As national signing day 2013 approaches, HailFloridaHail offers the latest and most up to date coverage on potential Gator signees. Here are five names to keep an eye on in order of importance.
5) Tanner McEvoy
With the loss of backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the Gators are apparently in search of some immediate depth behind Jeff Driskel. McEvoy spent last season at Arizona Western Junior College where he passed for 1800 yards and 24 touchdowns with four interceptions completing 68% of his passes. He had previously only played quarterback for one season, his senior year, at Bergen Catholic high school in New Jersey. He has good size at 6-6 215 pounds and appears to very athletic with great speed (4.6 forty).
The thought is they needed someone who could come in and compete for the backup spot right away but won’t necessarily scare away both Max Staver who is in this recruiting class and next year’s top qb Will Grier. With the Gators having as many as 7 scholarships available but only likely to fill 3 to 5, I’m guessing the staff decided they could afford an extra qb on the roster next season. McEvoy is scheduled to visit this weekend and is likely to commit at that point.
4) Quinton Powell
The Gators lost their top two linebackers in Jon Bostic to graduation and Jelani Jenkins to NFL draft early entry.
The Gators currently have four linebackers committed, two inside and two outside. One linebacker that was committed to the Gators for a long time is outside linebacker Quinton Powell. He is a speedy, athletic outside linebacker that was a camp superstar back in the spring and summer. Back in December, however he decommitted saying he felt like he committed too early and wanted to look around to find the best fit for him. At the time, it appeared the Gator staff may have been willing to let him go and move on. That apparently is not the case right now.
When he decommitted the consensus opinion was that Powell would likely sign with USC. His close personal friend and former teammate is Leonard Williams who chose USC last year over the Gators in a signing day surprise. With five linebackers committed just a few weeks ago, the Gators appeared to be done at the position. However, James Hearns ended up being dropped out of the class due to academic concerns leaving an open spot and it appears the staff would like to fill it by bringing Powell back on board. Will Muschamp visited with Powell on Monday and left him with a tough choice to make.
Without getting into all the specifics of the USC signing class (limited due to NCAA sanctions) there is a possibility if Powell waits he could get left out of their class due to a numbers crunch. While there are a lot of variables in play here including four fence sitting commits (soft verbals) of which Gator target Jalen Ramsey is one, this is simply one scenario that may push him back to Florida. Of course, distance and an affinity to many other Gator commits may also play in the Gators favor. The biggest question is simply whether his friendship is strong enough to bridge the 2500 miles he has to travel from home to play.
He has announced that it is between Florida and USC only and will likely be a signing day decision. Best guess at this point is Trojan.
3) Jaynard Bostwick
With the Gators losing their top two defensive tackles, Sharrif Floyd due to early entry to the NFL draft and Omar Hunter to graduation, the Gators are certainly in need of tackles, particularly a couple that can come in and compete for playing time and provide immediate depth. The Gators currently have four tackles committed, three high school players and a JUCO transfer in Darius Cummings. Cummings will certainly be ready to provide depth and will be in the mix. Riles and Ivie will likely need to redshirt to get their weight up to be able to withstand the line of scrimmage battles in the SEC. That leaves Caleb Brantley as the only other one with an opportunity to step in and provide depth. Brantley is an over the center nose tackle type player but Bostwick may be more of a three gap defensive tackle. Don’t sleep on this one. The staff wants him badly. It should be noted here that Riles is a legitimate threat to flip from the Gators. Some rumors have said Auburn, but Georgia would be the most likely destination if he does indeed leave the Gators class.
The coaches are having their in-home visit this (Wednesday) evening with Bostwick and his family. Miami is turning up the heat on DT Keith Bryant who is down to Miami and FSU which means they likely are not confident in getting Bostwick. According to Jaynard’s head coach, he is closer to the UF staff than Miami. Of course, Alabama got in late on this one and they are always a player to keep your eyes on. Depending upon how it goes tonight and with his official visit to Florida this weekend, the Gators may be trending upward on this one and likely lead here. Miami is his childhood favorite and the Gators always have problems bringing in South Florida recruits who grow up Cane fans and with Bama winning three of the last four BCS championships there are strong pressures against the Gators. As of today, I like where the Gators stand with this one.
