Florida Gators Recruiting: J.C. Jackson Sticks with Commitment

The one Florida commit that seemed the most likely to flip has stuck with the Gators. J.C. Jackson has signed with Florida after all.

J.C. Jackson, Florida Gators

Jackson wavered through most of his recruitment and it was largely due to being very confused about the decision he had to make. Having committed to the Gators after decommitting from Florida State, Jackson was pursued heavily by both FSU and Miami. He could have signed with any one of the three schools and it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

What was a surprise was a last-minute, unexpected visit to Florida this past weekend. Jackson wanted to take in the school one more time. Evidently, he may have been doing one final check to be sure he had made the right choice.

On Wednesday morning, Florida received a signed Letter of Intent from Jackson. The Immokalee, FL (Immokalee) defensive back will be a Gator.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Offensive Lineman Andrew Mike Flips from Vanderbilt

Florida was hard at work on the eve of National Signing Day. The Gators added a sixth offensive lineman as part of the 2014 recruiting class in the form of Andrew Mike who flipped his commitment from Vanderbilt.

Andrew Mike, Florida Gators

Mike was not a member of the Commodores’ recruiting class for long, having committed to Vandy on Monday after an official visit to the school over the weekend. Then Florida came calling. The Gators reached out to Mike on Monday night, further expressing their interest in having him join their class. It didn’t take long for the offensive lineman to change his mind and on Tuesday night he committed to Florida.

The 6’7″, 270-pound Mike projects to offensive tackle at the college level. The height is there, but the weight needs to come. He is a three-star prospect across the board, ranking as the nation’s No. 60 offensive tackle according to Rivals and No. 61 according to 247. ESPN and Scout are a little higher on Mike than the others, putting him at No. 32 and No. 44 respectively at his position.

Despite having six offensive lineman as a part of the class, the Gators may not be done. Florida has a strong chance of adding four-star offensive tackle Derrick Kelly Jr. on National Signing Day.

Florida Gators 68 – Missouri Tigers 58: Gators Victorious in Chris Walker’s Debut

A strong second half powered Florida to it’s 14th-straight win. The Gators defeated Missouri 68-58 in freshman forward Chris Walker’s orange and blue debut.

Chris Walker, Florida Gators

As expected, Walker was brought along slowly. The freshman was on the court for just seven minutes, but played well enough that he will be sure to be seeing more time soon. Walker finished with four points on two dunks that brought the crowd in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to its feet. Walker also added two defensive rebounds, two blocks, and two personal fouls.

“Just happy he can finally get on the floor and contribute a little bit,” head coach Billy Donovan said.

While all eyes were on Walker, Florida’s best performances of the night came from guards Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II. Wilbekin played 36 of 40 minutes and finished with 19 points after going 13-of-16 from the free-throw line. Frazier II added four three-pointers and finished with 14 points.

While freshman guard Kasey Hill has yet to find his scoring touch since returning from injury in December, he showed marked improvement in distributing the ball. Hill finished with six assists to only one turnover in 21 minutes on the court.

In addition to its 14th-consecutive win, the Gators won their 28th in a row at home. That’s a school record Florida hopes to keep building on.

At 20-2 (9-0 SEC), the No. 3 Gators are two games ahead of 17-5 (7-2 SEC) Kentucky. With Walker added to the mix, Florida has a strong chance of holding on to that lead over the No. 18 Wildcats. The two teams face each other for the first time on February 15, but first up for the Gators is 9-12 (3-5 SEC) Alabama on Saturday, February 8.

Chris Walker to Make Florida Debut Against Missouri

On Tuesday night, freshman forward Chris Walker will finally make his debut. The highly-touted Walker will play in his first game as Florida hosts Missouri.

Chris Walker, Florida Gators

A variety of factors have delayed Walker’s debut for the Gators. He didn’t initially qualify academically and wasn’t able to join the team until December 14. In addition, the NCAA forced Walker to sit out 12 games due to preferential treatment he received during his recruiting. All together, the freshman missed 21 games.

A McDonald’s All-American, Walker was one of the nation’s best players coming out of high school. A five-star prospect, he committed to Florida to join AAU teammate Kasey Hill with the Gators. The duo was expected to make an immediate impact on a team that had been to three consecutive Elite Eights. Their joint debut was delayed, but many think that will be a good thing for Florida in the long run. Many expect Walker to return for his sophomore season.

There is plenty of time between now and then and anything could happen so we won’t count on anything just yet when it comes to the 2014-15 season. For now, we’ll just choose to be happy that Chris Walker has been freed. The talent and potential he brings to a team that already finds itself at No. 3 could mean big things for the Gators.

But, for the moment, baby steps. Head coach Billy Donovan has mentioned that we shouldn’t expect much from Walker early and he speaks the truth. Walker will be brought in as a player that hasn’t appeared in a game that counts for quite some time. His ability isn’t at question, but he will be worked into the lineup in the way that best suits Florida. Walker will surely make an impact, but a measured one in these first few games.

