The final ESPN 300 recruiting rankings were released today. Gator recruits were big movers and shakers.
The biggest movers were running back Kelvin Taylor who jumped up to five star status moving into the top ten at #8 overall and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson who jumped up to #53 overall in the country from #118.
Taylor, a Gator legacy and early entry, showed a great all around game during Under Armour All American week practices. He showed he’s a polished running back who can run between the tackles, bounce it outside, block, and make tough catches out of the backfield. He may not be the biggest, fastest, or flashiest running back but he’s solid in every phase of his game and will likely make an impression from day one in Will Muschamp’s offense.
Demarcus Robinson, a recent Gator commitment and early entry as well, stood out as the best all around wide receiver in Army All American game practices. A tall, rangy wide receiver, he showed he’s a polished route runner, possesses good speed, and has great hands. He can go up and fight for the football and is the tall wide receiver the Gators have lacked for many years.
Of course, the cream of the class is shutdown cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III who is #3 on the ESPN 300 list, the highest ranked Gator recruit since Percy Harvin. Hargreaves dominated the Under Armour All American game repeatedly shutting down the nation’s number one ranked wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, covering him like a blanket, batting down passes, and picking one off. The interception was beautiful as he fooled the quarterback on the play disguising his coverage and getting the interception.
Daniel McMillan, who is listed as an OLB on the ESPN site but will likely play either the Mike or the Will linebacker at Florida, is up to #31 and is the next highest rated Gator reruit. He has great size at 6-2 220 with a frame to add a good 20-25 pounds. He plays big and is another who is likely to step up and play as a true freshman with Bostic graduating and Jenkins leaving early for the NFL draft.
Caleb Brantley, a defensive tackle who committed early to Florida then decommitted a couple of weeks ago before recommitting last week, is the next Gator recruit on the list at #42. He’s a large defensive tackle who’s built like Sharrif Floyd and hopefully will play like him when he gets to Gainesville. Brantley is a good run stuffer who plays with good pad level and uses his hands well. He’s plays with good technique but the main knock on him at this point is he needs to be more consistent with his effort. Muschamp and Young should have no problem getting the most out of this kid.
Keanu Neal and Marcell Harris are both safety commits and come in at #65-68 respectively. They are two of three safety commits for the Gators, the other being Nick Washington, and team with Vernon Hargreaves on what they have termed “The No Fly Zone”. Both players have great size and speed and play with great technique. Harris is the son of former Gator player Mike “Mud” Harris who played under Spurrier in the mid 90′s. Neal plays a lot like Matt Elam and is a big hitter who excels up near the line of scrimmage in run support. Harris reminds me more of Joshua Evans who can play the deep safety, step up in coverage, and is a sure-handed tackler.
Wide receiver Alvin Bailey is up to #77 in the ESPN rankings. He’s a quick, elusive slot receiver type who reminds me of Wes Welker. He doesn’t have great top end speed but he’s shifty and makes plays. He’s a great returner on special teams and should be a great target on drag routes and quick receiver screens. He, like Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood, should see early playing time next season as Pease and company look for playmakers in the passing game.
Three spots down at #80 is outside linebacker Matt Rolin, a South Carolina legacy who had been committed to the Gamecocks for a long time before flipping to the Gators. Rolin is a smallish linebacker who plays much bigger than his size. He has a good frame and will likely be able to add weight without losing his speed or quickness. Rolin plays with great instincts and is a big hitter and sure tackler. He will likely play on the outside or possibly at weakside linebacker where his speed can be utilized covering tight ends, slot receivers, or running backs.
Next on the list at #110 is wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood. He was the number one target at receiver for the Gators from the beginning and the Gators got a good one when he committed. He’s tall at 6-4 and is a solid route runner with good hands and is very physical. He doesn’t possess blazing speed but knows how to get open and can make the tough catches. He’s another that should see early playing time.
Sitting just outside the top 150 at #154 is third safety commit Nick Washington. He’s an athletic, versatile player who can fill in at corner, if needed, and can play in nickel and dime packages. He’s also a great baseball player who’s expected to be drafted in this year’s major league draft. Washington will also get a shot at early playing time in the backfield with the loss of Elam and Evans and Saunders transferring out and may see time on special teams as a returner or on the coverage units.
