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.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Cornerback Jalen Tabor Flips from Arizona

If you want to shock the world, one way to do so is to switch your commitment at the last moment when few saw it coming. Five-star cornerback Jalen Tabor may have done just that, switching his commitment from Arizona to Florida with the intent on enrolling early.

Jalen Tabor, Florida Gators

The initial surprise came less than one week ago when Tabor committed to the Wildcats at the Under Armour All-America game. While shocking, it may not have been as much of a surprise as it seems. Tabor is close friends with high school teammate Jonathan Haden (remember the Hadens?) who has been committed to Arizona since May of last year.

This time around, he attempted to go bigger. Tabor committed to Florida and looks to enroll immediately. Coming in early, and with his level of talent, gives him a great chance to see early playing time. There’s a chance we could see Tabor as much in 2014 as we saw Vernon Hargreaves III in 2013.

Tabor’s commitment comes at a critical time for the Gators. With two of Florida’s top cornerbacks declaring their intentions to leave early and enter the NFL Draft—Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson—the Gators need to reload. Tabor is a perfectly acceptable way to do that.

The 6’1”, 182-pound cornerback is receives five stars from Rivals and four from the other major recruiting services. The 247 composite gives him a score of 0.9873 and puts him as the No. 24 player in the nation and No. 4 CB.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Wide Receiver Isaiah McKenzie Receives Scholarship Offer

A good showing during an all-star game week can do wonders for a recruit. That is the case for Plantation, FL (American Heritage) wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. After a good week leading up to the Under Armour All-America High School game, McKenzie received a scholarship offer from Florida.

Isaiah McKenzie

McKenzie maintains that he’s still committed to Notre Dame despite the attention he has recently received. He is open to looking at other schools and seeing what else is out there. The interesting point is that only one of the major recruiting services actually lists him as a Fighting Irish commit. But hey, you say potato and I say, well, also potato.

The 5’8”, 165-pound wide receiver fits the small, but shifty mold and has the ability to break off long plays. While size is an issue, plenty of others at his size have had success before him at the college level.

If you’re wondering why American Heritage sounds familiar, current Gators’ freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson played there as well. The high school has also produced back-to-back five-star running backs that did not commit to Florida, so we’ll just ignore that.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Offensive Tackle Kavaris Harkless Switches from Louisville to Florida

Kavaris Harkless pulled off a last-minute switch on Sunday. The offensive tackle was in Kentucky ready to officially enroll early at Louisville when a certain event changed his mind, leading Harkless to instead commit to Florida.

Kavaris Harkless, Florida Gators

When Charlie Strong eventually left Louisville, Gators’ fans hoped it meant good news for Florida. It did, just not the news they were looking for. With Strong headed to Texas to become the Longhorns’ new head coach, Harkless changed his mind on becoming a Cardinal. Without Strong, Harkless decided Florida would be his new home. He will enroll early.

The 6’5″, 273-pound offensive tackle is a three-star prospect according to most of the major recruiting services (ESPN gives him four stars). The 247 Composite has Harkless as the nation’s No. 76 OT. His key development point will be to add bulk. With the exception of D.J. Humphries, the offensive lineman on the Gators’ roster that have seen significant playing time all weigh in at 300 pounds or more.

Harkless’s commitment comes at a critical time for Florida. In desperate need of depth across the offensive line, the Gators are looking for bodies wherever they can find them. Harkless becomes to sixth linemen to join the 2014 recruiting class.

Ronald Powell the Latest to Declare for 2014 NFL Draft; DE/LB to Leave Florida Early

Ronald Powell has become the latest underclassman to declare his intentions to leave Florida early and enter the 2014 NFL Draft. The hybrid defensive end/linebacker had one season of eligibility remaining.

Ronald Powell, Florida Gators

The top recruit in the nation coming out of high school, much was expected of Powell before he ever stepped foot on campus. He was the second top prospect to sign with the Gators under former head coach Urban Meyer and if his impact were to even be close to that of the first–Percy Harvin–Florida fans were in for a treat.

