There’s an old adage about recruiting that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Well that might be true 363 days of the year but the last 48 hours before signing day are definitely a sprint… on steroids.
What you think you know on Monday morning of signing day week? Fuggetaboutit! Recruiting information will change with the speed of a fiber optic cable.
Marginal players flirting with high profile programs retreat to fall back positions as they see the school they love starting to look the other way as if they had never met. Coaching staffs who are informed a top recruit will spurn them on signing day also retreat to fall back positions as well, namely the marginal recruit they had started to put on ignore. Suddenly, he’s THEIR guy. It all creates a domino effect which becomes a furious rush to partner up like closing time in a honky tonk.
And so it is for the 48 hours leading up to this signing day, particularly for the Florida Gators. Some that appeared to be a Gator lock on Monday, are off the board completely by Tuesday evening. Some that had been fading fast are now Gator locks or even Gator commits by Tuesday night.
Cue the music…
This room won’t be open till your brothers or your sisters come
So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end
Rather poignant for one set of Gator recruits. Five star offensive tackle Damien Prince has been at the top of the Gators’ wish list for months. With offensive line being one of the Gators top needs this cycle the staff really began to recruit him hard hoping to pair him with top offensive tackle Davis Sharpe. Despite getting in on his recruitment late, the Gators started to lay a solid foundation to lure him to Gainesville from his native Maryland. When his good friend, Jalen Tabor, enrolled at Florida he started to recruit Prince to Florida as well. Then after Florida hired Mike Summers to be their offensive line coach many thought the Gators may have taken the lead in his recruitment. After visiting Florida this past weekend, the only 2014 recruit on campus, it appeared that Prince was a lock to spurn the home state Terrapins who are only minutes down the road from his home and sign with the Gators.
Not so fast my friend as Lee Corso would say. Often the biggest factor to overcome with late deciding out of state recruits is distance. There’s a reason they take so long to make a decision. And more often than not it has little to do with football. In Prince’s case ultimately distance is the one factor the Gator coaching staff could not overcome.
Pressed by the Gator staff to inform them on Monday if he did not plan to sign with them so they could formulate alternate plans, Prince apparently did just that informing them that he intended to sign with the home state Terrapins. This caused the staff to scurry to find a replacement and that is exactly what they did. Andrew Mike, the 6’7″ offensive tackle from Sabino high school in Tucson, Arizona had visited the Gators a couple of weekends ago and was strongly considering the Gators. However, when it was apparent he was a plan b and the Gator staff was confident of landing Prince, Mike gave a verbal commitment to the Vanderbilt Commodores, doing so on Monday. On Tuesday, however, with Prince off the Gators’ board, the staff contacted Mike attempting to flip him to the Gators. By Tuesday evening news spread like wildfire that Mike had flipped his commitment from Vandy to Florida making him the Gators’ 22nd commitment in the 2014 class. This was verified by Gainesville Sun recruiting reporter Zach Abolverdi.
Closing time… every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end…
Out of bad news came some good news for the Gators. And then more good news.
Derrick Kelly is an offensive tackle out of Havana, Florida that the staff had been trying to get a commitment out of for some time. He reportedly was down to Florida and LSU but still thought to be a lock to LSU with whom he had a long standing relationship. By Tuesday evening reports had circulated across the web and the Twittersphere that Kelly was having second thoughts about LSU and was actually strongly considering Florida. In recruiting, particularly within 48 hours of signing day, where there’s smoke there’s almost always fire. As is often the case, when it comes down to the wire the thought of going too far away from home begins to wear on a prospects mind and he ends up picking the in state school. This appears to be the case here. While not a lock, there’s a high percentage chance that he picks the Gators on Wednesday morning.
There’s basically two types of players who wait until the last minute to make a major decision like picking a university. First there are those who truly struggle with making a final decision. They’re torn between two schools and have a hard time deciding, mostly due to an insecure nature and personality. The other is the attention whore who eats up the recruitment process and dreams of doing the hat dance on national signing day. They love the attention they receive from competing fan bases and coaching staffs as well as the media attention that amps up exponentially as signing day nears.
The latter likely describes two way and two sport star as well as top ten overall recruit Adoree Jackson. Jackson has played the recruiting process out masterfully, trolling multiple fan bases with repeated social media shout outs and strategically offering up periodically diminishing lists of schools who remain in consideration. Jackson has done a good job of convincing fans and recruiting analysts that he is genuinely torn between his four “finalists”. As late as Tuesday evening he was still trolling his finalist’s fanbase on Twitter and was almost convincing when he tweeted that he was still undecided.
If anybody actually believes Adoree doesn’t know where he’s going I’ve got ocean front property in Arizona to sell you as the old country song goes. The thing about Adoree is he has played this whole recruiting thing as well as I’ve seen in many years. He’s maintained fan and media interest while literally giving no clue as to his final plans even playing out the final visit weekend into a “Where’s Waldo” with significant media exposure given to which school would receive his final official visit and then choosing to not take a final official visit at all. He did however take two unofficial visits this weekend to crosstown rivals USC and UCLA. That bodes very ill for the Gators whom many felt led in his recruitment for the longest time. Oddly for a team that supposedly led Adoree never took an official visit to Florida. It’s very rare for a recruit to pick a school he has never taken an official visit to. It’s not unheard of but very rare.
