This weekend is the first of three final recruiting visit weekends. The Gators will work hard attempting to grab some top uncommitted targets, flip some who are committed to other teams, and locate some under-the-radar players who they hope can come in and exceed expectations.
For Gator fans anxious for some positive news on the recruiting front, this may very well be a Maalox weekend as some of their top targets are visiting elsewhere. Specifically, there are four players nervous Gator fans need to keep an eye on this weekend.
One guy that could be on watch as a possible flip this weekend is the Gators top rated commit, Derrick Dillon (5-11 173) from Franklinton (LA). The four star receiver has been committed to the Gators since last May, but recently decided to give the home state school a look after finally receiving an offer from them back in November.
“It was important for me to get (the offer) because I’m an in-state kid,” Dillon was quoted in an article by Andrew Lopez on NOLA.com. “(LSU) used to be my favorite school back in the day.”
The Gators seemed to slip a little after Will Muschamp was fired, but it appears new head coach Jim McElwain has done a great job of answering his questions, shoring up his recruitment, and keeping the Gators in the lead.
“I thought LSU during the last contact period made up as much ground as they could in that time,” Dillon’s head coach Bradley Seal was quoted in a story by Sonny Shipp of 247sports. “Now, I think since then with the dead period, he has kind of gone back to where he says it’s Florida.”
The biggest question is can they hold off the home state team who has proximity to home and probably friends and family likely pulling him towards LSU. After all, Gainesville is a long way from home to play for a staff with whom he has no real relationship.
The Gators need some playmakers for coach Mac and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to work with and Dillon proved worthy of his high ranking during the Army All American game. He helped lead the West team to victory with three receptions for 57 yards and a TD.
After missing on some top in-state targets, the Gators cannot afford to lose Dillon. Gator fans who follow recruiting will be watching nervously this weekend for any news out of Baton Rouge.
Baton Rouge isn’t the only place the eyes and ears of Gator Nation will be focused this weekend. The Auburn Tigers will be hosting a huge recruiting weekend including three top rated players who all were thought to be Gator locks before the previous coaching staff was let go.
The top guy is the nation’s third ranked prospect overall according to 247sports, Byron Cowart (SDE, 6-4 250). Cowart proved worthy of his national ranking during the Under Armour All American game practices which concluded in a dominant performance in the game and Team Highlight MVP honors.
He certainly made an impression on former NFL head coach Herm Edwards who coached him during Under Armour practices.
“Defensively, he’s a game changer,” Edwards said, “but he goes about his business. He’s a leader and he was our team captain. You could tell by the first day when you’ve got select captains, I’m going that guy right there is going to be a captain.”
Long thought to be a Florida lean, he appears to have wavered somewhat recently. In an interview with Derek Tyson of ESPN, he mentioned that he knew where he was going while talking about the merits of different programs he’s considering and what he is looking for. His statement was somewhat confusing as the rest of the interview he appeared to not have his mind made up.
For his part, he did take to Twitter on Friday to deny reports he’d made up his mind already.
He will be visiting the Tigers this weekend where he’ll meet with former head coach Will Muschamp, now the Tigers defensive coordinator. The Gators have him scheduled to visit Gainesville next weekend, and despite statements that he may visit Alabama or LSU instead instead next weekend, most expect him to make the trip to Florida.
Regardless, Gator nation anxiously awaits his visit to Auburn hoping he doesn’t commit to them while there.
Next up is the top recruit on their linebacker board which is a position of extreme need after not taking any in last years cycle and having none committed to date: Jeffrey Holland (6-2 230) from Jacksonville (FL) Trinity Christian.
Holland has long been at the top of the board for the Gators and for much of his recruitment was considered a Gator lean. That has changed somewhat since Muschamp left and many analysts feel Auburn is the team to beat right now.
While the Gators return a young talented linebacker rotation, they are perilously low on depth and it’s important the Gators reel in Holland, regardless of who else they get, simply to maintain the defensive excellence they’ve established over the years.
He’ll definitely be on flip-watch this weekend as Muschamp and company pull out all the stops to secure his commitment for Auburn.
The final player visiting Auburn this weekend but long thought to be a Gator lean is five star defensive end CeCe Jefferson (6-2 275) from Glen St. Mary (FL).
Jefferson was very close to the previous staff and most assumed it was only a matter of time before he committed. That, of course, was before Muschamp was let go. While he’s always maintained that wouldn’t affect his decision, he has since mentioned Ole Miss as his leader.
“Ole Miss, I would say Ole Miss is my top school right now,” Jefferson said in an article by Cam Smith of USAToday High school Sports. “Ole Miss is great man. Coach (Hugh) Freeze, what he has going is amazing. I took my official when they played Bama and it was like no other. They treated me well. The program’s great. The guys are great and I just know if I go there I’ll get taken care of and they’ll get me prepared for the next level and I’ll get a great education. And plus I know Coach Freeze is going to be there for a while, great stability.”
Whether or not he’s actually serious about Ole Miss or not, he could very well just be playing the game, Gator fans have much more to be nervous about than the Rebels. Particularly this weekend.
Auburn was never much of a player in his recruitment previously, and many think they still are not, but with him tripping on a big recruiting weekend for them alongside Byron Cowart who he’s grown close during the recruiting process and the presence of Muschamp has to make Gator fans nervous.
While he has visited Gainesville too many times to count, it will be interesting to see if he takes an official there to see the new staff. After this weekend, the only official he has scheduled is for January 30th to LSU. It may be important for the staff to get him down next weekend when Cowart visits.
Either way, Gator a Nation will be anxiously awaiting any news out of either Auburn or LSU concerning these top four commits.