Florida Gators Recruiting: Gerald Willis III Commits to Gators; DE Chooses Florida Over LSU

Like his brother Landon Collins before him, Gerald Willis III will leave the state of Louisiana to play college football elsewhere. Down to Florida and LSU, the star defensive end committed to the Gators on Thursday during the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game.

Gerald Willis III, Florida Gators

Willis was thought to be headed to LSU, but became the second of April Justin’s sons to not commit to the Tigers. While her disappointment was evident this time around as well, she had a calm approach to the entire situation. On the positive side of things for Justin, that’s now two sons with scholarships to pursue both academics and athletics at the collegiate level. Not too bad of a deal if you ask me.

Willis mentioned consistent recruiting and defensive fit as two of his main reasons for choosing Florida, but also had possibly the quote of the recruiting cycle:

“Plus they got swag man, it’s the Gators,” said Willis.

I see a t-shirt in the works.

The defensive end said the Gators’ recent 4-8 season was not a deterent during the process. Willis actually felt that meant he could come in a help immediately. He hopes to play both inside and outside on the defensive line, much like former Florida stars Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd.

Willis receives five stars from both 247 and Scout and four from ESPN and Rivals. The four services place him between No. 3 and No. 5 at his position and all have him among their top 50 recruits across the nation.

2013 NFL Draft Good to Former Florida Gators; Floyd, Elam Selected in First Round

The 2013 NFL Draft was good to the Florida Gators. Good to the tune of eight former Gators selected in the first six rounds. And Florida wasn’t the only school celebrating its draft accomplishments. The SEC set a new record with 63 total players selected. Those of us that consider ourselves fans of the conference still chuckle when outsiders question the SEC’s dominance.

Sharrif Floyd - Minnesota Vikings

Kicking things off for the Gators–albeit later than expected–was defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd. Floyd–an early entrant–was once considered one of the few with a legitimate shot at being selected first overall. He wasn’t that high on every team’s board though and fell into the welcoming lap of the Minnesota Vikings at No. 23. A similar situation occurred just three years ago when Percy Harvin fell to the Vikings. Harvin was recently traded to the Seattle Seahawks, but had enjoyed a successful stint in Minnesota up to that point.

Sneaking into the first round with Floyd was another early entrant, safety Matt Elam. Elam couldn’t have fallen into a better situation; the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens selected him at No. 32. A first round talent, Elam could have been selected anywhere between picks No. 20 and No. 40 and no one would have been entirely surprised. As it stands, the Ravens feel they have found the perfect fit to fill the void left by Ed Reed who signed with the Houston Texans this offseason.

In the second round, the Chicago Bears selected linebacker Jon Bostic with the 50th overall pick. Bostic upped his game during his final season and pushed himself into a position where the Bears thought he was worthy of a second-round pick. With an NFL-ready body and superb on-the-field speed, Bostic could be the heir-apparent to former Chicago middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Those are large shoes to fill, but the Bears will give him every opportunity.

The third round saw the selection of another early entrant. With the No. 85 pick, the Washington Redskins selected tight end Jordan Reed. There was some debate over Reed. While some thought he could improve his stock with another season at Florida, others believe he was selected where he would have been regardless of it being this year or next. Reed may be looked to early to bail out Robert Griffin III when the dynamic quarterback is pushed out of the pocket.

The Miami Dolphins made quite the splash beginning in the fourth round. The new-look Phins may have become many an orange and blue fan’s favorite team after they selected three former Florida Gators. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins was selected by Miami in the fourth round and was followed by running back Mike Gillislee and kicker Caleb Sturgis in the fifth.

The Gators’s run would come to an end in the sixth round when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected safety Josh Evans No. 169 overall. Evans ended a run of three Gators selected in six slots from picks 164 to 169.

Having eight players selected is nothing new for the Gators–just as recently as 2007 and 2010, Florida saw nine players picked–but it’s a great accomplishment all the same. Consistently putting players in the NFL–or at least preparing them to be drafted into the league–is something recruits notice. Not that Will Muschamp and the Gators need help in the recruiting department, but this is just one of many things that leads to top classes.

With the draft coming to an end, we closed the book on another season for the Florida Gators. The overall picture proves it to be a successful one. We can think of two very clear down moments that resulted in the ‘2’ in the 11-2 record, but the past season was one to build on. With that, we wish the newest NFL employees luck and remind them that once a Gator, always a Gator.

