Friday Night Lights 2015: Gators Pick Up 3 Commits, a Possible Fourth, Move Up In Manuel Sweepstakes: updated 7/25

      
    Wow, what a day! 

    Despite the rain, which cut the workout portion short, Florida’s showcase event, Friday Night Lights, was a rousing success.  

    The Gators picked up three commitments on the afternoon, two for the 2016 cycle, and one for 2017. They also may have picked up a fourth possibly silent commit.

    Meridian (MS)  defensive back Quincy Lenton (6-0 190) led off the commitment parade making his pledge public long before the start of workouts. He seemingly couldn’t wait to commit upon arriving in Gainesville. 

    The three players mentioned in the tweet are all Gator commits: CB Chauncey Gardner, ATH Tyrek Tisdale, and receiver Rick Wells all 2016 recruits along with 2017 QB commit Jake Allen. All four attended FNL.

    If home is truly where the heart is then his heart is certainly in the Swamp!

    Lenton’s commitment was not unexpected as the former Mississippi State commit has a long and deep relationship with defensive coordinator Geoff Collins who recruited him initially at MSU before taking the Gators job. 

    While considered a three star recruit in the 247sports composite rankings, Lenton is a great pickup for the Gators. He is a versatile athlete with length, athleticism, and toughness.

    He projects as a safety but he can play at nickel and corner as well. While not the fastest DB he has good football speed, is good in space, and has a knack for making plays.

    Get a glimpse of the new commit here in an interview with The Gainesville Sun recruiting reporter Zach Abolverdi. 

    Next up to offer their public pledge was 2017 wide receiver Daquon Green who also wasted little time committing upon his arrival on campus.

    His mother seemingly gave his intentions away with a twitter handle of @AlligatorChick tweeting shortly after making it to UF with Daquon.

    Green, a four star recruit, is a stud receiver and a fantastic pick up for Coach Mac as he rebuilds the Gator offense. He becomes the fourth member of the Gators 2017 recruiting class and the third recruit in the ESPN Junior 300. 

    At 6-1 185 with a chiseled physique, he looks the part of an SEC receiver despite just being a junior in high school. He has fantastic hands able to catch the ball in traffic as well as being able to go up and fight for the high balls and deep balls.

    Perhaps, more importantly he’s a good kid who fits Coach Mac’s mold on and off the field.

    Finally, the Gators picked up a huge commitment from 2016 center Brett Heggie. The Nike Opening participant has been rumored to be on commitment watch since visiting the Gators campus last month. 

    Many expected he wouldn’t leave FNL without committing and they were not to be let down.

    Besides his commitment, perhaps the biggest news was his weight upon arrival to FNL.

    The new staff has been working feverishly to rebuild a depleted offensive line with bigger, stronger recruits. That’s necessary in order to employ coach Mac’s version of smash mouth football reminiscent of his time as offensive coordinator at Alabama where he coached two NFL first round draft picks (Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson) at running back, one of which was a Heisman winner (Ingram). 

    Heggie, who possibly could fight for playing time as a true freshman due to a dearth of talent at center, had been rumored to be smallish in the 260-270 range but dispelled all fan fears with his weigh-in on Friday. 

    His stock has certainly been rising particularly since he was able to hold his own at The Opening against the top defensive line talent in the nation.

    Why Florida?

    “I just felt most comfortable here at Florida,” Heggie told GatorCountry’s Andrew Spivey. “Not only with the campus and the university but also with the coaching staff. Florida is a special place to be.”

    Indeed.

    Heggie makes commitment number 16 for the Gators 2016 recruiting class and their third offensive line commit. 

    Check out his Zach Alboverdi interview here.

    With three public commitments on the day, speculation was rampant across the Twitterverse on a possible fourth, silent commitment.

    It began after Coach Mac tweeted his now infamous bat signal he uses to signify commitments. 

    If you’re playing along at home that’s four ChompChomp’s instead of the three that went public.

    Did the coach make a simple mistake or is there possibly a fourth commit who wasn’t ready to go public yet?

    Speculation focused on linebacker Jeremiah Moon from Hoover (AL) who had been on commitment watch himself coming into FNL.

    A tweet from defensive coordinator Geoff Collins further fueled speculation that it was a defensive player.

    Then there’s this.

    But, despite all the guesswork, Moon left FNL without a public commitment.

    So stay tuned boys and girls and hold on to your hats. It should be a wild, bumpy ride to signing day.