Powell struggled early, but mostly due to those high expectations. It’s not that he underperformed during his freshman season; it’s that so much more was expected out of him. Will Muschamp’s arrival as the new Florida head coach may have been a good thing for Powell in the long run. While it did take him some time to get used to his role as a “buck” linebacker, Powell started to come on strong during the season half of the 2011 season. Seven of his nine tackles for loss and four of his six sacks came in the final six games of the season.

Powell wouldn’t get a chance to build on his strong end to the 2011 season as his 2012 season was over before it began. He tore his ACL during the Orange & Blue Debut, putting him on the shelf for all of 2012.

When the 2013 season came around, Powell was ready to contribute again. While he was back to full strength, he also greatly benefited by the play of defensive lineman Dominique Easley and fellow buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. The emergence of Fowler allowed Powell to move between buck and more of a traditional linebacker role throughout the season.

Powell played well enough throughout the season that this announcement isn’t much of a surprise, but it’s also widely believed he would benefit greatly from one final year of development. However, after suffering the type of injury he did, it’s understandable that he would leave now and not risk getting hurt at the college level again. Early predictions have Powell falling somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft.

While I wish Powell all the luck in the world, the one thing I would have really wished for him during his time at Florida was more wins. Due to the injury forcing him to miss the 11-2 2012 season, Powell played for the Gators during seasons in which they finished 8-5, 7-6 and 4-8.

Florida Gators 67 – Richmond Spiders 58: Gators Win Final Non-Conference Game

With one final game before conference play begins, Florida defeated Richmond 67-58 on Saturday. The Gators improved to 11-2 and will head into SEC play in the top 13 of both major polls.

Scottie Wilbekin, Florida Gators

The Spiders kept the game closer throughout than the Gators would have liked, and even led with less than six minutes to play. But when it mattered, Florida stepped up on both offense and defense. For nearly four full minutes near the end of the game, the Gators went on a 12-0 run, taking a lead they wouldn’t give up. Richmond was able to score eight points in the final 1:06, but it wasn’t enough and Florida would prevail.

The Gators were led by sophomore guard Michael Frazier II, who scored 18 points. He went 3-for-7 from behind the arc with all three makes coming in the second half. He was joined in the double-digit scoring column by senior forward/center Patric Young (15), senior forward Casey Prather (12), and senior guard Scottie Wilbekin (10). Prather has scored in double digits in every single Gators’ game this season.

Head coach Billy Donovan appears to have his lineup set for hard-fought games. Senior forward Will Yeguete was the only starter to not log at least 20 minutes, but did play 18. Coming off of the bench, sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith played 28 minutes and freshman guard Kasey Hill was on the court for 21. Sophomore guard/forward DeVon Walker was the only other Florida player to see the court. He logged nine minutes. The rotation could change slightly when freshman forward Chris Walker finally makes his debut, but, for the most part, the Gators appear to be set assuming everyone stays healthy.

The Gators’ begin SEC play on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 when South Carolina comes to Gainesville.

Marcus Roberson to Declare for 2014 NFL Draft; Cornerback to Leave Gators

According to Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun, Gators’ junior cornerback Marcus Roberson will leave Florida early and declare himself eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft. Roberson only appeared in seven games for the Gators in 2013, missing time due to injuries and suspension, but he is still projected to be selected in the first or second round of April’s draft.

Marcus Roberson, Florida Gators

Despite playing in just more than half of the Gators’ games in 2013, Roberson’s draft stock isn’t expected to be impacted. His coverage skills have been one of his greatest strengths during his entire Florida career and many believe he will only get better with time.

Roberson’s play does present some concerns as he is a frequent offender when it comes to pass interference calls. He has always played the game physically and it has haunted him at times. However, he is still a relatively young player and discipline could come with time and coaching.

Roberson becomes the second Florida cornerback to leave the Gators early for the NFL Draft. He joins fellow junior Loucheiz Purifoy who declared his intentions to bolt to the NFL almost immediately following the conclusion of the 2013 regular season.

While Florida still has talent at cornerback, it is largely young talent that split time with veterans such as Roberson, Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins. The Gators need to reload immediately and will be sure to look at any available prospects during the final month of recruiting. Florida appears to be in good shape with Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson and Quincy Wilson currently committed, but Jackson is wavering and all three will need time to develop.