Sharrif Floyd Tops Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board; Could The Former Florida Gators DL Go No. 1?

Near the top of most lists for all of this year’s NFL Draft season, former Florida Gators defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd has become the No. 1 player on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board. Floyd has already established himself as a top-five pick in next month’s draft, but as he continues to impress, the chances of him being selected first improve.

Sharrif Floyd - Florida Gators

Fans love to hate Kiper. If he doesn’t believe a player from your school is worthy of a top pick, you can’t stand the man and don’t believe he knows anything about, well, anything. If he does have your favorites among his top players, then it’s no better because that’s his job and he’s just regurgitating what you already knew. Basically, he can’t win.

Regardless, of how you feel about the man and his methods for ‘guessing’ the outcome of the NFL Draft, he does his homework and evaluates each year’s prospects to a level of detail few others do. And, of course, as Florida fans, we can now praise the man for his unmatched expertise and intelligence. There’s a player atop his board with a Gators logo next to his name.

Being atop Kiper’s Big Board doesn’t guarantee that Floyd will be selected No. 1 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. First of all, the Chiefs are thought by many to be leaning toward an offensive lineman (but they could take the best overall player regardless of position, which they should probably do). Second, this is a year without a definitive top choice. But Floyd does have a chance to be the highest Gator ever selected in the draft and that’s something for us to applaud.

Florida has had three former players go No. 3 overall, but never been able to jump into the top two. Those three are extremely recognizable.

    • 1967 – Steve Spurrier – QB
    • 1978 – Wes Chandler – WR
    • 2001 – Gerard Warren – DT

Floyd could join those three at No. 3, or make a name for himself all alone as the only Florida player to ever be selected in the top two. And—orange and blue glasses aside—he’s worthy. He has the size, speed and overall talent to succeed in the NFL in either 4-3 or 3-4 systems. Throughout his Gators career, Floyd was moved from defensive tackle to 4-3 defensive end to nose tackle to end in the 3-4. His versatility and ability to excel wherever he lined up has made him one of the better players available. Whenever he goes, we won’t be waiting long to hear his name.

Oddly enough, the baseball program’s highest drafted player also went No. 3—Mike Zunino one year ago. The men’s basketball program bests both football and baseball by one spot. Neal Walk went No. 2 overall in 1969.

Jelani Jenkins Declares For NFL Draft; LB Becomes Fourth To Leave Florida Gators Early

In a somewhat surprising move, Florida Gators’ redshirt junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins has declared his intention to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Jenkins joins fellow early draft entrants safety Matt Elam, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and tight end Jordan Reed.

Jelani Jenkins - Florida Gators

Though not lacking in potential or talent, Jenkins’ announcement is a bit of a shock because he could be deemed as the one of the four that would most benefit from another season with the Gators. Jenkins career wasn’t derailed by injuries, but they did slow his development at times. He came to the Gators as an all-world recruit, considered one of the better high school defensive players in the nation, but leaves with some feeling of “what if.” What if there hadn’t been a coaching change during his Florida career? What if he had been 100% healthy? What if he had played from day one? And what if he came back for one more season?

Jenkins is likely a mid-round pick as many teams might not believe they’ve seen enough to take him in the early rounds. He could be a sleeper if still available in the later rounds.

We’ll most remember Jenkins for one glorious moment that bailed the Gators out of possible disaster when he returned a block punt against Louisiana-Lafayette, sealing a Florida victory.

Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd Head To NFL; Florida Gators Say Goodbye To Two Stars

Even if we did see this coming, the sting is still real. Florida Gators’ junior safety Matt Elam and junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd have both announced they will forgo their senior seasons and enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

Matt Elam - Florida Gators

Eventually, there will be many things to smile about when looking back at the Florida Gators’ season. For the immediate future, we’ll only remember the Sugar Bowl loss, but when we come around and are ready to celebrate the 2012 season for it’s high points, Elam and Floyd will be among them.

Both came to Florida with great expectations and both left fulfilling them, using the hire of head coach Will Muschamp to springboard their success. Elam was an All-American as a junior and Floyd collected All-SEC honors. They both would have surely liked to have ended their Gator careers better, but neither can be blamed for testing the NFL waters either. Both are potential first-round draft picks and it’s hard to imagine either falling past the second round.

