Florida Gators Recruiting: The Ups and Downs of National Signing Day

As seems to be the case every year, there were ups and downs for the Florida Gators on National Signing Day. At final count, the Gators added two (three if you count Andrew Mike the night before, and I do), reaffirmed one, saw two choose other schools, lost no one already committed, and had a current player announce his intention to transfer.

Treon Harris, Florida Gators

That’s not a bad day by any means. Actually, it’s a quite good one. No Florida commit flipped, while the Gators got a Florida State commit to do just that. When you gain two (or three) and lose no one, you’re ahead. Unfortunately, the last announcement that really meant something for Florida didn’t go the Gators’ way. Adoree’ Jackson signed with Southern Cal and in doing so proved to one side of the Florida fanbase that head coach Will Muschamp has no idea what he’s doing.

That’s the side that refused to acknowledge anything good that happened leading up to NSD or on the day itself and only focused on one player that got away and how it must be Muschamp’s fault. I’m sure I’ll be called a Muschamp supporter for even bringing it up, but so be it I guess. Maybe one day those fans will be able to find a silver lining in, well, anything. For now, I’m not a Muschamp supporter, but I’m not running him out of town either. He’s the coach whether any of us like it or not. Instead, I’m focusing on where the Gators’ 2014 recruiting class ended up, and all things considered it was a good one.

1. Florida lost no one. The Gators didn’t lose Adoree’ Jackson because they never had him. Florida also didn’t lose Derrick Kelly Jr. because, again, they didn’t have him. Both players would have been welcome additions to the class, but both signed elsewhere—Jackson to USC and Kelly Jr. to FSU. Jackson’s loss was a big one as the dynamic playmaker could have made an immediate impact and Kelly Jr. would have provided depth along the offensive line. Both went elsewhere; move on.

2. The Gators started a day early, getting offensive lineman Andrew Mike to flip to Florida from Vanderbilt. Mike needs to add a great deal of bulk, but bringing aboard a sixth offensive line commit was crucial. Depth across the line is one of the Gators’ biggest needs.

3. Of course Quincy Wilson was the first to fax in his signed Letter of Intent. Has there been a commit more positive about all things Florida during the recruiting process? No, there hasn’t.

4. For the last few weeks, many considered J.C. Jackson to be a goner. FSU and Miami pushed the defensive back up until the last minute. In the end, Florida won out and Jackson stuck with his commitment. This may have been as big of a get for the Gators as anyone on NSD.

5. When C.J. Worton decommitted from FSU most expected him to sign with Florida. He did. Go Gators!

6. The flip of the day, at least where the state of Florida is concerned. Treon Harris had been rumored to be seriously considering making the switch from the Seminoles to the Gators on NSD. He pulled the trigger and he, Florida, the staff, and fans couldn’t be happier. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper got his man.

7. Not exactly recruiting news, Cody Riggs will transfer. It relates in that it frees up a roster spot, but for who? Riggs wanted to player cornerback; coaches wanted him to play safety. He will search for a program where he can play at his position of choice.

The 2014 recruiting cycle was a busy one like all of the others. It had its ups and its downs and we won’t know how good this class truly is for years. In the meantime, on to 2015 recruiting!

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.

Former Florida Gators Safety Josh Shaw Transfers To USC

It was a rough year for the Florida Gators roster. It took hit after hit whether in the form of injury or transfer. One of those transfers was safety Josh Shaw who, while appearing in 10 games, never seemed to find his great potential coming out of high school. Shaw has now made his next destination known and will head back to California to play for the USC Trojans.

Shaw was one of the nation’s top cornerbacks when he came out of Palmdale (Palmdale, CA). He would end up signing with a school clear across the country in Florida and look to immediately make an impact. That impact wouldn’t come in his first season as he only appeared in one game and ended up taking a redshirt. 2011 was supposed to be a step forward for Shaw and many thought he would move right into one of the starting safety positions. Unfortunately, he was never able to take a hold of major minutes. Shaw didn’t see the field as much as he would have liked and decided moving on would be the best decision for him.