The Gators do, however, have a lot in their favor. He’s a two sport standout who is olympic caliber in long jump and he plans to play both football and track in college. Florida is the number two ranked track team in the nation and track coach Mike Holloway has been active in his recruitment from the start. Jackson is also a two way player who is a top rated corner as well as an offensive playmaker. With the Gators being very vocal about their plans to utilize him on offense as well as defense, many felt they are the team to beat here. Staff turnover at USC left them somewhat on the outside looking in at a recruit who explicitly moved to So Cal to live with his sister just so he could go to USC. The other two finalists LSU and UCLA have long been considered mere hats on the table between the other too. But lately things have cooled somewhat in regards to him and Florida. Many think that USC may now be the team to beat and others say don’t sleep on LSU. Where will he end up? Flip a coin. When he finally announces his school of choice I wish I could be there just to slowly, deliberately clap my hands and say “well played mr. Jackson, well played.”
One who recruit who likely falls in the former category is defensive end Lorenzo Carter. The top 20 overall recruit who lists several schools as being in the mix but realistically is choosing between the Gators whom he visited last summer and named his leader before the season began, and Georgia the home state team only an hour away who appeared to gain steam as the season progressed. The Gators have long appeared to be the team Carter favored personally but the Bulldogs appear to be mom’s favorite. He comes from a very tight knit family who previously told a story about an older sibling that went off to college out of state and how it created a hardship for the family. Anytime parents start mentioning distance as a factor it is generally even a bigger factor than they let on. Anytime a recruit stays undecided for so long and his parents, particularly mom, become very vocal in the media about his recruitment you can bet her influence is even stronger than let on as well.
In this case, the mom raved about the Georgia official visit she took with her son and husband this past weekend using terms like family and down to earth. When he mentioned to a reporter on Tuesday evening that he was down to two schools and was 60/40 between them, it was obvious the two schools were Georgia (60%) and Florida (40%). And you can bet the raving mom did about the Georgia visit means one thing: she wants her son close to home and in cases like these mom almost always wins. There’s a reason these recruits have difficulty picking a school. Often, much like with Prince, the decision is made for them.
One recruit the Gators got in on late but had been said to be favoring the Gators was defensive end Rocel McWilliams from West Florida Tech in Pensacola, Florida. The long time Missouri commit was given a Gators offer back in December and had taken an official visit to Florida three weekends ago. After the visit, McWilliams appeared to be torn between the Tigers, with whom he had a long standing relationship, and the Gators whom he loved growing up and whom his family, particularly his father, were big fans of. He admitted right up to last Friday that he was still torn and was unsure which school he would pick. However, by Tuesday evening he had informed Zach Abolverdi that he would be sticking with his Missouri commitment. This one went against recruiting norms with neither distance nor family ties helping the Gators.
I do wonder if this decision in any way offers any insight into Carter’s choice. Does the staff expect to get Carter and informed McWilliams there’s no room for him? It seems fishy that the combination of the staff being informed that they won’t be getting Carter (his family had stated he would be informing the staffs of his decision on Monday but not announcing until Wednesday), distance from home being in the Gators favor ( 6 hour drive while Columbia is a 13 hour drive), and his family being HUGE Gator fans (and his dad in particular is a HUGE, HUGE Gator fan), that he would quietly stick with the Tigers. There could be nothing there but it makes me wonder about Carter.
In the last 48 hour rush to signing day one of the things you look for from uncommitted recruits and coaching staffs is smoke signals. As I mentioned previously, where there’s smoke there’s fire. Conversely, the lack of smoke signals can often be as telling as the presence of smoke signals. That segueway leads us to Treon Harris a quarterback from Miami Booker T. Washington that is committed to FSU. He has been looking around since receiving an offer from the Gators following the high school all star games and took an official visit to Florida three weekends ago before also visiting Auburn the following weekend. I predicted him to stick with FSU yesterday simply because I felt the lack of smoke from his camp likely meant the good feeling from his Gator visit, likely the only other team he realistically would flip to, had worn off. However, I have rethought my position on that.
Considering how important it is to the Gator staff to bring in a second quarterback with them losing both of their top backups from last season and with the staff only bringing in Harris to fill that second qb slot, I believe the lack of smoke from both his camp and even more so from the staff leads me to believe the staff feels supremely confident that they will flip him on signing day. Otherwise they would likely be working hard to replace him instead of working so hard on a couple of o lineman when they have 5 already committed. Make sense? I know they have Deiondre Porter committed a high school qb that they recruited as an athlete but while he could be used as a scout team qb I really don’t believe they would fall back on him if they truly felt Harris wasn’t going to sign with them.
C.J. Worton, I’m sticking with my prediction that he signs with the Gators on Wednesday. He appeared to be all Gator coming off his official visit to Florida, decommitted from FSU just days after that official, his brother played there, it’s close to home where his close knit family can see him and his brother J.J. play at Central Florida in Orlando, and he’ll be featured in the offense that Kurt Roper is installing. All that tells me that West Virginia, his only other finalist, would have had to absolutely blow him away to overcome that lead. In my opinion, it ain’t happening. Out of all the uncommitted recruits remaining on the Gators board, I believe he’s the most likely to sign with them.
So in closing as of 2 am Wednesday national signing day I feel like all 22 commits including J.C. Jackson sign LOI’s with the Gators on Wednesday and they add Kelly, Harris, and Worton with Carter likely to UGA but certainly not a lock and Adoree Jackson is the wild card. I think USC has the edge but the Gators have a shot.
Even if the Gators add those three bringing them to their siging max this cycle at 25, they would still take either or both of Jackson and Carter. They are what recruitniks call plus ones, guys they take a commitment from regardless of signing numbers. They’ll sign them and make the numbers work out before the final date for them to be at 85.
Tune in to ESPNU for live commitments of Damien Prince, Adoree Jackson, and Lorenzo Carter, three of the 14 uncommitted ESPN 100 recruits who will announce on the recruiting day show.
Follow Swamp Music on Twitter @Swamp_Music2 all day for live tweets as LOI’s come in and check in at https://swampmusic2.wordpress.com/ for analysis of the Gators top ten recruiting class.