Elam was the spark to the defense in both 2012 and 2011. When there was little to celebrate during the 7-6 2011 season, Elam played like he was on fire. He was a vocal leader on the field and, although frustration could be seen rising from time to time, he played as an example to others. Elam’s reckless style earned him some unwanted penalties on occasion, but it also made him the player he was. Just take a look at the 2012 victory over the LSU Tigers as an example.

Floyd could be described as a little bit of a slow starter, but most defensive linemen are (ignore that Jadeveon Clowney character at South Carolina). Playing at one of the most difficult adjustment positions when it comes to learning the game at the college level, Floyd was moved from inside to outside and back again. He improved tremendously over the course of his career and was a dominate player wherever he lined up. We should be watching Floyd for years to come at the next level.

As Elam and Floyd make the next step in their football careers, we wish them the best of luck. Once a Gator…

Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd Hope To Cause Confusion For Opposing Offensive Lines

Big things were expected when the Florida Gators signed the nation’s top two defensive tackles as part of the 2010 recruiting class. Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd were going to own the middle of the line for years, creating one of the greatest duos to ever play at the University of Florida. The two have been far from disappointments, but things have definitely changed.

During the 2011 season, Floyd spent most of his time lined up at defensive end while Easley manned the middle. There are a few reasons for it – integrating the 3-4 defense and injuries – but Floyd started the final 11 games at DE.

This season, that will flip. Easley will technically start at end while Floyd will go back to his natural position of defensive tackle. But don’t even expect that to last long.

In an attempt to disrupt opposing offensive lines, the Gators will roll out multiple defensive fronts. Easley may start at end with Floyd at tackle, but that could switch. We could also see both at end or both in the middle. With multiple defensive sets, you’ll see the two in multiple places on the field. Cue chaos, but the good kind for Florida.

The linebackers are among those excited about the constant switching we’ll see from Easley and Floyd. With offensive lines focusing and where the big men went and who needs to get to them off the snap, the linebackers could see lanes open up and find themselves in the backfield at an alarming rate.

2012 could be a make-or-break season for the vaunted 2010 recruiting class. Among them are Easley and Floyd, key components to the Gators’ success.

2013 Football Recruiting: Caleb Brantley And The Varying Degrees Of A Commitment

On Monday, we learned that 2013 defensive tackle Caleb Brantley had adjusted the level of his commitment to the Florida Gators. The four-star DT from Crescent City, FL (Crescent City) stated via Facebook that he was now a soft verbal commitment to Florida, dropping his status down from solid verbal commitment. Brantley maintains he is still committed to the Gators and head coach Will Muschamp understands where the defensive tackle stands, but that he may have jumped into his commitment too early.

In addition to wanting to take visits to other schools, Brantley is concerned about the depth chart at defensive tackle. He seems like someone that wants to play immediately and were Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd to return for their senior seasons, the guess is Brantley wants to know what his role would be. He doesn’t want to spend his first season watching from the sidelines, but instead wants to learn on the job.

This development is hardly shocking and could be viewed as just another example of the way the recruiting world turns. Until a player signs his letter of intent, he is nothing more than verbally committed to a school. Whether we want to clarify that verbal commitment as solid or soft, it’s still nothing more than a recruit claiming which school tops his list in many cases. Brantley may still end up signing with the Gators – Florida still holds the lead – but he may sign elsewhere as well. At the moment, he’s being honest in saying that he may have jumped the gun and would like to learn a little more before he makes a final decision.

Brantley remains committed for now and has mentioned it would take a lot for that to change, but he does want to visit other schools and make an informed decision. Among those schools are Alabama, Florida State and USC.

Drafting The Florida Gators To Go Head-To-Head Against…The Florida Gators

The football offseason brings about boredom and plenty of it. It has forced us at The Bull Gator to come up with ways to occupy our time whether they are fun or trivial exercises in futility. Some examples include past attempts at coming up with the best Florida Gators of all-time at each jersey number and a draft consisting of only players available from the schools we have attended. This is another one of those exercises.

One Eyed Willy and I conducted a draft where we each attempted to fill a starting roster made up of all Gators. The rules were simple: 1) you need to fill each position with a player that could realistically line up at that position, and 2) your only real wildcards are going with a fullback or a third wide receiver and playing either a 4-3 defense or a 3-4.