With the move to USC, Shaw will effectively lose his redshirt sophomore season. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility left starting in 2013.

Week 13 BlogPoll Top 25: Where The SEC Rules

This week’s SB Nation BlogPoll takes an AP Top 25 approach to it by ranking the USC Trojans. And not only ranking those probationary warriors, but putting them just outside the top 10 looking in. More hard-hitting analysis follows the ballot.

What do you do when you find yourself very late in the college football season with three teams from not only one conference, but one division in that conference, in the top three? You give up. You come to the realization that sometimes it is okay to quit and you give up. There’s no shame in that; chaos can have that effect on things. So you give up and move on, but before doing so, you beat the discussion to death.

The LSU Tigers are the no. 1 team in the nation and rightfully so, but their path to keeping that spot isn’t easy. A game against the no. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks is followed up by (if the Tigers win) a matchup with the no. 13 Georgia Bulldogs. LSU may still be no. 1 in two weeks, or they may be hoping to find a way to back into the BCS National Championship Game. If the Tigers do win out, who they play is anyone’s guess. If the season were to end today it would be the Alabama Crimson Tide, again, but it doesn’t end today. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Let’s move on from this before our headache intensifies.

The Michigan State Spartans are this week’s big climber, up five spots from last week, but the most important jumper may be the Virginia Tech Hokies. The no. 6 Hokies have only one loss – to the no. 16 Clemson Tigers – and are doing everything in their power to make a push for a title game appearance. If voters rule out the possibility of a rematch, Virginia Tech might look like a good alternative when all is said and done.

The biggest losers of the week are the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, which were of course the team I told you to keep an eye on only a week earlier. Although Southern Miss takes home the title by falling 13 spots, the Oklahoma State Cowboys’ drop was the most painful. The Cowboys all but eliminated themselves from championship contention and their instate rivals – the Oklahoma Sooners – did so as well (even if their odds of making it were unbelievably slim). The Oregon Ducks? Well, their right there as well as another team that fell out of the discussion.

We now move to another week of games and what will almost surely be more of that unwanted (but secretly desired) chaos.

Two Former Gators Stand Out At Bucs’ Camp

While attending a Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice on Monday, my focus was on two players – former Florida stars Earnest Graham and Ahmad Black. With so much going on and certain fields more visible than others, it wasn’t always easy to pull the two out of the crowds, but I was able to observe them both briefly and Gators’ and Bucs’ fans should be pleased.

While Graham has seen his carries diminish in recent years, he continues to be a valuable part of the Bucs’ offense and a fan favorite. Lining up at fullback for a while now, fans seemed to flock to him as if he were Josh Freeman.
I was lucky enough to be sitting in the right place during one of the more eventful drills. Focusing on the running backs for much of the practice, I observed as the unit went through a drill where the goal of the back was to stop a blitzing linebacker from getting to the quarterback. The drill was simple: one-on-one, linebacker coming right at you, don’t let him get to the assistant coach acting as the QB. This is where Graham showed his worth. Most run-throughs had the starting running backs going up against the starting linebackers, so you typically saw Graham matched up with Quincy Black or Geno Hayes. Graham performed admirably, keeping the LBs away from the QB on several occasions and using near perfect technique in doing so. I almost felt bad for the group of rookie running backs as they were abused by the linebackers time after time after time. Clearly, Graham and LeGarrette Blount don’t have to worry about losing too many snaps early in the season.
The first thing anyone would have to notice about Black is his overall eagerness. While I’m sure the first NFL training camp for a rookie is not easy by any means, I’d imagine it’s also a little bit like being a kid in a candy store. This is it. This is your dream. You may not have made it yet, but here’s your chance. Black seems to love every minute of the opportunity. He wants to be out there on every play and can’t wait to contribute. Black may not start right away and could come off the bench for a few seasons, but when he does, he’ll be ready to go each and every time.
Both former Gators appear to be doing great in camp so far. Graham keeps hammering away at his NFL career, while Black is just getting his started. It’s very easy to continue to cheer for both and wish them both to succeed.
And Florida fans, you’ll surely like this: As the practice came to an end, the players came over to the fans for autographs. Veterans like Graham were mobbed immediately (although he did smile when he saw Mrs. TBG pull out a Gators helmet), while rookies like Black were easy to approach. While chatting with Black, former USC running back Allen Bradford saw the Gators helmet and the trash talk began. He told me and Black the Trojans would have beaten the Gators if they had played. Florida stood “no chance” in a matchup with USC. Black just smiled and offered “national champions” as his response over and over again. There must be no better reply than that.

