With signing day 2013 in the rearview mirror for the Florida Gators, HailFloridaHail takes a look ahead to see what Gator Nation can expect from this consensus top five recruiting class.
Following is the top five impact prospects in this recruiting class. By impact we mean guys that are likely to come in and positively affect the team as true freshman. There will likely be ten to fifteen guys that will push for early playing time next season but these five should have the most impact.
1) Demarcus Robinson
While Florida had a lot of needs going into signing day this season, perhaps their biggest need by far was at the wide receiver position. If you watched Florida football last season, or for the last few seasons for that matter, it’s clear that the one thing they’ve lacked is playmakers at the wideout slot. To say they lacked playmakers wouldn’t simply be an understatement, it would be a gross and egregious understatement. They went into last season with the only experienced wide receiver being senior Frankie Hammond, an underachiever throughout his career in Gainesville. Behind him they had little used redshirt junior Andre Debose, redshirt sophomore Quinton Dunbar, smallish wideout Soloman Patton, and then a couple of freshman Latroy Pittman and Raph Andrades. Not exactly a wide receiver corps that puts fear into a defensive backfield. They were so impotent at the position that the Georgia Bulldogs put eight men in the box the entire game against Florida because they weren’t concerned about downfield passing.
So against that backdrop, the most important recruit in this class who should provide the quickest impact is Demarcus Robinson. At 6-2 200, Robinson has the size the Gators covet at wideout. He’s a big, physical receiver and is quite possibly the most complete and college ready receiver coming out of high school this year. He dominated the Army All American game practices showing an elite ability to beat press coverage, to run precise routes, to use his body effectively to shield defenders from the ball, to stretch the field, and to make the tough catches. Perhaps his ability to catch everything in sight is his best attribute coming to Florida because, as we saw last season, quarterback Jeff Driskel has a tendency to throw erratically and without the proper touch. Getting him in as an early entry and having him for spring practice and summer workouts is huge for the Gators. Expect him to be the #1 wideout on opening day. He will be the big downfield receiver that the Gators have lacked for a number of years.
2) Vernon Hargreaves
Hargreaves is the consensus top cornerback coming out of high school this year and one of the top five players regardless of position in this recruiting class. The 5-11 181 pound corner is a complete player and is arguably one of the best coming out of high school in many years. He has the speed to cover vertically, the hand skills and reaction time to be able to play physical press coverage and make plays with the ball in the air, he’s very crafty in zone coverage as we saw in the UA All American game where he baited the opposing quarterback into throwing over him but was able to break on the ball and make the interception. He was by far the best player overall in that game and dominated it on the way to receiving Black team MVP as he basically shut down the nation’s #1 overall receiver Laquon Treadwell. He’s got quick hips that you can’t teach as well as good ball skills and a good vertical leap helping him go up against taller receivers.
“ (Vernon’s) the guy that’s been around the game a lot, really gets the game, understands the game,” Muschamp said. “He’s very mature, he’s very driven. Works on the things that are important as far as strength training, and the speed training is concerned. He’s been raised in the game and understands it.”
With the Gators top three cornerbacks returning from a defense that finished first in pass efficiency defense in the country, it was difficult in putting Hargreaves up this high. But considering what happened to them in the Sugar Bowl where they were torched by the Lousiville passing game and the fact that there has been a lot of noise about switching Loucheiz Purifoy to offense next season and possibly Jaylen Watkins to safety, the likelihood that Hargreaves sees action early and often is very high. Look for him to make waves in fall camp as he pushes the incumbents for a starting position.
“I see a very mature young man that’s very driven in what he wants to accomplish,” Muschamp said. “That’s what really jumps out at me. Highly intelligent. A guy that you certainly would point to that would have some opportunity as a freshman to contribute and how much would be up to him.”
With the three returning corners plus Vernon, this will likely be a Gators No Fly Zone indeed next season.
3) Kelvin Taylor
Taylor, the son of Gator great running back Fred Taylor is perhaps the most complete running back coming out of high school this season. He has good size and speed at 5-10 205 and 4.5 speed. His strengths are his patience, vision, and cutting ability. He possesses good natural instincts for the position with an intuitive understanding of where to take the football. He uses his blockers well, and has the quickness to cutback in the hole or to bounce outside. He has a strong lower body and can run through arm tackles and is rarely stopped by the first tackler or one tackler. He’s also an exceptional blocker and receiver out of the backfield for a high school back.
He is the epitome of what Muschamp is looking for in his pro style offense. The fact that he is an early enrollee with great maturity, focus and determination enables him to get a jump start on learning the offense. With him being here for spring practice and summer workouts look for him to push Matt Jones for the starting running back slot and to see significant playing time next season.
4) Alvin Bailey
Offensively, this recruiting class is loaded with potential stars at every position. Once again, the wide receiver position is the largest position of need for the Gators. So it’s not unexpected that two of the top five impact prospects are receivers. At number four is slot receiver Alvin Bailey. Bailey is smallish at 5-11 175 but has play-maker written all over him. He’s underrated mostly because analysts haven’t seen him a lot at receiver as he’s mostly played quarterback in high school.
“Alvin Bailey’s a slot receiver,” Muschamp said. “He’s a guy you can stick in the slot, he can stick his foot in the ground and change direction. A lot of times in high school you put your best athlete at quarterback because they touch the ball every snap and they’ve got an opportunity to make something good happen for your team. Alvin’s a guy that has a lot of play-making ability but I also look at all the intangibles that Alvin brings.”
He’s certainly not the biggest nor fastest player in this class but he is a playmaker. He’s very versatile and can do a lot of things for the Gators. While he’ll be considered a slot receiver, he’ll probably lineup at multiple positions including at wildcat quarterback and will be used to run jet sweeps and bubble screens and likely as a returner as well. With the Gators needing playmakers that can stretch the field vertically and horizontally putting pressure on the defense and creating match up issues for the opponent, Bailey will likely be an important cog and look for offensive coordinator Brent Pease to find creative ways to get him the ball in space.
5) Alex Anzalone
Anzalone is an outside linebacker that flipped to the Gators from Notre Dame on the eve of his enrollment. At 6-2 220 he has great size and speed for an outside linebacker. He was impressive during Under Armour All American game week practices where he stood out for his athleticism, high motor, and playmaking ability. He has great instincts, a nose for the ball, and can rush the passer as well as cover slot receivers. His performance during UA week helped earn him his fifth star from major recruiting services after the All American games were finished.
With him being on campus for spring practice and summer workouts expect him to get a strong look from the staff at SAM linebacker as they look for some speed on the edge in pass rush situations as well as covering in the slot.
Tomorrow we’ll list the top five most underrated Florida Gator recruits.