Former Florida Gators’ Star Percy Harvin Wins Super Bowl with Seattle Seahawks

Percy Harvin didn’t return kickoffs during his time with the Florida Gators. The do-everything weapon was reserved to doing almost everything but returning kicks. Then Harvin went to the NFL.

Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks

In four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Harvin returned four kickoffs for touchdowns and twice led the league in kickoff return average. His 2012 average of 35.9 yards per return ranks third all-time; not in team history, in NFL history.

Traded to the Seattle Seahawks before the start of the 2013 season, big things were expected from the dynamic Harvin, but we would see him only touch the ball twice during the regular season. Of course, one of those touches was a 58-yard kickoff return. Even hobbled, Harvin is better than most at the football.

The playoffs came and Harvin was healthy once again, giving the Seahawks a threat barely seen during the regular season. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t return a kick during Seattle’s first game against the New Orleans Saints and would be held out of the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers due to a concussion.

Then came the Super Bowl and a ready-to-go playmaker. Harvin only caught one pass and ran the ball just twice, but oh that kick return. Up 22-0 over the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks hoped to put more points on the board during their first drive of the second half. They wouldn’t have to wait long as Harvin would go 87 yards for the score. It was the fifth touchdown return of his career and by far the biggest of them all.

My obsession with Percy Harvin is no secret. As much talent as there was on the 2006 and 2008 Gators’ national title teams, Harvin was over-the-top special. We may never see such a pure athlete in orange and blue again. There are other names I could mention here that contributed greatly to one or both of those teams, but when Harvin got the ball, you made sure you were watching. Something jaw-dropping was about to happen.

On Sunday night, the oft-injured star made his mark again, this time on football’s biggest stage. Plenty of former Florida players have won the Super Bowl, but last night was Harvin’s moment. Congrats Percy. Go Gators!

Florida Gators 69 – Texas A&M Aggies 36: Win Streak Reaches 13

Is there a sport in which the saying “defense wins championships” doesn’t apply? If so, it’s not college men’s basketball and that’s a good thing for the Florida Gators.

Patric Young, Florida Gators

On Saturday, Florida defeated Texas A&M 69-36. The win was the 13th in a row for No. 3 Florida and that streak could continue for quite some time. The 19-2 (8-0 SEC) Gators only have two games remaining on their regular season schedule against ranked opponents. Both of those contests pit Florida against Kentucky. It could be smooth sailing for the Gators between now and the NCAA Tournament and this team is good enough to make some serious noise come March.

Holding the Aggies to less than a point per minute is impressive; holding Texas A&M to less than 26% from the field may be more so. Not every game will go this way, but the Gators’ defense is an unmatched strength in the SEC. While there is talent elsewhere in the conference, Florida is benefiting from a down year all around. That’s not to take anything away from the Gators, but were at that point that anything less than both a regular season SEC title and conference tourney title would be a disappointment.

Florida was led by sophomore guard Michael Frazier II who led all scorers with 21 points. Only sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith joined Frazier II in the double-digit scoring club, but that didn’t matter much as not a single Aggie scored more than seven points.

Finney-Smith was one rebound away from a double-double, while senior center Patric Young was one point away from the same. Young led all players with 14 rebounds. Senior forward Will Yeguete also had a double-digit rebounding outing with 10.

Despite the big win, head coach Billy Donovan was ever the realist. “We haven’t even played half our league games yet,” Donovan said.

He’s right of course, but it’s exciting to see this team seemingly improve with every game. It’s scary to the rest of the nation that the Gators are about to get even better. On Tuesday, against Missouri, highly-touted freshman forward Chris Walker will finally make his debut.

The Super Bowl Giveth, The Super Bowl Taketh Away

Tomorrow, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will compete in the Super Bowl. Once the game is over, so will be football.

Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks

For some of us, that may be a good thing. The Florida Gators posted a record of 4-8 during the 2013 regular season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won as many games despite having four more chance to add to their victory total. That’s eight combined wins for the teams I consider myself a fan of. Eight total wins and 20 losses. The end of the current football season can’t come soon enough for me.

I will miss it of course. I’m not completely dead inside. I will miss the victories, though few and far between recently. I will miss the anticipation and hope. I will miss those that stuck together in all kinds of weather. But there is plenty I won’t miss.

I won’t miss poor offensive play, and poor is a nice way to put it. I won’t miss injuries. I won’t miss coaching hot seats. I won’t miss the fan 20 years my senior that hates Jeff Driskel with a passion reserved for, well, I can’t really imagine where you find that kind of hate within you. I won’t miss losing two or three times as many games as you win.

Luckily, football never really comes to an end. Mere days after the Super Bowl is National Signing Day–a recruiting fan’s dream date. Following NSD, we gear up for the NFL Draft. During the summer, we talk recruiting and anticipation and hope begins to build again. All along, if you’re so inclined, you can bet on the upcoming season (find the latest odds online with Betfair). The games may end, but football doesn’t.

