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This time of year the college football world goes into a recruiting frenzy. The season has ended. Spring games are still months away. Fall practice seems like it may never get here. So every fan (at least every diehard) focuses on recruiting.
If you’re like the rest of us fanatics, you want to know anything and everything about the recruits your school is after. And if you cheer for a big program, five-star prospects offer bragging rights. Remember that movie with Shaq? No, not Kazaam. That other one in which he played (and it was a stretch) a basketball player? Blue Chips. That’s what the five-star recruits are. Blue chips. They are considered the cream of the crop. And you want as many of them as scholarships your school has available.
For Florida, the Army All-American Game was a big moment. Huge in the recruiting world. The Gators went from having not one five-star prospect committed to have three (according to Rivals.com) in only a matter of a few hours. And if the Under Armour All-American Game the week before was a barometer of those who may get that elusive fifth star in the coming weeks, Florida may end up with five or six when all is said and done.
Since 2002 (and not including the current recruiting class), Florida has signed 22 five-star prospects. Looking back over the 22, you can see some definite success stories and some definite misses. Due to this, a few friends (One Eyed Willy, KP, and Vanilla Bear) and I decided to perform a little exercise and rate each player from one to five stars based on how they played or the potential they now present. In the end, we only rated 19 of the 22, leaving off the three from the 2009 recruiting class (Gary Brown, Andre Debose, and Jelani Jenkins) due to redshirting and lack of anything to accurately rate them on. Our goal was to determine who lived up to the hype and who went in the other direction. And here are the results:
5.00 Stars – Derrick Harvey, Percy Harvin, Jarvis Moss, Brandon Spikes, Tim Tebow – These are the guys that met the hype head on, ran it over, and never looked back. It was unanimous that each one of them lived up to their five-star status. It’s no coincidence the three of the five that have been drafted all went in the first-round and the remaining two most likely will. These were definitely the men among boys.
4.75-4.50 Stars – Andre Caldwell, Carlos Dunlap, Chad Jackson – Two receivers that came in together and a stud defensive lineman. Caldwell left Florida as the career leader in receptions and Jackson left with the single-season record. Dunlap will test the NFL waters after a dominant junior year.
4.25-4.00 Stars – Ciatrick Fason, Will Hill, Matt Patchan – Fason might have had a chance at a place higher in the rankings had he not left after his junior year and Hill and Patchan are still fighting hard to realize greatness. Hill’s only knock is having to split playing time, but five-star status may be in sight as he gets on the field more in 2010. If Patchan is left at one position, he could still blossom into a star.
3.75-3.50 Stars – Omar Hunter, Dee Webb – Realistically, Hunter gets an incomplete at this stage in his career. With years still ahead of him, he will have plenty of chances to shine. Webb was another one of those that could have cashed in on greatness with one more year. As it was, he was consistent, but rarely spectacular for three seasons.
3.25-3.00 Stars – Joe Cohen, Carl Johnson – There was talk for a while at trying Cohen out as a power back, so that may have slowed his development, but in the end he was an important part of the defense, just never a true star. Johnson has one final year to pull it all together. He’s been good, but not great just yet.
2.75-2.50 Stars – Torrey Davis – Davis probably gets more credit than he deserves for one spectacular play. In the end, he left Florida after never becoming the player he was expected to be and spending most of his time in the doghouse.
2.25-2.00 Stars – Carl Moore, Cameron Newton, James Wilson – Moore and Wilson still have a chance to prove themselves, but they may not become more than solid athletes. Newton on the other hand still has a chance to be great, but if he does, it will be while wearing the orange and blue of a different SEC school.
With the season going strong, it’s easy to get lost when it comes to recruiting news. So many rumors go back and forth; it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t. Count this one as real. Booker T. Washington (Miami, FL) teammates Quinton Dunbar and Lynden Trail are committed to Florida.
Dunbar is a 6’3” wide receiver who averaged over 18 yards per catch as a junior. While he needs to put on a little bulk before he’ll truly contribute at the collegiate level, Dunbar has good speed and a great ability to catch the ball in traffic. He needs to improve route running at the next level, but if he adds that as a strength to his raw talent, he could be something special. Dunbar – rated at the nation’s 131st prospect by Rivals.com – is a big pickup at a position the Gators need to add depth to.
Also among the Rivals250 (at 175th), Trail is a 6’7” weakside defensive end who has great speed around the edge. Like Dunbar, Trail will look to add bulk before he gets to Gainesville. Trail is a force as a pass rusher and added muscle should make him an equally dangerous run stopper. With such a large emphasis put on pass rushers over the past few years (Jarvis Moss, Derrick Harvey, Carlos Dunlap, etc.), Trail should fit right in line.