Recruit Report: Dante Phillips, DT, Venice

We continue to go through the committed recruits over at Alligator Army. This time around, I profile Venice (Venice, FL) defensive tackle Dante Phillips.
Phillips is a powerful, but slim defensive tackle who despite his commitment to Florida has mentioned that he will take additional visits. Schools involved include Alabama, Auburn, LSU, USC, and USF. Although he remains solid to the Gators, he will look around.
At 6’6″, 268 pounds, Phillips needs to add bulk (who doesn’t?) to compete successfully at the next level. In high school, he uses his strength to push opposing blockers into the backfield. While this works for him now, he’ll have a difficult road ahead at his current size. Regardless, Phillips is quick off the snap and has good recognition skills when it comes to knowing where the play is headed.
Expect former Venice players and current Gators Trey Burton and little brother Clay Burton to remain in Phillips’ ear right up until national signing day.

Alligator Army Recruit Report: Noor Davis, LB, The Villages

In a surprise move, linebacker Noor Davis will announce his decision this Friday. Davis was down to Florida and Notre Dame and was still trying to determine his final five choices when he announced he would declare this week. Initially set to announce at the Under Armour All-American Game, Davis got out his top five in time for Friday which included Alabama, Stanford, and USC.

Davis is definitely one you want. He is well-spoken, intelligent, and it does not hurt that he is pretty good at football. He has good size already and possesses great field speed. Davis can rush the quarterback, drop back into coverage, and catch ball carriers from behind. He is the type of player you want to not just be on your defense, but to lead it.
For the full report on Davis, head over to Alligator Army where you can read about him and some of the recruits already committed to Florida.

Morning Reading: Lane Kiffin Just Can’t Keep His Mouth Shut

As if you didn’t know that.
• There’s something broken in Lane Kiffin’s head.  Something that doesn’t allow him to filter what he says before it comes out.  We all know people like that, but luckily most of them don’t have the ability to become national news.  Watching Kiffin is like seeing a train wreck in slow motion.  Can’t look away.
During Thursday’s Pac-10 media event, Kiffin just couldn’t resist.  When asked about the lawsuit filed by the Tennessee Titans against him, he said “I think it has to do with the location of the team.”  Yeah that’s exactly it Lane.  The only reason the Titans are coming after you is because of their proximity to the school you ditched after one season.  It has nothing to do with the fact that you hired away one of their coaches.  Nothing at all.
One day we’ll find out if Kiffin can really coach.  Until them we have to sit back and watch the train.
David Tyree made one spectacular catch we’ll all remember forever.  Other than that, he caught a grand total of 55 passes in seven NFL seasons and is only 30 years old.  That second sentence is what makes him signing a one-day contract with the New York Giants so he can retire as a member of that franchise a joke.
I believe it’s marginally stupid when superstars do this.  I believe is over the top pointless when someone an average player does it.  There’s only one thing that could rival it.  The fact that Tyree will hold a conference call today to announce his retirement.
Apologies to Tyree who I’m sure is a stand-up individual, but signing with a team for one day simply so you can retire doesn’t make you a part of that team.  Not at all.  It makes the whole thing a show about you and only you.  Go out gracefully Tyree.  We want to remember your catch.  Not this.
• Have a player you think might have some maturity issues?  Hire his high school coach as an assistant to keep him in check.  That’s exactly what the Sacramento Kings have done.
Before and after DeMarcus Cousins was drafted, question marks were attached to the former Kentucky star.  Many wondered if he was mature enough to handle the NBA and truly become the superstar he was expected to be.  To help Cousins with his development and hopefully keep him on track, the Kings have hired Otis Hughley as an assistant.  Cousins played under Hughley at LeFlore in Mobile, AL.
Chris Bosh claims he didn’t mail it in last season when playing for the Toronto Raptors.  In fact, he says: “On the back of my jersey it says ‘Bosh’…The Boshes are hard workers.  We have a lot of pride in what we do, in our jobs and in life.”  Damn right.
• The front page of ESPN.com’s college basketball page had the following on it this morning: Purdue’s title hopes rest on Robbie Hummel’s health.”  Purdue?  Title worthy?  Really?  I really must not know as much about college basketball as I used to.
• If Ilya Kovalchuk really wants that 17-year deal, he might just get it.  There are rumors the KHL might be willing to match the deal he agreed to with the New Jersey Devils if Kovalchuk would consider switching leagues.  It would be a big blow to the NHL to lose one of its brightest stars in his prime.
• And finally, some baseball team acquired a big-name pitcher.