Next up for the Gators is the best running back nobody is talking about. At #175 is Adam Lane, a smallish back in the mold of Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s short at 5-8 and that might be favorable, but is a solid 218. He’s a workout warrior with a huge lower and upper body and runs like a bowling ball. He will make a good one-two punch teaming with Kelvin Taylor in Muschamp’s running game but may be a liability in blitz pickup or as a receiver due to his lack of height. He’s kind of gone under the radar in recruiting circles because he missed his whole junior campaign due to injury. He was, however, the first commitment in this class.
Marqui Hawkins, a rangy wide receiver, who has been moving up the charts after a great senior season. Originally considered a three star recruit, he has moved up to four star status at #199 in the ESPN rankings. He’s one of the least known Gator recruits and had made waves about looking around at other schools before firming up his commitment with the coaching staff. Hawkins may not be well known among Gator fans right now, but will soon. He has great top end speed, gets off the line quickly, and has good burst. He will be a good downfield threat for the Gators and is a good complement to the other four wide receivers in this class.
Coming in at #263 is quarterback recruit Max Staver. After the Gators missed out on top choices Cooper Bateman and Christian Hackenburg, they looked at a lot of quarterbacks. It came down to Staver and Asianti Woulard and the Gators were set to host both one weekend and give them the opportunity to earn their scholarship. Woulard declined to show up, the staff liked what they saw in Staver and they offered. He accepted on the spot. Staver’s a big kid at 6-6 238 with good presence under center. He has a quick throwing motion, is a prototypical pocket passer but possesses surprising running skills. While he’s no Driskel as a runner, he can get outside the pocket and make plays when he needs to. A lot of fans are sleeping on this kid as he wasn’t highly ranked coming in to the season, but he’s a polished passer, much further ahead than Driskel was coming in, and he has moved up the charts gaining four star status in this final rankings. He will likely come in and compete for backup spot right away.
The last Gator recruit in the ESPN top 300 is linebacker James Hearns from Tallahassee Lincoln high school. He comes in at #278 and is another that moved up to four star status from three star. Personally, I think he’s still underrated. This guy has great size and speed for a linebacker and is very physical. He’s the most physically ready to play linebacker in this class at 6-3 235 and is a beast. The hit Bostic put on Bridgewater at the beginning of the Sugar Bowl is how Hearns hits all the time. He, along with McMillan will likely play next season and should competer for starting jobs.
Overall the Gators top the rankings with 15 commits in the final ESPN 300, 10 in the top 150, and 18 four star athletes altogether. The only other school with as many in the Top 300 is Ohio State. With the jump by recruits, the Gators ascend to the number one overall class in the ESPN rankings. With 26 commitments they have room for 3-4 more and are still chasing #13 overall Montravius Adams a defensive tackle, #14 cornerback Jalen Ramsey who is a USC commit and teammate of Max Staver, #34 defensive end Elijah Daniel, #39 cornerback Shaq Wiggins, #57 running back Alex Collins, and #132 defensive end Tashawn Bower. Muschamp and staff have worked tirelessly to bring in a top rated class this year and obviously are not done yet. They are bringing in top level athletes that fill the needs of this team and the schemes that they employ.
This is truly Muschamp’s first full class filled with recruits that fit his vision for the team and this class reminds me of the 2006 Gator class that helped to bring the Gators two BCS championships. They will certainly be competing for championships within a couple of years and could possibly help them compete for an SEC championship next season. With other top teams losing a ton of great players, the Gators returning a large complement of good players, and with this class having a number of guys who should be ready to compete for playing time right away including eight early entries, don’t sit on this team next season. They might just surprise you.
As a post-script, before going to press, reports have surfaced that ESPN Top 150 linebacker (#97) has decommitted from Notre Dame and will be enrolling at Florida tomorrow. It appears that with ND head coach Brian Kelly reportedly interviewing with the Philadelphia Eagles, Anzalone decided to back out. He was down to Florida and Notre Dame before choosing the Irish. His commitment brings the total of Top 150 recruits to 11 and 16 of the Top 300. Stay tuned.