Once we were done, we gave the teams to Evandagator and he let us know which team he thought would win if they went head-to-head. We didn’t tell him which team belonged to which one of us, so he could give his unbiased opinion (we aren’t completely sure which one of us he likes more just yet). We also posted the teams on Alligator Alley (one of the message boards on Inside The Gators) to see what they thought as well.

First up, the teams:

*The numbers in parenthesis indicate the overall pick the player was selected. Some players don’t have numbers next to their names because once we realized we only had positional openings left where we wouldn’t be competing for players, we each filled our rosters in one lump selection.

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Gators Defensive Tackle Nick Alajajian Has Wrist Surgery

Senior Nick Alajajian underwent wrist surgery on Tuesday. The Florida Gators defensive tackle had been having trouble with his wrist throughout spring practice. With the Orange and Blue Debut having come and gone, now was the perfect time for Alajajian to have the surgery and have the time to get healthy for fall practice.

Already a senior, Alajajian’s career at Florida seems to have gone by almost too quickly. Having spent his first three years as a reserve offensive lineman, Alajajian made the switch to defensive tackle in preparation for the 2012 season.

He has appeared in 32 games and got his first start in the Gator Bowl following the conclusion of the 2011 season. Although Alajajian will provide depth at DT, his path to significant playing time won’t be any easier. He shares the position with Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley, Omar Hunter, Leon Orr and Damien Jacobs. JaFar Mann and Dante Phillips will join the Gators in the fall.

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“10 Things I Want Out Of The 2012 Florida Gators Football Season” – Evandagator

We spend so much time discussing what’s best for the Florida Gators, what will help the sports teams both on and off the field. From time to time, we decide to be selfish though and discuss what’s best for us. These thoughts could help the football team or they could simply help us as fans. We may want a certain player to succeed because he’s a vital part of the roster or just because we like his jersey number. Whatever the case, these are the things we want out of the Gators’ 2012 football season. One Eyed Willy was first, The Bull Gator second; now it’s my turn.

10. To be able to look forward to Florida having the ball. Two years–that’s how long it’s been since I’ve almost had to close my eyes every time Florida has possession of the ball. I didn’t think it was possible, but I felt the Gators had a better chance of scoring on defense than on offense. I want the Gators to establish some rhythm on an offense that was largely sporadic over the last two years. I want a quarterback that puts some moxie (Jon Gruden) into his throws, a receiver that opposing defenses fear, and a running back that makes defenders look like bowling balls.

9. Decrease in Arrest Record. I don’t expect our arrest record to suddenly disappear completely, but I do want to see a gradual steady decrease in the number of constant mistakes the players make. To be frank, the idiotic mistakes the Gators seem to be making year after year are flat out embarrassing. I’m not sure how to correct the thug-life attitudes of some of the players, but maybe it starts with pointing out character red flags in recruiting. The Bull Gator pointed out to me that coaches see “Number 1 tight end” and may look right past character issues. That’s something to think about, character vs. talent.

8. Please no injuries on the offensive line. Injuries completely plagued the Gators’ line last year and could hamper any progress the Gators make if more pour in next year. They can’t handle injuries on the offensive line—their depth won’t allow it. The Gators made progress on adding quality to the offensive line with Jessamen Dunker and D.J. Humphries but failed to address their gaping depth issue. I’m hoping we can address this in recruiting.

7. Leaders to emerge. What do championship teams have year after year? Oh yeah, leaders. We were spoiled with leadership from ’06 to ’09 with Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes. I want someone who gives inspiring half time speeches. These are the guys who fill Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The players the fans come to see. So far, the leadership watch list only includes Matt Elam. For the offense, no obvious visible candidates. Now, if the Gators want any chance at a championship run, leaders must emerge.

6. The return of the lockdown corner. It’s a well-known fact that having a shutdown cornerback drastically makes winning games and defending an opponent easier. Thankfully, Florida doesn’t have to worry about the game changing receivers that they’ve had to deal with over the last few years: Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Alshon Jeffery. Not so thankfully, with his size and skill, Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham looks to be the successor to those tall and athletic SEC receivers and more will be coming. The Gators will not be able to avoid these types of players without moving to the Big Ten (which I don’t suggest). I miss the days where we could count on Joe Haden or Janoris Jenkins to completely shut down these tall receivers. Sadly, Haden was drafted two years ago and Jenkins decided that smoking pot was a little more important to him than shutting down receivers. Please, give us a cornerback that’s not an idiot, please.

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