Tomorrow, the final game of the 2013 season is played. For us Gators, we have Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell and Jeremy Mincey to cheer for. One team will be wearing orange and blue, even if their quarterback could never beat Florida. We have 60 minutes of game time left. 60 minutes before the offseason truly begins and hope returns.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Athlete Deiondre Porter Commits to Florida

Jefferson has been good to Florida. The Tampa, FL high school gave the Gators the Caldwell brothers and has now given Florida it’s latest star, Deiondre Porter. Porter committed to the Gators on Monday night over Central Florida, Miami, and South Florida. If Porter turns out to be anything like Reche Caldwell–another Jefferson quarterback turned Gators’ wide receiver–we’ll be looking back fondly at his career one day.

Deiondre Porter, Florida Gators

What position Porter does play at Florida remains to be seen, but wide receiver is as good of a guess as any other. However, there are also many who believe Porter will end up playing defensive back as his raw athletic ability could turn him into a better-than-average cornerback. The Gators have some experience with one of those as well. Joe Haden came to Florida as a quarterback-turned-athlete. He turned into one of college football’s better cornerbacks. All Haden has done since is be selected to the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl while making his first All-Pro team as a second team selection. Porter has two great former Gators to model himself after, depending on which side of the ball he ends up on.

As for where he wants to play, Porter said during his announcement that he’ll play wherever Florida coaches feel he’ll help the team the most. It’s a good guess that Will Muschamp and staff will evaluate further once he gets to Gainesville to find the best place for him and the team.

A one-time USF commit, Porter reopened his recruitment upon receiving offers from the Gators and Hurricanes. When he visit went well this past weekend, it was a good indication he would commit to Florida. Porter becomes the 22nd member of the Gators’ 2014 recruiting class.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Athlete Deiondre Porter to Announce Monday Night

Tampa, FL (Jefferson) athlete Deiondre Porter is ready to commit. The former South Florida commit, will make his announcement on Monday night at 6:00pm and will be deciding between Central Florida, Florida, Miami, and South Florida. For those of you in the greater Tampa Bay area, the announcement will be shown live on Bright House Sports Network.

Deiondre Porter

Receiving offers from the Gators and the Hurricanes was a turning point for Porter. Previously committed to the Bulls, he decided to take another look around when the state’s bigger programs came calling. Porter scheduled an official visit to Florida almost immediately and decided he was ready to announce shortly after. The timing of the visit to Gainesville and his upcoming announcement Monday night has led many to believe he will be committing to the Gators.

Porter’s visit went well, very well. He gave Florida high marks and stressed the opportunity the coaching staff mentioned he will be given. With all going about as well as it could, the Gators may find themselves with another commit come Monday night.

While playing a lot of quarterback at Jefferson, Porter is listed as an athlete and that’s exactly what the Gators want him to be. Will Muschamp and the staff feel he has the versatility to play a variety of positions and they would want to get him on campus and in practice before deciding where to ultimately put him.

Porter receives three stars from each of the major recruiting services. In addition to athlete, 247 lists him as a dual-threat quarterback while ESPN has him listed as a pocket passer. While he did pass for 3,199 yards during his senior season, he also rushed for 1,499, giving 247 the edge when it comes to evaluating Porter as a quarterback. Scout believes he could also play safety and ranks him as the nation’s No. 30 prospect at the position. The 247 Composite ranks Porter at the No. 124 athlete and No. 1,353 prospect overall.

While some of those rankings may seem lower than the average fan’s liking, Porter’s raw athletic ability is what has the Gators interested. Florida feels he can grow at the next level and, once given a permanent position, excel.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Defensive Tackle Thomas Holley Flips from Penn State

The latest flip is in and it’s a big one; nearly 300 pounds big. Brooklyn, NY (Abraham Lincoln) defensive tackle Thomas Holley has decommitted from Penn State and committed to Florida. While not an overwhelming surprise, it is a pleasant gift all the same.

Thomas Holley, Florida Gators

Holley originally committed to the Nittany Lions due to the relationship he had built with then Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien and defensive line coach Larry Johnson. When O’Brien left for the NFL’s Houston Texans and Johnson departed for Ohio State, Holley rethought the decision. Penn State’s loss suddenly became Florida’s gain.

Rather than completely reopen his recruitment, Holley went with his long-time number two—the Gators. The defensive tackle mentioned his relationship with Florida head coach Will Muschamp and the Gators’ staff as the main reason for his switch. Holley didn’t want to have to develop new relationships with new coaches when all along he could have seen himself comfortable coming to Gainesville.

While there is still time remaining in the 2014 recruiting cycle, Holley has said he is done. He has shut down his recruitment and will remain committed to Florida. As is always the case with recruiting, that sentiment can change, but it’s good to hear all the same.

Holley is widely considered to be one of the top defensive tackles in the 2014 class. 247, ESPN and Rivals all have him within the top three in the nation at the position; 247 even gives Holley five stars. He is joined on Florida’s 2014 commitment list by defensive linemen Taven Bryan (already enrolled), Khairi Clark, Justus Reed, and Gerald Willis III.