University of Virginia. There were reports that the staff was in contact with Jamil and were trying to secure a visit. He reportedly made statements to the effect that with Ermon Lane decommitting he might reconsider the Gators as they are in need of some playmakers. However, to this point no visit has been scheduled and it’s unlikely one will be and he has publicly stated he’s comfortable with his commitment to Virginia. Another wait and see if he indeed does take a visit.

FSU soft verbal commit C.J. Worton is looking around and has a visit scheduled to Florida among other schools. He’s a tall possession receiver that’s not going to blow you away with speed but he makes catches. He has a really good vertical leap which allows him to play taller than his 6’0 stature and he catches everything. The staff recently extended an offer and are considered a strong player to flip him from the Noles. While not a lock for the Gators at this point, he is the most likely of the above to sign with the Gators.

It should be noted here that if the Gators do sign Adoree Jackson that will account for a receiver spot as he is a standout receiver as well as a standout corner. In fact, with the Gators getting Jalen Tabor in and enrolled early, that may allow the staff to utilize Jackson more at receiver.

Finally, the staff would certainly like to add one more quarterback in this class for depth purposes. With the surprise transfer of Tyler Murphy and Max Staver and Skylar Mornhinweg not being a realistic option, there’s a real need to bring in another guy. With the shift to the spread the staff would certainly like to bring in a dual threat guy who they can utilize in other ways rather than just have him sitting on the bench.

The main guy here is Treon Harris an athletic dual threat qb from Miami. An FSU commit, the staff recently extended an offer and he is expected to take a visit to Gainesville. He reportedly is intrigued with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and the word is that Harris is the main guy they’re going after for the second qb slot. With his lack of size, some analysts think he projects better as a receiver or defensive back but he definitely wants a shot at qb and that’s where the stafff is recruiting him. Whether they can flip him from the Noles remains to be seen but I think the Gators have a realistic shot here.

Another name I’ve been hearing is USF commit Deiondre Porter, whom the staff recently offered, but it’s unclear how they intend to utilize him. He’s a high school quarterback with solid numbers but many analysts have him projected at either wide out or defensive back.

With signing day only three weeks away and the dead period over expect things to move rather quickly and a lot of new names coming and going as the staff seeks a few playmakers to close out this recruiting cycle.

And as always stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest FREE updates on Gator recruiting and athletics.

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