Harvey was a big-time recruit who broke out during his redshirt sophomore season. In 2006, Harvey recorded 11 sacks with three coming against Ohio State in the National Championship Game. He was named Defensive MVP of that game. In 2007, Harvey wasn’t considered to be as dominant as he was the previous season, but that was largely due to facing constant double-teams. He ranks 9th all-time in Florida history with 20.5 career sacks.
Harvey was selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Last Year’s Pick: Harvey
Current Gator: Earl Okine, DE
While surpassing Harvey in terms of greatness seems like a lofty goal, Okine has every opportunity to do so. Only a redshirt freshman, Okine will have four years to make an impact and could find himself in competition for a starting role as early as the 2010 season. Stories of Okine’s practice greatness have been surfacing since last year and if he can translate that to the field, we could be looking at the next great #91.
To see all of the greatest Gators (that I’ve done so far), click here.
McDonald won’t appear on any career stat lists, but he was the unsung hero of the defensive line during Florida’s 2006 national championship season. While Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss were piling up the sack and tackle for loss numbers, McDonald was occupying interior offensive linemen. McDonald was a versatile defender during his career, playing every position across the line.
Although #94 on this list (coming up next) had the most famous block in the South Carolina game in 2006, McDonald also blocked a field game attempt earlier in the contest.
Last Year’s Pick: McDonald
Current Gator: Gary Brown, DT
McDonald was a very good player during his time as a Gator and deserves to be recognized. But Brown has the potential to be a superstar. If he lives up to the hype, he has a realistic shot of overtaking McDonald in the future.
To see all of the greatest Gators (that I’ve done so far), click here.
Moving across the line…
Carlos Dunlap – 11 pts. (3 first-place votes)
Jarvis Moss. Derrick Harvey. Carlos Dunlap. Who’s next? Dunlap had a breakout year in 2008. So much so he’s been touted as a potential top 5 overall pick in a future NFL Draft. Gator fans definitely hope that’s two years from now and not one. With good depth returning at defensive end and a number of the defensive tackles having more experience, Dunlap’s sack number could go up in 2009. Look for him to be double-teamed frequently (which could bode well for #2 on this list).
After listing his accomplishments, One-Eyed Willy – who actually put Dunlap #2 – closed with this: “Now that I think about it, why am I not putting him #1?” Good question.
2. Jermaine Cunningham – 9 (1)
3. Lawrence Marsh/Terron Sanders – 2
Looking to 2009…
Carlos Dunlap – 12 (4)
Not much else to say when the winner is returning for another year. Another picture will do…
Up next: the linebackers.
Want to join the panel? Of course you don’t. Otherwise you already would have. What to discuss the beauty that is a summer day? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year, Derrick Harvey became the first Florida player since 2001 to be taken in the first 10 picks of the NFL Draft. His rookie year was far from spectacular, but Harvey did show promise and improved as the season went on. The jury is obviously still out on Harvey’s NFL career, but all of the other Gators selected within the top 10 have had plenty of time to make their mark. So, let’s take a look back at their careers and you can decide if they were worth the high selection or not.
Paul Duhart – HB – 1945 – #2 (The highest a Gator has ever been drafted.) – Pittsburgh Steelers – Duhart didn’t last long in the league, playing 14 games for three different teams. His best year was actually in 1944 – the year before he was drafted – with the Green Bay Packers. In that year, Duhart rushed for 183 yards on 51 carries and scored twice while also playing and totaling four interceptions. So how did he get drafted in 1945? I’m glad you asked. At the time, a player wasn’t allowed to sign until his college class graduated. However, Duhart was allowed to sign with the Packers because Florida didn’t field a team in 1944 (what would’ve been his senior year) due to the war. He was subsequently put back into the draft in 1945. After being drafted by the Steelers, Duhart would only last one more year in the league. Notable Pick: Hall of Famer Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsh was selected by the Cleveland Rams only three picks later.
