Nov 24, 2012; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida Gators tight end Jordan Reed (11) before the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch...Gator Odd's and End's... More Attrition, New Recruit

Reed Turns Pro

Lost in the shuffle of high school All American games and recruiting flip flops, and now word that backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett is seeking to transfer, was the news that tight end Jordan Reed, who was undecided after the Sugar Bowl, has decided to leave school early for the NFL draft as expected.

Reed, 6-3 243, came to Florida in the 2009 class as a quarterback out of New London, Connecticut. Almost immediately he was converted to a tight end when he arrived on campus as he struggled picking up the offense of then head coach Urban Meyer. After redshirting in 2009, he did see time at quarterback  in 2010 as Meyer sought to find an effective player at the position while John Brantley was struggling to move the team splitting time with Brantley and true freshman Trey Burton. Built like Cam Newton he did show some skills at quarterback but his mechanics left a lot to be desired and he needed Burton to make the play calls for him.

When Muschamp took over in 2011, Reed became a tight end full time. This season, he showed lots of promise with good size and speed making him a match-up concern for linebackers and safeties. He was the Gators leading receiver and go-to guy for quarterback Jeff Driskel. He finished with 45 receptions for 559 yards and three touchdowns. He almost single-handedly save the Gators season heading for a touchdown late in the Georgia game before Jarvis Jones came from behind and made a play punching the ball out of his hands. He also made a couple of big catches in the Lafayette game when the Gators looked like they may be upset getting the Gators in position to tie the score. That set up the big punt block which won the game for the Gators.

He’s still learning the position and is very raw and will need lots of work on his pass catching mechanics, route-running, and blocking. However, with the NFL enamored with athletic tight ends right now, there may not have been a better time for him to leave.

Personally, I think he seriously needed another season and likely would improve his draft position, which will likely be anywhere from third to late fourth, if he did stick around. But sometimes teams like raw players at this kind of position as they can get them late in the draft and allow them the time to learn from their staff. Time will tell if this one was a good decision or premature.

Another One Bites the Dust

Another Gator player has asked for his release, joining Pop Saunders, Jacoby Brissett, Matt Patchan, and Willie Bailey in the exodus out of Gainesvile. Chris Johnson, a reserve safety and running back who has played in all 26 of his career games mostly as a special teams standout, has decided to seek greener pastures outside of the confines of the Gator Nation. He was expected to seek a transfer by most analysts as he seemed to be a man without a position. Never cracking the two deep on defense, he was moved to running back last offseason as the Gators sought some depth at the position as they moved to a pro-style attack. He was never able to crack the depth chart on offense either and was facing a career as simply a special teams player. No word yet on where he is seeking to transfer to.

 Flip Flops, Flopping?

January 4, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Team Highlight head coach Hern Edwards talks with defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) during the second half at the Under Armour All-America high school Game at Tropicana Field. Team Highlight defeated the Team Nitro 16-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In the flip-flop nature of the recruiting world, there was tons of noise regarding two top level recruits the Gators were in play for possibly flipping to the Gators this week. Defensive end DeMarcus Walker, whom the Gators have been recruiting for a few years had originally chosen to commit to Alabama last August after agonizing between the Tide and the Gators. Many felt his recruitment would not be over and there was a solid chance he would reconsider that decision before signing day. With Walker’s main Bama recruiter Jeremy Pruitt leaving to take the defensive coordinator job at FSU there was speculation that he might be reconsidering his commitment.

Walker had been reported to be quietly seeking enrollment at UF in January and was rumored to be visiting Gainesville this weekend after the Under Armour All American game events ended. He actually made his visit plans quite public to several analysts from ESPN and Apparently there was some alleged intrusion by Lance Thompson an Alabama coach and recruiter directly after the game where he had a heated conversation with Walker and then put Walker on a cell phone to reportedly speak directly with head coach Nick Saban. Of course, this story is speculative and hasn’t been entirely corroborated at this time. After the conversation, Walker reportedly left dejectedly with his mother rather than riding the team bus back to the hotel. The visit to Gainesville was apparently off and he did NOT visit the Gator coaching staff as expected.

This story was repeated by more than one person in attendance but the facts are still somewhat murky in this case. However, if an Alabama assistant coach did indeed make contact with Walker on the field after the game that would certainly be a violation of NCAA rules which allow coaches to make contact only at the team hotel and only after being cleared to go by Event Staff. Stay tuned for the latest on this situation. What this means for Gator fans is that Walker is not likely to be switching his commitment to the Gators and his recruitment by Florida while not done by no means, is becoming more and more of a longshot.

The second player thought to be in play this week was wide receiver Demarcus Robinson a four star recruit out of Georgia who had been committed to Clemson before flipping to the Gators last month and then quickly flipping back to Clemson. When he arrived for Army All American Game practices in San Antonio this week he showed up sporting a Gator cap and announced that he was undecided and would be announcing between Florida and Clemson during the game on Saturday. He had given the impression that the Gators were in the lead.

By Friday, however, the news came out that he would not announce a decision during the game but would think about it on the plane ride home and enroll at his school of choice on Monday. The Gators were thought to still be in the driver’s seat here. However, by game time, more news arrived that he was still struggling with his decision and was now favoring Clemson, that Notre Dame had crept back into contention, and that the Gators were third.

The story now is that he will speak with his coaches on Sunday, think it over on Monday, and enroll in the school of his choice on Tuesday. There are apparently some personal issues that greatly affect where he goes and is apparently the main reason why his high school coach is so involved in this recruitment.  If recruiting is a roller coaster than this one is a double loop roller coaster. Stay tuned.

