Another Huge Recruiting Weekend On Tap For Florida Gators

With spring practice well underway at Florida, the Gators staff is hosting a number of talented recruits each weekend. This weekend is no different as a trio of top 100 recruits are visiting. 

The highest rated visitor is five star SDE Shavar Manuel from IMG Academy in Bradenton (FL). Manuel (6-265) is the top ranked defensive end in the nation and the number eleven overall recruit according to 247sports. 

He’s considered a strong lean to FSU, where he was previously erroneously reported to have committed, but is trying to visit a number of schools over the next few weeks.

Expect coach Mac and his staff to pull out the red carpet this weekend for Manuel in an attempt to solidify the Gators in his recruitment.

While not the highest rated recruit, perhaps the most important visitor this weekend might be QB Dwayne Haskins (6-3 185) from the Bullis School in Potomac (MD). The reason is QB depth is not quite where the staff would like it to be.

The Gators did not sign a quarterback last cycle leaving them only with only true sophomore Treon Harris, redshirt freshman Will Grier, and junior Skylar Mornhinweg on the depth chart, with the latter likely remaining a career backup. 

As a result, it’s imperative the staff sign a QB for numbers sake this cycle. For continuity and the sake of competition, it’s even more important they recruit a talented player at the position. 

Haskins fits that bill nicely as a consensus top 100 (#64) recruit and the number five pro-style quarterback nationally according to 247sports composite rankings. 

The good news for Gator fans is that he appeared to enjoy his visit.

At this point it appears Haskins is the top QB on the Gators board and it’s important to watch moving forward to see if he does indeed take another visit to Gainesville.

Finally, another top 100 recruit out of the state of Maryland in Gainesville this weekend is wide receiver Trevon Diggs, (6-0 183) from The Avalon School in Rockville (MD), who visited with Haskins.

If the name is familiar to Gator fans it’s because he’s the younger brother of Stefon Diggs, a top recruit himself as a high school senior and was a top Gator target at the time.

In the never ending search for playmakers particularly at wideout, Diggs is a difference maker and a player the staff would love to sign.

Diggs is the #5 rated athlete nationally and the #86 rated player overall according to 247sports composite rankings.

He seemed to enjoy his visit as well.

The staff has done a great job of building early momentum so far bringing in commitments each weekend for three weekends in a row. While the staff has focused thus far almost exclusively in-state, these are two players they would love to cherry pick from out-of-state. 


Florida Gators Pick Up Another Commitment

The Florida Gators continue to pick up steam on the recruiting trail. 

After closing fast on last cycle’s class with little advance preparation, the momentum created has appeared to carry over into this recruiting cycle with the Gators picking up a commitment early Friday from Orlando Oak Ridge ATH Tyrek Tisdale (6-1 200).

His commitment had been expected for a couple weeks as he has taken multiple trips to Gainesville and is tight with a few of Florida’s other commitments including Chauncey Gardner and Spencer Perry.  

New head coach Jim McElwain and his staff has made recruiting the state of Florida their top priority as the Gators in-state recruiting efforts had fallen behind the last several years.

The excitement the new staff has built, particularly on offense, is paying early dividends as the Gators already have eight commitments, one more than they had last cycle when coach Mac took over at Florida, and it’s still only March.

The excitement level is certainly rising in Gainesville with fans and with recruits. It’s a direct reflection of the excitement level of this new staff.

Gator Chomp: Second Junior Day Lands Two More Commits for Florida Gators

For the second time in as many weekends, the Florida Gators landed two commitments on Friday when Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy safety Spencer Perry and Palm Beach (FL) Dwyer receiver Isaiah Johnson both pulled the trigger. 

The commitments were expected as Perry has been considered a Gator lean for a while and Johnson took a return trip to Gainesville after decomitting from Miami after last weekend’s visit to UF. 

Perry (6-2 195) is a hard hitting safety who many have compared to NFL and former Gator safety Major Wright. 

The Auburn (AL) native committed to the Gators over the hometown Tigers after a return visit to UF, this time accompanied by his parents.

Johnson (6-4 210) is a big physical receiver with good ball skills. He finished last season with 36 catches for 641 yards and five touchdowns.

He is the second receiver commit for the Gators in the 2016 class along with Rick Wells and the seventh overall. 

Three Things To Watch As Florida Gators Open Spring Practice

For Florida Gators fans and alumni, the long wait between national signing day and spring practice comes to an end on Monday. With a whole new coaching staff but many of the same players from last season’s 7-6 squad, there are a host of unknowns coming into spring practice. 

