Florida Gator Recruiting: The Friday Five

Strong side defensive end Byron Cowart from Seffner, FL Armwood high school is one of the top recruits in the nation and is high on the Gators. (Bay 9 News)

Strong side defensive end Byron Cowart from Seffner, FL Armwood high school is one of the top recruits in the nation and is high on the Gators. (Bay 9 News)

Last Friday I posted an article  listing the Florida Gators’ top 2015 recruiting targets by position. With the Gators recruiting board relatively large at this stage of the game, I’ll try to delve deeper and deeper into the board and offer you five recruits each week that the staff is actively recruiting. Keep in mind that recruiting is highly fluid. The staff’s board is constantly in flux as they continue to evaluate recruits and build relationships. Just because they are on the board today doesn’t mean they’ll still be there in a few months. As we’ve seen often the staff will take an early commitment only to see them fall off the board as time goes by.

Since head coach Will Muschamp took over the program, he has constantly referred to the SEC as a line of scrimmage league. The importance of recruiting top talent along both lines of scrimmage cannot be understated. Last week I mentioned top defensive end target CeCe Jefferson. There’s another defensive end from Florida that is a top target as well, Byron Cowart from Seffner, Florida Armwood high school. If Jefferson is the #1 target, Cowart is #1A. Like Jefferson, Cowart is a consensus five star defensive end who is very high on the Gators. At 6’4 250, he has great size and a low center of gravity. He’s very strong and chiseled with great speed and a quick get off on the snap. He is a strong run stuffer who excels even more as a pass rusher and quite simply he’s a beast who is very active and plays with great enthusiasm. He has a good frame to add weight but with his strength, speed, agility, and athleticism he is a very versatile player that projects at end but could be utilized any where along the line. He is very high on the Gators and they are certainly in the driver’s seat here.

At defensive tackle, the top target on the board is Trenton Thompson from Albany, GA Westover high school. Thompson, 6’3 290, is one of the top recruits in the nation and a consensus five star defensive tackle who is considered the fifth best player overall by ESPN recruiting nation. He is a thick bodied block eating run stuffer with good quickness and agility and great pass rushing skills. He sheds blockers with ease using great technique and maintaining good pad level and looks naturally suited to play the 3 technique in a 4-3. He’s been to Gainesville a few times already and the Gators certainly have a chance but Georgia would have to be considered the favorite here.

Linebacker is a position the Gators should be loading up on in the coming cycle and this shapes up to be a banner year at the position. One player the Gators are making a big push for is Roquan Smith out of Macon County high in Montezuma, GA. Smith, 6’2 205, is a tackling machine with great instincts. He’s athletic enough to play receiver in high school and has good football speed. As a sophomore and junior Smith combined for 212 tackles, 40 for loss, six sacks, three force fumbles, nine interceptions and seven touchdowns from his middle linebacker position. He did visit Florida a couple of weekends ago but realistically the Gators may be hard pressed to steal this one from Auburn, Alabama, or Georgia.

Isaiah Prince is a five star offensive tackle from Maryland that is atop the Gators board. (Scout)

Isaiah Prince is a five star offensive tackle from Maryland that is atop the Gators board. (Scout)

The Gators are always looking for top offensive tackle talent and this cycle will be no different. One guy the Gators are real high on is Isaiah Prince from Eleanor Roosevelt high in Greenbelt, MD. Another cycle, another five star tackle named Prince from Maryland. Unlike with Damien, who the Gators got on late, and ultimately lost out on to home state Maryland, they have built a great early relationship with Isaiah. Prince, 6’6 290 has the size and length that the Gators covet at tackle with great footwork. While they have set themselves up well with Prince who admittedly likes the Gators and the SEC, Maryland and Penn State are the main competition for his services.

At tight end, Devonaire Clarington from Westminister Christian school in Miami is atop the Gators board, and likely everyone else’s for the position. Clarington, 6’6 220, is one of the top tight ends in the nation and grew up a Gator fan. He visited Florida last summer for Friday Night Lights and really caught the staff’s attention with his solid route running and great hands. He is a big target with a frame to add another 20-30 pounds and the staff is really high on him. The Gators have built a strong relationship with Clarington but a lot of schools are in play here including Georgia, where good friend Gilbert Johnson recently signed. The Gators really need to show offensive improvement this season including at the tight end position, however, if they want to sign this one.

2015 shapes up as one of the deepest classes in recent memory and the Gators have really set themselves up well with a lot of top recruits. Depending upon the amount of attrition next season, the Gators will have upwards 20-25 scholarships available for 2015. If they have the season I expect them to have the Gators will likely have a top five recruiting class and battle for the top spot. Stay tuned to Swamp Music for the Friday Five and the latest in FREE news, analysis, and opinion related to Florida Gator recruiting and athletics.

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