The Long Snapper (7/23/10)

College football.  James Smith.  Pageant contestants.
In honor of this week’s announcement of a very important game time, it’s an all Bulls and Gators Long Snapper.
USF at Florida.  September 11, 2010.  12:21.  HOT!
Friday Night Lights is a very productive event for Florida.  Many of the top prospects attend and the Gators usually get more than a couple commitments out of it.  This year, it may have started early.  Florida has received a commitment from Dover (Dover, DE) offensive lineman Trip Thurman.  The 6’6”, 310-pound Thurman chose the Gators over Boston College and South Carolina.  With Thurman’s commitment, the flood gates may have opened.
Florida has dished out its punishment to Frankie Hammond in response to the wide receiver’s arrest.  Hammond has lost his scholarship and will have to earn his way back.  Urban Meyer has said Hammond will have to pay his own way and could earn a spot again, but if he steps out of line, he will be booted off the team entirely.  Hammond needs to get it all together quickly.  With a good group of young receivers, any lost time will push him too far down the depth chart to climb back from.
Thomas Goldkamp of Gatorbait.net put together a great piece on the top five defining games of Urban Meyer’s career.  One game missing that leaves me scratching my head though is the national championship game win over Oklahoma.  Although I will say I’m not sure which of Goldkamp’s five I would remove for it.  Maybe the list needs to be six then because that championship game gave every fan a new respect for the Gator defense under Meyer.  Holding one of the best offensive teams in the history of college football to only 14 points is something that will be remembered long after Meyer has coached his last game.  I’d imagine it was hard to leave this one off the list.
Skip Holtz plans to have USF’s roster set by Monday.  That means any losses to the team as well as any additions should be finalized and announced the public (hopefully…actual announcements could come later).  The two biggest questions marks come in the form of former Colorado running back Darrell Scott and former NC State wide receiver Donald Bowens.  I’m not ashamed to say Scott was one of my man-crushes during that recruiting cycle and I was pulling heavily for him to end up at Florida.  He didn’t obviously, but now appears to be headed to the Bulls.  Scott said he had a great visit to USF and we could know something on August 4.  Let’s hope for a roster leak before that.
Another interesting situation to keep an eye on is that of Glen Stanley.  Stanley is hoping to get a release from USC, but at this point has had to appeal the Trojans’ denial to the NCAA.  The defensive end/linebacker has mentioned both FSU and USF and will end up at one of the two.  This really could be the year of the transfer for the Bulls.