Of course, the question on everyone’s mind, who will be the starting quarterback, most likely will not be answered this spring. Heck it may not even be settled by the start of next season. So forget about that. 

All three quarterbacks, Treon Harris who took over for the failing Jeff Driskel late in the season as a true freshman, Will Grier who redshirted his freshman season after being named Parade Magazine’s national player of the year as a high school senior, and third year scrub Skyler Morninweg will all likely see fairly equal reps through spring practice as offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and head coach Jim McElwain use these 15 practices to evaluate what type of talent they have at the position.

So in the absence of deciding a victor in the quarterback competition, let’s take a look at three important things to look for as the Florida Gators begin spring practice.

1) Who will step up at tight end and how will the new staff utilize the position.  

I know everyone’s yakking about the shortage of offensive lineman, there will be only 7 healthy scholarship lineman heading into spring practice, but like the qb competition, nothing will be decided in spring at that spot.

This is where the tight end position could be important. For one, coach Mac and coach Nuss both have a history of utilizing the tight end not only in the passing game but also as extra blockers. They often utilize two tight ends to get extra big bodies in the running game as well work the seams in play action. 

Coach Mac alluded somewhat to the importance of the position in last week’s pre-spring practice media conference. 

“We’ve got a good group of tight ends,” McElwain said. “I’m talking about from a numbers standpoint, that are going to allow us to kind of move in the direction we want to offensively with those guys kind of handling a lot of load.”

One player likely to compete for the starting TE spot is graduate transfer Jake McGee. The former Virginia tight end sat out last season at Florida after being sidelined by a broken leg injury in the first game and as a result was granted a sixth year of eligibility.

However, while he’s expected to become a starter in Doug Nussmeier’s offense, it won’t happen during spring practice as he is still rehabbing his injury.

“Jake (McGee) will be in a lot of drills, [but] he will not be in any live action,” McElwain said. “He just won’t be in any scrimmage or live drills.”

Behind him, though, is a hodge podge of young, largely unproductive players. True sophomore DeAndre Goolsby (6-4 236) is the only returning player besides McGee who has taken any snaps for the Gators. However, while appearing in seven games as a true freshman, he didn’t record any stats.

Redshirt freshmen C’yontai Lewis (6-4 229) and Moral Stephens (6-3 245) along with true freshman early enrollee Daniel Imatorbhebhe (6-3 225) will all receive plenty of snaps in spring practice and get ample opportunity to impress the staff.

More importantly, perhaps, fans will get a look at how the staff intends to incorporate a position that has been the Gators least productive over the last two seasons into their new offense.

“It is up to us (Gators coaching staff) to strengthen that position,” McElwain said. “We’ve got a great coach (Greg Nord) there that has coached it for a long, long time and part of that reason is I knew what we needed to do at that spot.”

“So it will be interesting moving forward, but we have numbers at that spot,” McElwain added. “That’s one of the spots from pure numbers [which] is actually pretty good.” 

2) Who will step up at linebacker?

While the shortage in numbers along the offensive line have been well publicized, the Gators aren’t very deep at linebacker either as they have signed only one player at the position over the last two recruiting cycles. 

Compounding the shortage for spring practice, starting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison is out rehabbing an injury. What that means is the four linebackers signed in the highly rated 2013 class need to step up big time this spring. 

Jarred Davis showed flashes of being a top talent as a true freshman but appeared to take a step backwards last season. Like Morrison, however, Davis is still nursing an injury and it’s unclear how much he’ll be able to go in spring practice.

“They’re (Davis and DE Bryan Cox) injured,” McElwain dead panned when asked about Davis’ status.

As far as availability this spring he responded, “that’s something [for] trainers [to handle] and day-to-day you’ll get the injury report.”

He added, “they’re hurt so there’s a pretty good chance they won’t practice much, but we’ve got to get them healthy.”

Two highly rated guys who’ve done little to this point for different reasons are Daniel McMillan and Matt Rolin. 

McMillan was the top guy on the previous staff’s board in the 2013 cycle but head scratchingly hasn’t been able to crack the lineup since arriving on campus. The Gators will need him to step up big time this upcoming season and spring practice is a good place to start.

Rolin has been the victim of injuries. He came to Florida nursing a knee injury which he reinjured before ever starting a down. It may be now or never time for him to get on the field with the linebacker shortage the Gators are facing.