Chuck Hunsinger – HB – 1950 – #3 – Chicago Bears – Hunsinger played for the Bears for three seasons before heading to the CFL. For his NFL career, he totaled 843 rushing yards and scored eight touchdowns (five rushing and three receiving). Hunsinger is part of CFL lore. During the 1954 Grey Cup while playing for the Montreal Alouettes, he fumbled on the 10-yard line as Montreal – who led by five – tried to run out the clock. Edmonton Eskimo Jackie Parker picked up the ball and rumbled 90 yards for the winning score. Notable Pick: Bud Grant, who played in the NBA and NFL and was elected to the Hall of Fame for his coaching accomplishments, was taken fourteenth by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Steve Spurrier – QB – 1967 – #3 – San Francisco 49ers – Spurrier lasted 10 seasons in the NFL as not much more than a below average quarterback. For his career, he threw 40 touchdowns to 60 interceptions and had a rating of 60.1. Although thought of for coaching more so than playing, he will always be remembered as the signal caller during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first season in which they went 0-14. Notable Pick: The Miami Dolphins selected Hall of Famer Bob Griese with the very next pick.
Larry Smith – RB – 1969 – #8 – Los Angeles Rams – Smith rushed for 2,057 yards and 11 touchdowns over his six seasons in the NFL. After having 212 combined rushes and receptions during his rookie season, Smith wouldn’t have more than 122 total in any other season. Notable Pick: One-Eyed Willy pal, O.J. Simpson, went first overall to the Buffalo Bills.
Wes Chandler – WR – 1978 – #3 – New Orleans Saints – Chandler was the first Gator selected in the top 10 to have what could be regarded as a successful career. During 12 seasons in the NFL, he was selected to four Pro Bowls, named an All-Pro twice, had seven seasons in which he caught more than 50 balls, and three in which he totaled more than 1,000 yards. At the time of his retirement, Chandler ranked thirteenth in NFL history in receptions and twelfth in receiving yards. Notable Pick: Fellow Florida receiver Derrick Gaffney was taken in the eighth round. Gaffney’s son – Jabar Gaffney – and Chandler’s nephew – Dallas Baker – would both go on to play receiver for the Gators as well.
Lomas Brown – T – 1985 – #6 – Detroit Lions – Brown was selected to seven Pro Bowls and named to seven All-Pro teams during his 18-year NFL career. One of the most consistent offensive linemen over the course of his career, Brown won a Super Bowl ring with the Buccaneers during his final season. Notable Pick: Gator Lorenzo Hampton would go 27th to the Dolphins. The following year, another Florida running back would go 27th – Neal Anderson – this time to the Bears. With John L. Williams going 15th that year, the Gators would deliver three running backs to the NFL via the first round in only two years.
Kevin Carter – DE – 1995 – #6 – St. Louis Rams – Carter has had a quiet but remarkable NFL career. In 14 seasons, he has never missed a game (currently 224), has totaled 104.5 sacks, was selected to two Pro Bowls, and won a Super Bowl with the Rams. Carter’s best season came during that championship year, in which he sacked opposing quarterbacks 17 times. Notable Pick: The Eagles traded up to seventh to select one of the biggest busts in recent draft history – Mike Mamula. The team they traded with – the Buccaneers – selected future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp with their pick.
Ike Hilliard – WR – 1997 – #7 – New York Giants – Hilliard has been a consistent sure-handed receiver during his 12-year NFL career. In 2007 (his 11th in the league) – while playing for the Buccaneers – Hilliard had the second most receptions and third most receiving yards of his career. Notable Picks: Florida, FSU, and Miami would account for nine of the first 18 picks in the 1997 NFL Draft.
Fred Taylor – RB – 1998 – #9 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Over his career, Taylor has become the most notable player in Jaguars’ history. He enters 2009 sixteenth on the league’s all-time rushing list. Despite being only one of 29 players to ever rush for more than 10,000 yards, Taylor has only appeared in one Pro Bowl. After signing a two-year deal with the New England Patriots in the offseason, Taylor has a shot at moving into the top 10 all-time in rushing yards. Notable Pick: Considered by many to be the biggest bust ever, Ryan Leaf went second overall to the San Diego Chargers.
Gerard Warren – DT – 2001 – #3 – Cleveland Browns – While Warren’s career has definitely not warranted a number three overall selection, he has been a solid player over his eight years in the league. “Big Money” has mostly become a run stuffer during his time in the NFL. He started all 16 games for the Oakland Raiders in 2008. Notable Picks: 15 of the 31 players taken in the first round have been selected to at least one Pro Bowl.
Derrick Harvey – DE – 2008 – #8 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Harvey became the fifth Florida defensive lineman drafted in the past two years when the Jaguars took him. Harvey started his career slowly, but improved as his rookie year went on. He finished strong with a season-high seven tackles and two sacks in the final game of the regular season. Notable Pick: Gator receiver Andre Caldwell went in the third round, giving Florida only two picks in the entire draft. This would mark their lowest total since 1993.