    Speaking of wild, perhaps some even bigger and certainly somewhat bizarre news coming out of FNL was the announcement that five star defensive end Shavar Manuel has an all SEC top three which includes Florida but surprisingly does not include FSU his assumed leader and the school holding over 80% of the crystal ball picks.

    While shocking, Manuel explained that he sees himself as an SEC type player. 

    If true, this would preclude him signing with the Noles. Of course, in recruiting the old rule about watch what recruits do, not what they say holds true to this day. 

    He does, however, seem to have built a very strong relationship with defensive line coach Chris Rumph and Florida  very well could be in the driver’s seat here.

    While there’s still a long way to go until signing day, Gator fans have to feel good about their chances of landing this top prospect. 

    If so this could be the new staff’s signature defensive line recruit, continuing a long history of top defensive line talent in Gainesville going all the way back to the days of Charley Pell.

    And with Jonathan Bullard graduating after next season to become another likely first round draft pick from Florida, Manuel could prove to be the new bookend with 2015 five star defensive end CeCe Jefferson.

    Regardless, FNL 2015 was a rousing success and, in the words of Florida Director of Player Personnel Drew Hughes, the Gators definitely got better on Friday.

    *** The fourth commit for the Gators from FNL did finally pop on Saturday as Hoover (AL) OLB Jeremiah Moon made his verbal pledge to the Gators public. 

    Moon (6-4 205) is a long, lean tackling machine from a strong high school program. Libebacker is a position of immediate need for the Gators as they are very low on numbers having signed only one since loading up on four three cycles ago. 

    While seemingly underweight, Moon is quick and agile and plays much bigger than his size. He’s quick to the hole, a sure-handed tackler, plays well in space, and has a high football IQ.

    He should be well suited for what defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and linebackers coach Randy Shannon want to do at the position.

    His commitment brings the total to 17 for the 2016 recruiting cycle.

    Check out his highlights here.

    Florida Gators Reel In Top 2017 Target

    “Recruit daily or die”

    Jim McElwain

    The McElwain Train continues to pick up steam.

    When new Florida Gators head football coach Jim McElwain took the reins of the program he immediately went to work shoring up the 2015 recruiting class which had a paltry 8 low rated commitments, finishing with a respectable top 20 class.

    Perhaps, even more importantly, however, he went to work building relationships for the 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes as well.

    With only two realistic options at quarterback on the roster (redshirt freshman Will Grier and true sophomore Treon Harris) coach Mac tried fruitlessly to reel in a top target at QB last cycle.

    To date, they’ve fallen short of any of their top targets for 2016 as well with one remaining on the board (Dillon Sterling-Cole from Houston Westlake).

    Not to worry Gator fans as the staff was able to reel in a big fish on Wednesday for the 2017 class when Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas QB Jake Allen pulled the trigger for Florida.

    “It was a dream offer 100 percent. I’ve always dreamed of going to Florida,” Allen told Andrew Spivey of Gatorcountry.com.

    So what are the Gators getting with Allen?

    To begin with, they’re getting a player first and foremost.

    His stock has been skyrocketing after winning MVP of the inaugural Rivals Quarterback Challenge last month.

    Shortly after taking home the hardware from Rivals, he received his “dream offer” from the Gators after seeing him throw live at their camp.

    Allen (6-3 193) is a tall, rangy pro-style QB with a strong arm and solid mechanics.

    What really stands out on tape, however, is his ball placement. He’s not only very accurate, he has a knack for throwing a catchable ball and putting it where his receivers can get it and make plays after the catch.

    He has a great tutor in former Gator and Marshall Thundering Herd Division II-A national championship winning QB Eric Kresser who had to be pleased with Allen’s commitment.

    Kresser tutors Allen for his company Kresser Passing Academy.

    Secondly, and equally important, the Gators are getting an early bellwether for the 2017 recruiting class. Great classes almost inevitably require a leader who isn’t just a top talent but possesses the charisma to help recruit other top players to join him.Β A good example is the Gators 2006 class which skyrocketed up the rankings after the charismatic Tim Tebow announced for the Gators. Top linebacker talent Brandon Spikes famously mentioned that he signed with the Gators because he was going wherever Tebow was going.

    Not only do top programs need top talent but top players want to play with other top players, particularly at QB.