The USC Running Backs of 2006

USC put together some great recruiting classes during Pete Carroll’s tenure as head coach.  2006 was no different.  The Trojans assembled a typically stellar class – ranked number one in the country by many – and appeared set to remain one of the nation’s top teams.
If there was one question about that class, it was the running backs.  USC was fresh off of the careers of Reggie Bush and LenDale White, so it’s no surprise nearly every decent running back in the nation wanted to be a Trojan.  What was surprising is just how many USC ended up signing.  The Trojans class ended up consisting of three running backs, an athlete pegged to be a RB, a linebacker who would become one as well, and a fullback.
Four of those six – Allen Bradford, C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson, and Emmanuel Moody – were rated among the nation’s top 70 players by Rivals.com.  The other two – Kenny Ashley and Stanley Havili – were both awarded four stars by the ranking service.
USC fans were in awe over the haul and couldn’t wait to see what their new stable of backs would do on the field.  Although rated as a linebacker, Bradford was the nation’s #9 prospect overall.  Johnson and Gable were also given five stars and ranked in at #18 and #23 respectively.  Moody was a little further down the list at #70 while Ashley and Havili missed the Rivals100, but still ranked impressively.
Fast forward to today.  Four years after the collection of star running backs arrived at USC.  What would you have thought would become of them?  Surely not all of them would become All-Americans.  One or two might even leave the Trojans for playing time elsewhere.  But we had to have expected at least a star or two would come out of the bunch.  Well, here’s where we are today…
Ashley was the first casualty of the group.  Having originally wanted to attend Mississippi State, Ashley changed his mind when USC offered him a scholarship.  He wouldn’t end up qualifying and is still waiting to notch his first carry as a member of a FBS team.  Ashley will get his chance this fall at Ohio.
Havili’s career numbers are the lowest of the group the remaining five, but that’s expected since he was a fullback.  Therefore, he gets a pass.  Havili will be a redshirt senior with the Trojans this fall.
After Ashley, Moody was the next to go.  Moody got off to a great start at USC and looked like he would be the star of the class.  He rushed for 130 in only his third game in a win over Arizona during his true freshman season.  Moody would eventually get hurt and miss the final five games of the season.  During the offseason, he wasn’t sure of future playing time and decided to transfer to Florida.  After playing each of the last two seasons with the Gators, Moody has one season of eligibility left.  He has rushed for 1,254 yards during his career and only six touchdowns.
The other three remained at USC and each got a chance at various times to pull ahead and take hold of the starting running back position.  Gable had a solid first year in 2006, rushing for 434 yards and getting a good amount of carries after Moody went down.  He would have another decent year in 2008, but didn’t top 24 carries in either 2007 or 2009.  Gable, along with Bradford, will be back for his final season in 2010.  Bradford didn’t become a big part of the offense until last season when he rushed for 668 yards.  He had more carries in one game – the Emerald Bowl against Boston College – than he had in any season from 2006 to 2008.  Johnson had the most promising career of any of them before a freak weightlifting accident ended his final season.  From 2006 to 2009, he totaled more carries, yards, and rushing touchdowns than any of the others.
That sounds good and all, but even being the leader of the group isn’t all that impressive.  In the four seasons since the backs signed with USC, Johnson is the only one with more than 1,500 CAREER rushing yards (1,552).  By comparison, eight FBS running backs rushed for that many yards in 2009.
You could chalk it up to the fact that there were so many of them, but that doesn’t solve the entire issue.  Yes, Joe McKnight came a year later, but he wasn’t the world-class star he was expected to be either.  In reality, USC not only suffered from getting too much of a good thing back in 2006, the Trojans suffered from some bad luck and several careers not panning out as expected.
Take a look at Florida’s Jeff Demps for example.  Demps faced the same major issue each of the USC backs did: competition at the position.  In fact, Demps has had to compete for carries with Moody, Chris Rainey, Percy Harvin, and Tim Tebow over the course of his short career.  So much so that he has yet to carry the ball 100 times in a season.  Bradford, Gable, and Johnson each accomplished that feat.  Despite that, in only two years, Demps has more yards than every one of those that signed with USC in 2006 except Johnson.  He should pass Johnson sometime in the first quarter of the 2010 season.
That’s not to say the Gators utilize their backs better or anything along those lines, it’s just to illustrate that competition at the position may not have been the issue.  Four years later and we should be looking back at storied college careers and one of the best classes of running backs to ever come along.  Instead we’re looking at a group of players that collectively and individually didn’t live up to the hype.
Several have one year left to really make a name for themselves, but even that seems like a distant possibility.  Moody will still be fighting for carries in the Florida offense and Bradford and Gable will be dueling with each other.  Although having too many backs will always be voiced as the reason for their lack of production, none of the group ever took control of the situation and came out on top.