No one, however, may be more important to step up for the Gators than former five star recruit Alex Anzalone (6-3 224). He’s gotten some valuable reps on defense and on special teams but to date he hasn’t been able to produce at the level expected of such a highly rated recruit.

 He must become productive if the Gators have a shot to return to past glory defensively as linebacker is certainly the weak link for them. How well he picks up a new scheme and new coaching during spring practice may well determine how successful this unit can become next fall.

3) How will a retooled offense look and who will step up as featured players?

Considering how anemic Florida’s offense has been since the end of the 2009 season, the focus of fans and media will certainly be on the offense and what kind of identity they’ll seek to establish under McElwain and Nussmeier. 

Of course, fans shouldn’t be too excited as the shortage of lineman will make it difficult for the staff to fully implement a new system. 

In fact, it’s likely the staff will focus more on getting to know each player and their specific abilities and working on fundamentals and player development rather than system installation. 

For an offense that has been highly offensive to Gator fans the last few seasons, work on fundamentals is likely of utmost importance right now.

“You want me to tell you what I’m really nervous about?” McElwain said. “I have nightmares about the inability to get out of a huddle. Because some of these guys have never huddled.”

“Taking a snap from center… Is a novel concept,” he added. “[pass] Routes on air, I just hope we complete one. That’s what I’m excited about that first day of practice.”

Despite this, fans should be able to gain a little insight to how the offense may look in the fall.

“The key is making sure we get as much work done as we can with as many people as we can,” Mcelwain said. “To kind of establish who we are, what we’re all about, and which direction we’re going to head with this football team as we move in from spring ball into summer session.”

With a lot of young talent at the skill positions, fans will also be looking to see which players might be featured in the new offense as well.

One player in particular to watch out for is Brandon Powell.  The speedy, versatile true sophomore split duties last season as both a running back and receiver. However, McElwain made it clear that they will utilize him primarily as a receiver.

“Moving forward probably [the] biggest [issue] is to kind of figure out exactly where Brandon Powell’s going to kind of fit [in the new offense] from a wide receiver/running back [standpoint],” according to McElwain. “Where he kind of played both a little bit [last season]. Primarily we’re going to put him at wideout and give us an opportunity there. You kind of do a guy a disservice when you try to do both.”

A couple others to watch will be wide receivers Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood. While Robinson has made some significant plays in his time at Florida, Fulwood has been largely overlooked. He’s a big target at 6-4 and both McElwain and Nussmeier have shown a propensity for utilizing bigger, speedy receivers in the downfield passing game. It will be fun to watch how they’re able to utilize these guys.

Football is back in Gainesvile if only for a fortnight, but the excitement levels among fans and alumni are through the roof.

Stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest updates as we roll through the first spring practice under Coach Mac and company.

Gator Chomp: Coach Mac and Company Doing Work, Pick Up Two More 2016 Commitments

The Florida Gators new coaching staff hosted their first junior day of the 2016 recruiting cycle on Saturday and it has already paid dividends. The Gators picked up two commitments, first from Jacksonville (FL) Raines DE Jaquan Bailey and then followed by Cocoa (FL) CB Chauncey Gardner.

Bailey, rated a three star player by 247sports, is an under the radar type player at this point. He’s raw but athletic and is very versatile equally adept at playing with his hands down at defensive end or dropping into coverage as an outside linebacker.

 At 6-2 235 he’s somewhat undersized but has a good frame to add weight. Despite his smallish stature he projects more as a weak side defensive end at Florida. 

He’s a high school teammate of current Gator wide receiver commit Rick Wells who was also visiting this weekend and certainly that had to help the Gators.

Bailey came to Florida this weekend without a Gators offer but committed once he received news of the offer.

Gardner (6-0 194) is a former Gator commit who backed off his pledge just before signing day for the 2015 cycle. He cited the lack of knowledge of the new staff as his reason for opening up his commitment at the time.

The new staff has done a great job getting back in on his recruitment and after securing a visit this weekend they were able to coax him into recommitting to the Gators. 

With #1 corner Vernon Hargreaves expected to leave for the NFL draft after next season, it’s important the Gators sign 2-3 top corner prospects this cycle. Gardner fits that bill as he is a Rivals Top 100 player and a consensus four star prospect.

With the two today, the Gators now have five commitments overall for the 2016 class. The Gators, who start spring practice next week, will be hosting a large contingent of top prospects over the next couple weeks so expect to see a few more commitments coming in soon.