    With two solid young players already competing on campus, Allen’s commitment takes some pressure off the staff to sign a top guy this cycle although they will continue to recruit Sterling-Cole for depth and competition purposes. If this staff has shown anything it’s that they will work tirelessly to overcome roster shortcomings.

    Theres an old cliche that a coaches third class is his most important. The first class is almost always a waste as the staff tries to hold what it inherits and simoly tries to shore it up. The second class, particularly now with recruitng beginning earlier every year, is often also difficult as the new staff is still behind at relatiinship building with recruits.

    The third class, which in coach Mac’s case is the 2017 cycle, is the first one in which they are on equal footing. And with Allen comfortably in the fold everything looks rosy for the Gators. With a solid product on the field in the fall, particularly on offense, expect the 2017 floodgates to begin to open up for the Gators.

    Allen is the second commitment for the Gators 2017 class along with wideout Lavarus Tigner.

    Another Huge Recruiting Weekend On Tap For Florida Gators

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    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.

    https://twitter.com/dh_simba7/status/581561258173968384

    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.

    https://twitter.com/trevondiggs/status/581549670423498752

    https://twitter.com/dh_simba7/status/581551144775843841

    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

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    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).

    https://twitter.com/tyrektisdale/status/581489492105760770

    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.

    https://twitter.com/coachmcelwain/status/581490148195581953

    https://twitter.com/coachcollins/status/581489655503306752

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

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    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. 

    https://twitter.com/black___jesus7/status/579054996660039680

    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. 

    https://twitter.com/zaylive21/status/579076389283835904

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

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

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    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.

    http://youtu.be/vQR4wDplcUg

    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. 

    http://youtu.be/3JVtQKdF0a8

    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.

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    Randy Shannon Paying Immediate Dividends For The Florida Gators, Picks Up Two Commitments

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    When new head coach Jim McElwain took over the reins of the Florida Gators football program he stressed the point of regaining a recruiting presence in the talent laden areas of Florida, Miami in particular.

    To that end, his first position coach hire was Randy Shannon. The former Miami Hurricanes head coach has spent almost his entire career in Miami, first as a star linebacker on a national championship squad, then as an assistant, as defensive coordinator, and finally as head coach.

    While his time as head coach was largely forgettable in the win/loss column, his ties to the high school programs in and around Miami are deep and are already paying dividends for the Gators.

    After picking up linebacker Rayshad Jackson from Miami (FL) Norland in the last recruiting cycle, Shannon and the Gators picked up two more commitments from Miami on Tuesday when 2016 linebacker Vosean Joseph, also from Norland, and 2016 DE Eric Mitchell from Miami Central both pledged to the Gators.

    Joseph (6-1 210), like Jackson, is an undersized but athletic linebacker whose strength is his speed and versatility.

    Projected as an outside linebacker he could bulk up and play inside as well and could even play as a defensive back in nickel and dime situations.

    Here’s what Larry Blustein of South Florida High School Sports had to say about Joseph:

    “Here is one of those talented athletes who has the chance to be very special because he plays the game fast, strong and at a high level. While he will be a very good offensive player, his instincts on defense certainly will showcase his football skill level. Has very good speed and is not easy to bring down.”

    Mitchell (6-3 225) is another undersized but very athletic player. A good pass rusher with a quick first step, he’s still a little under the radar but called Florida his “dream school” in an interview with 247sports recruiting analyst Ryan Bartow.

    Last season he had 70 tackles, 18 sacks, and an interception. He’s projected as a weak side defensive end at Florida.

    Blustein:

    “After watching him play last year – in a number of games when he was at Miami Jackson – this is indeed a rising junior who has the chance to be very special. While he can play on the offensive side of the ball as a tight end, what he does on defense is going to turn heads in a major way. Mitchell is a tremendous football prospect that will make an impression in the off season and throughout the spring. He is a cat-quick pass rusher who will get after just about anyone.”

    http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2704700/highlights/186402375/v2

    So it hasn’t taken long for Shannon and the Gators to make their presence known not only in south Florida in general but in some of the richest high school programs as well.

    Luther Campbell, the brash and always outspoken former lead man for the hip hop group 2 Live Crew and now defensive coordinator at Norland, has been talking a lot about Florida’s new recruiting presence in Miami.

    A few days ago he tweeted this about Joseph:

    And then this about Mitchell after the Gators offered him:

    And then finally this:

    So fellow Norland alum Shannon has been busy working his old Miami pipelines and the other state schools have been put on notice that the Gators are back with a strong in-state recruiting presence.