2) James Clark
Probably the most important need for the Gators this offseason is playmakers at the wide receiver position. If you watched the Gators the last few season you know that the biggest lack the Gators have had is playmakers, especially at receiver. Last season, running back Mike Gillislee was the focus of the offense and played very well becoming the first 1,000 yard rusher since 2004. Tight end Jordan Reed was quarterback Jeff Driskel’s go to guy and primary receiver. Unfortunately, it still didn’t add up to too much for the Gators offense. The Gators finished the season ranked 114th nationally out of 120 schools in passing offense averaging a paltry 146 yards per game. To give it perspective, the six teams ranked below them all ran some version of an option (non-passing) offense. So the need for playmakers, not just warm bodies, but playmakers is obvious.
Currently, the Gators have two tall, physical wideouts committed in Ahmad Fulwood and Demarcus Robinson, an inside receiver in Marqui Hawkins, and a couple of slot guys in Alvin Bailey and Chris Thompson. Clark will add another speed guy with Thompson, guys that can stretch the field and create matchup problems. Like Bailey, Clark is a versatile receiver who can line up in a variety of spots. He can be used in the slot on drags and go routes, he can line up outside and run the jet sweep or catch receiver screens, and he can also return kicks and punts. Clark is certainly no slam dunk for the Gators at this point, but they have distance in their favor over all the other teams Clark is considering. Some analysts are expecting him to be a Clemson lean at this point and likely they are the biggest threat to the Gators right now. Clark, who has taken all five of his official visits, will be back in Gainesville this weekend on an unofficial visit. I expect that if he does indeed make it into town, he will be a Gator.
1) Jalen Ramsey
The top guy left on the Gators board regardless of position is four star corner Jalen Ramsey. With only one corner currently committed, albeit the nation’s best in Vernon Hargreaves III, the staff would certainly like to add one more for depth and numbers. That guys is Ramsey. If Hargreaves is #1 then Ramsey is #1A. The two added with the three safety commits that are currently safely in the fold would definitely top off this “Gators No-Fly Zone” as the defensive backfield commits have named their group and truly make this the top defensive secondary class in the nation.
Ramsey is a big, physical corner who has the hands and speed to play up at the line in press coverage as well as the quickness and instincts to sit back in two deep coverage as well. Ramsey definitely has the size and skillset that Muschamp covets at the corner spot, tall and athletic enough to fight for jump balls as well as the hips to turn quickly to defend balls in the air. While corner is the least of their immediate needs with their top three coming back and several other young guys stepping in, Muschamp knows you can never have too many good cover corners. Great corner play allows him to utilize his lineman and linebackers in run support and gives him more options in blitz packages. It is the key to what he wants to do defensively so getting Ramsey to team with Hargreaves is extremely important.
Muschamp and company have been putting the full court press on for his services and expect that to continue right up to Sunday night. With three players in the ring USC, Florida State, and Florida, the Gators have at least an equal shot here. But with USC firing their defensive back coach, the one he had been closest to, and with Florida State getting in late, the feeling is that the Gators have a better than equal shot. Of course, you can never count out the team a guy’s been committed to for so long and Jeremy Pruitt is a great recruiter and has pulled a few surprises already since being named the Seminoles defensive coordinator. My feeling as of right now is that the Gators have the best shot, particularly if he takes a surprise visit to Gainesville this weekend as has been a hush-hush rumor. Stay tuned.
So there you have it the five guys with the best chance to sign with the Gators in order of importance. There are a number of other guys that have a Gator hat on the table. Tomorrow I’ll give you a list of five considering the Gators at some level who are not likely to sign in order of importance. And of course, remember as always, recruiting is fluid especially this late in the process. With visits this weekend these things can change quickly. On Monday and Tuesday we’ll revisit these lists for signing day. And remember to stay tuned to HailFloridaHail for up to the minute coverage of signing day via website, Twitter, and Facebook.