Florida Gators Recruiting: Defense Picks Up New Commitment

April 7, 2012; Gainesville FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp after the Florida-Spring Game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators picked up another commitment yesterday when Georgia linebacker and former Auburn commit Jarrad Davis pledged to the Gators on his official visit. His commitment is the 6th since the season ended and the contact period began and brings the class total to 26. The Gators now have 12 defensive commitments in this cycle and thus far it is an impressive haul.

Davis, 6-2 225, from Camden County high school in Kingsland, Georgia has solid size for a middle linebacker prospect with room to fill out, good speed, and great instincts. He’s got good range, great downhill speed and lateral quickness, and he has the strength to shed blockers and make plays. The Gators have two other middle linebackers committed in this cycle as well as one outside linebacker. Two of the Gators earliest commitments were from middle linebackers Daniel McMillan, 6-2 220, and James Hearns, 6-3 235. McMillan from Jacksonville First Coast high school is a lanky, athletic and highly instinctive linebacker who has the frame to add girth which he’ll need to do to compete in the SEC.  He’s very active, has a nose for the ball, and is a good tackler. The Gators expect big things from him down the road. The most physically ready to compete linebacker in this class is James Hearns from Tallahassee Lincoln high school. At 6-3 235 he definitely has the size that Muschamp covets at the position. He’s big, strong, with good speed, and great instincts. He’s a big hitter who can shed blocks, pound running backs, and terrorize quarterbacks on blitzes. Hearns should come in and provide solid depth right away for the Gators which is important with the loss of Jon Bostic to graduation. With the decommitment of Quinton Powell the Gators were left with only one outside linebacker in this class when Matt Rolin flipped to the Gators from his childhood favorite the South Carolina Gamecocks. Rolin, 6-4 205, is long, lean, and very athletic with great speed and instincts. He’s a big hitter who is good in coverage, good in run support, and is a great blitzer as well. He’s athletic enough to play wide receiver and tight end on his high school team and actually is a great blocking tight end.

The defensive backfield is, undoubtedly the star of this defensive class with top rated cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, Top 100 safety Marcell Harris, and two other top rated safeties in Keanu Neal and Nick Washington. Hargreaves is the consensus top corner in the nation and top ten overall recruit. He is a prototypical cornerback with great speed, good hips, and a great break on the ball. He is good in press coverage and has great leaping ability in jump ball situations. He is expected to come in and compete right away for playing time and likely will see time in nickel or dime coverages on passing downs. Marcell Harris, 6-2 200, is a big time safety commit who has great size and speed and good football instincts. He has good range in coverage and is a big hitter in run support. He’s physically ready to compete and will likely see playing time on special teams and providing depth in the backfield next season.

Keanu Neal, 6-0 204, is another big time safety prospect for the Gators. A hard hitter, he’s good as a deep safety but really excels stepping up in run support where his speed and aggression are a big asset.He’s an excellent tackler running through ball carriers and has a great nose for the footall. He will likely compete for playing time immediately on special teams and situationally on defense.  Nick Washington, 5-11 170, is another top rated recruit who can play either corner or safety but was recruited as a safety. Nick’s kind of a tweener, lacking ideal safety size and without the quick hips for corner, but he is a big hitter, very athletic, has great speed and simply makes plays. He will likely redshirt his first season in Gainesville while that strength staff seeks to add weight and musculature to his frame.

The defensive line is well represented in this class as well with defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, defensive tackle Joey Ivie, defensive end Antonio Riles, defensive end Jordan Sherit, and junior college defensive tackle Darious Cummings. Brantley at 6-3 310 is a huge presence in the interior of the defensive line. He has a large frame with long arms and possesses great quickness for a player that size. He can play either the nose in a 3-4 or tackle in a 4-3 and probably his best asset is his quickness and technique off the ball allowing him to get good penetration into the backfield. Ivie, 6-4 270, is a big, strong, athletic lineman with the quickness to play end and the frame to add weight to play inside. He’s a tough player, the kind that Muschamp likes, and is destined to play tackle in a 4-3 alignment. He will likely redshirt his freshman year as he’ll need a year in Dilman’s strength program to add some more weight and musculature.

Riles, 6-4 265, is an inside/outside guy. He has speed and agility to play outside, but has the size and frame to play inside as well. He plays with good pad level and technique and has the strength to fight through blocks and is very quick off the ball. He’s built a lot like Dante Fowler and, while he’s being recruited at tackle, there’s a good chance he ends up playing defensive end. He has the tools to compete for early playing time, but there’s a chance he redshirts next season, if only to get more weight on his frame. Sherit is a 6-3 243 pound defensive end prospect that has the skills to play outside linebacker and tight end. Kind of smallish for a defensive end, he plays with great energy but will need to add weight if he’s going to compete for playing time at Florida. Sherit has good hands and a great motor and his aggressiveness at the point of attack might be his strongest suit at this point. He is coming off a knee injury suffered this past season and will certainly redshirt his first season in Gainesville as the strength staff works to add weight and musculature to his lean frame.

Finally, the Gators got an interior player who can come in right away and compete for playing time if Sharrif Floyd leaves with junior college transfer Darious Cummings. Ironically, Cummings, 6-2 305, played for Florida State as a freshman before transferring out before last season. He’s a big strong guy, benching over 400 pounds and squatting over 600, who can play both nose and tackle and should at the least provide quality depth on the interior of the line next season and will likely compete for the starting position if Floyd does indeed turn pro.

Presently the Gators are sitting on 26 commitments with likely room for 3-4 more and the class has good balance between offense (12) and defense (14). The staff is still looking for another defensive end with one of Elijah Daniels, if he makes the grade, or Ebenezer Ogundeko, a Clemson lean, the most likely candidates and another corner with USC commit Jalen Ramsey and uncommitted Mackensie Alexander the highest two on the Gators board.  They would like to add another outside linebacker in Trey Johnson, who is leaning towards Ohio State, but it’s unclear at this point if they will shut that down with the addition of Jarrad Davis.

Once again the Gators should have one of the top signing classes in the nation and they are currently the top ranked class in the ESPN rankings and have a chance at finishing a consensus number one if they can close with the quality of their recent commitments.

Topics: Caleb Brantley, Daniel McMillan, Florida Gator Football Recruiting, James Hearns, Jarrad Davis, Marcell Harris, Vernon Hargreaves

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