Man Down, Man Up

With Walker likely a long-shot at this point, Elijah Daniel’s recruitment becomes even more important for the Gators. They certainly want another defensive end in this class and Daniel showed he is one of the top ends in the country this week at the Under Armour game practices.

Daniel was previously committed to Clemson but backed out of that back in November. The Gators were thought to lead for his services back in the summer before he committed to Clemson and have been the odds on favorite since backing off from Clemson. While he has mentioned a number of schools he is considering including Arizona State,  it appears that the only school he will visit going forward is the Gators.

He moved his official visit back from this coming weekend til the first of February, reportedly because he wants to make the trip with his high school coach and that was the first available time for him. The good news for Gator fans is that’s the last weekend before signing day so no matter what the Gator staff has last crack at him. I don’t think that really matters as he is expected to be all Gator and should commit when he arrives for his official visit.

On the same note, with Robinson likely to enroll somewhere not named the University of Florida it appears the staff will turn the focus to the speedy James Clark. We’ve talked in the past about him as a late bloomer in terms of media hype but he currently is rated a four star on three of the major recruiting services (Scout, ESPN, and 247 Sports) and has over thirty offers to major college schools. The staff only recently got in his recruitment and has wanted to wait on Robinson as, clearly, he was the top guy on their board, but with him likely not coming to Gainesville look for the staff to finally give Clark a committable offer this weekend on his official visit.

Interestingly, the Clemson staff had an in-home visit with him last evening and it appears that they are feeling very shaky about Robinson as well. They told Clark he’s next on their board and want him to take a visit. I don’t think he is seriously considering Clemson at this time and feel like he’s just waiting on that Florida offer and will likely commit if and when they give it to him. Once again stay tuned for the latest updates.

Nkemdiche Giving Gators a Look?

There has been some chatter about top rated defensive end and top overall recruit in the ESPN rankings, Robert Nkemdiche giving the Gators some consideration. It doesn’t hurt he just spent a week with seven Gator commitments in Orlando and top rated cornerback and Under Armour Black team MVP Vernon Hargreaves III has bonded well and been in his ear about the Gators.

Nkemdiche is the real deal and showed all week why he’s the top defensive end and would be a fantastic addition to this class, but don’t get your hopes up about this one. 90% of recruiting is about relationships between coaches and players and that takes time. Nkemdiche himself said that the Gator staff has paid little attention to him for whatever reason and so, even with him bonding with future Gators, he is highly unlikely of visiting much less choosing the Gators at this point.

A New Name

An interesting name has popped up the last 48 hours on the Gator recruiting front. Asianti Woulard, a four star quarterback from Winter Park, wasn’t previously considered a top tier quarterback recruit. His status has improved dramatically with a great senior season and his showing out at the elite 11 camp named the surprising MVP of the elite quarterback event as well as being named an Army All American.

While he wasn’t an unknown prospect, he was certainly an unknown quantity having only played the position for a couple of seasons. He was thought to be another athletic quarterback who was more a runner than a polished passer. That is before he arrived for the Elite 11 camp. Just the fact that he was invited at all was an oddity as there were so many polished quarterbacks that would seem on paper to be chosen ahead of him. He got the nod as the second to the last quarterback chosen and showed why as he was named the MVP of the event over two other quarterbacks considered top qb’s 1a) Max Browne and 1b) Christian Hackenburg. Asked why Woulard was named over the other two, head coach of the event Trent Dilfer responded,

“It was hard not to go with Max or Hack,” according to Dilfer. “Those two were unbelievable. But I think there was a hair separation. I think it came down to this: Greatness is making the highly difficult look very easy. That’s what Asiantii did. They did the same stuff; he made it look easier.”

Oddly, that sounds a lot like another quarterback who won the event a couple of seasons ago in spite of only playing the position for a couple of years. He ended up as the top rated quarterback of that recruiting cycle and eventually signed with the Gators: current starter Jeff Driskel.

Regardless, Woulard has twice been a USF commit but now has opened his recruitment once again and is exploring his options. Originally not on the Gators radar, he committed to the old staff at USF but backed off once the old staff was let go. When the new staff took over he recommitted but recently decided to continue exploring his options.

According to him he has one visit scheduled to Kentucky who has a new coach in former FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. He says he is talking to a couple of other schools at this time but doesn’t want to reveal who they are just yet and will visit at least one of them before signing day.  Reportedly, and judging from the tweets from Gator commits who participated in Army All American practices with him, one of those schools is the Gators.

With Jacoby Brissett apparently set to transfer and current backups Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg as well as current commit Max Staver not likely to challenge for playing time, the staff seems set on pursuing Woulard at this time to fill the backup role behind Driskel and  to compete with next year’s top quarterback recruit Will Grier to take over once Driskel’s gone.

There is one train of thought that says the staff is still not totally sold on Driskel going forward and is looking for someone to challenge him and that Brissett is not the answer they are looking for. That would explain why they went hard after some top quarterbacks including Cooper Bateman last off-season before falling back on plan B Max Staver. Of course, that’s pure speculation as the staff has not verbalized any of this, but they wouldn’t either, that’s not their style. It’s still too early to tell on this one, but the Gator commits seem to be sold on him as a teammate and we’ll have to see if he makes it on campus. Again, stay tuned it’s likely to be a wild ride to signing day.


Tags: Asianti Woulard Demarcus Robinson Demarcus Walker Elijah Daniel Florida Gators Gator Football Jordan Reed Robert Nkemdiche

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