Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Team Recruiting Countdown: No. 8 Florida Gators

No. 8 Florida Gators (SEC No. 3)

2008 Haul: 22 signees, 7 Athlon Consensus 100

Scouting Report:

A national championship and a Heisman trophy quarterback. One would think that Urban Meyer could sit back and enjoy his successes for a moment. But the “what have you done for me lately” mantra of most athletic directors (and fans for that matter) offers little rest for the weary. Meyer certainly did not rest this recruiting season as he re-stocked his roster, once again, with top-flight talent.

For the Gators, nowhere is talent more needed than in the defensive backfield. Florida finished last in the SEC in pass defense allowing nearly 260 yards a game. Two starting freshman return but the leader, Tony Joiner, departs due to graduation. Who steps in to replace him? The best safety class in the nation. Will Hill (Jersey City, N.J.) and Dee Finley (Auburn, Ala.) are two complete players that will excel in every aspect of the safety position. They are big, physical enforcers as well as solid man-to-man defenders. Janoris Jenkins (Pahokee, Fla.), Jeremy Brown (Orlando, Fla.) and Adrian Bushell (DeSoto, Texas) will step in and compete for playing time at corner, if not add needed depth. Jenkins is the most talented of the trio.

Another way to slow down a strong passing attack is to get a great pass rush (see Super Bowl XLII). With the early departure of Derrick Harvey to the NFL, depth along the entire D-line could be used. William Green (Hoover, Ala.) is the next speed edge rusher to come through Gainesville. He will need some weight but has great quickness and power off the edge. Omar Hunter (Buford, Ga.) is a rare commodity up the middle: a defensive tackle that can play all four downs. He is built like a tank and plays the pass as well as any tackle prospect in the nation. Louisville’s Amobi Okoye is a solid comparison. Also, linebacker Brendan Beal (Bethlehem, Penn.) could be moved to end where he could use his size and strength to hold the edge.

Talent is not needed at the wideout spot in Gainesville, but 2008 was a case of the rich getting richer. Four very talented pass catchers are headed to Florida this fall, but what makes this wide receiver class so special is the balance. Carl Moore (Roseville, Calif.) is the top JUCO offensive talent in the nation. He is a Terrell Owens clone and will step in and make an immediate impact. He is supremely talented. Omarius Hines (Corsicana, Texas) is an incredibly polished, heady wideout with great hands and wonderful route running skills. He is the possession guy. Frankie Hammond Jr. (Hallandale, Fla.) is the burner that will stretch the field. He will also be a dynamic return man. Sprinkle in T.J. Lawrence (Lakeland, Fla.) and the Gators have one of the best wideout classes in the nation.

Jeff Demps (Groveland, Fla.) will, along with USC transfer Emmanuel Moody and redshirt frosh Chris Rainey, make an effort to keep Tim Tebow from taking such pronounced beatings in the run game. The Heisman Trophy winner could use all the help he can get from the running game.

If Beal is not moved to end, the linebacking corp is set for years. An already very young starting group adds great depth with Beal and Lerentee McCray (Dunnellon, Fla.).

Much has been made of the job Pete Carroll has done recruiting nationally. Urban Meyer and staff are beginning to recruit on the same level as USC. Out of the 22 newcomers in 2008, less than half are from the state of Florida. Meyer went out and signed players from 10 different states and took some kids from rival backyards. Hunter and T.J. Pridemore are both from Buford, Ga. – which is just down the road from Athens. Sam Robey is a big offensive lineman from Louisville, Ky., and Finley was snaked away from the hometown of the Auburn Tigers.

Top Prospect: Will Hill – ATH – Jersey City, N.J. (6-3, 205) AC100 No. 5

Hill has some of the quickest feet in the nation. As is the case in a lot of places, the best athlete on any given high school team will generally play quarterback. Hill played quarterback for Jersey City but will probably find himself in a different position in college. Some say safety. Some say wide receiver. Some even say in the backfield at running back.

Wherever he ends up, he will have the ball in his hands. He is impossible to tackle in the open-field and will run away from smaller defenders with his speed. This makes returning kicks a possibility, and he is an intriguing fit at safety. He is a monster in the secondary. He will take receivers heads off if they come over the middle. He has the range to play in a two-deep zone and the athletic ability to be matched-up man-to-man on the outside in blitz packages. He is simply a wonderful athlete.

Hill, named New Jersey’s Offensive Player of the Year, threw for 947 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 960 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2007.

Best of the Rest:

Matt Patchan – T – Seffner, Fla. (6-6, 275) AC100 No. 31
Omar Hunter – DT – Buford, Ga. (6-0, 300) AC100 No. 41
Dee Finley – S – Auburn, Ala. (6-3, 210) AC100 No. 53
William Green – DE – Hoover, Ala. (6-4, 220) AC100 No. 60
Brendan Beal – LB – Bethlehem, Penn. (6-4, 240) AC100 No. 71
Janoris Jenkins – CB – Pahokee, Fla. (5-11, 180) AC100 No. 74
Omarius Hines – WR – Corsicana, Texas (6-1, 185)
Lerentee McCray – LB – Dunnellon, Fla. (6-2, 205)
Jeff Demps – ATH – Groveland, Fla. (5-8, 170)
Carl Moore – WR – Roseville, Calif. (6-4, 220)*

Sleeper: Frankie Hammond – WR – Hallandale, Fla. (6-0, 165)

If there is such a thing as a much-publicized sleeper, then Hammond is it. This kid has speed to burn. He will be an instant impact player in the return game and with his blinding speed, Hammond will find his way onto the field in some capacity next season. He will need a good deal of work on learning the wide receiver position but has plenty of physical ability.

* - Sierra C.C.

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