Florida Football Recruiting: Tracking 2012 National Signing Day Targets

John PattonContributor IJanuary 29, 2012

Florida Football Recruiting: Tracking 2012 National Signing Day Targets

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    It may sound odd, but there probably is a good bit of validity to the thinking that some Gator fans worry more about what recruits Florida will sign to national letters of intent in February than how UF does on the field against Florida State in November.

    That might be exaggerated.

    But then again, it might not.

    Much like the beginning of March Madness, National Signing Day has proven to be one where employees suddenly come down with a mysterious flu bug. Or, if they go to their job, they often find themselves tracking recruiting websites from 8 a.m. until sundown (when work permits, of course).

    Entering the final stretch of recruiting, Will Muschamp looks like he will deliver a top-5 class to Gainesville. With that will come expectations.

    There are no worries from Muschamp's end on that, as he has said since his introductory press conference in December of 2010 that his goals for the program are very high.

    This group should help him achieve what he desires. Will it end up on a list like these signing classes?

    We'll know in a few years.

    The first few slides here will center on uncommitted prospects who could end up at UF. From there, we will take a look at the commitments and those who have enrolled early.

Stefon Diggs, Athlete, Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)

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    Listed as an "athlete" by most recruiting services, the 6'0", 185-pound Diggs likely will play receiver in college, though he doubled as a tailback in high school.

    An elusive talent with 4.45 speed in the 40-yard dash and a 31.5-inch vertical leap, Diggs (rivals' No. 8 overall prospect) also will help a team in the return game.

    While not as big or fast (yet, in both cases), the way Diggs runs with the ball is reminiscent of former Gator Percy Harvin.

    At this point, Diggs isn't a polished route-runner, but he has shown the willingness to continuously work on his game.

    Diggs isn't expected to make a college decision until around Feb. 10.

    Considering: Florida, Auburn, Maryland, Ohio State, USC and California.

Nelson Agholor, WR, Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep

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    At 6'1", 180 pounds, Agholor is one of those players who appears to be much faster in pads than he is on a track.

    Clocked at 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash at a combine, Agholor rarely is caught on the football field and often distances himself from defensive backs after the catch.

    He runs sure routes and has good hands.

    Rivals' No. 3-ranked wideout nationally, Agholor also can help a team in the return game.

     

    Committed to USC on 2/1

Tracy Howard, CB, Miramar

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    At 5'11", 175 pounds, Howard is the consensus No. 1-ranked cornerback nationally.

    He is such a major priority for Florida that Muschamp and his coaching staff sat with Howard's family when Miramar played in Florida's Class 8A state title game.

    Listed as running a 4.65 in the 40, Howard has tremendous football speed and instincts. He also is decent, though not tremendous, against the run.

    Rivals' No. 1 cornerback prospect, Howard may remind longtime Gator fans of 1990s All-Southeastern-Conference cornerbacks Larry Kennedy and Anthone Lott.

     

    Committed to Miami on 2/1

Avery Young, OT, Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.)

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    Shortly after he was hired in December of 2010, Muschamp visited with Young and told the 6'5", 292-pound offensive tackle that signing him to a national letter of intent would be among UF's top priorities for the Class of 2012.

    Young comes in about 20-25 pounds less than what would be his ideal playing weight, but he has the frame to add muscle.

    An outstanding athlete with excellent feet, signing Young is rivals' 74th-ranked overall prospect and could give UF the country's best OL class.

     

    Committed to Auburn on 2/1

Josh Harvey-Clemons, OLB, Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes

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    Florida looked like the leader for a little while with Clemons, who likes the fact that Gainesville is just 109 miles from his home (the University of Georgia is 245 miles away).

    However, indications are that Georgia and Florida State have either crept even with or may have surpassed the Gators.

    Still, UF remains in the mix for this 6'4", 210-pound prospect who has been promised by all of his finalists that he will be given the opportunity to play both outside linebacker and receiver. As a junior, he had 109 tackles and three sacks, as well as 21 receptions for 425 yards and five touchdowns.

    He has very long arms and elite athleticism, though he needs to add strength to play wherever he is headed in the SEC.

     

    Committed to Georgia on 2/1 

Dairus Hamilton, DE, Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, NJ)

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    This may be the most interesting decision of the week involving Florida.

    The son of former New York Giants standout Keith Hamilton, Darius Hamilton is said to be down to Florida, Miami (Fla.) and Rutgers.

    It is feasible to think he could have second thoughts about inking with UF because it already has commitments from seven other defensive linemen. However, with the home-state Scarlet Knights losing coach Greg Schiano to the Tampa Bay Bucs last week, that could prove to be a negative for Rutgers.

    At 6'3", 245 pounds, Hamilton played inside at Don Bosco Prep, but projects as an end at least early in college. The nation's 11th overall prospect (per rivals), he could gain weight and move to tackle, a la recently-departed Gator Jaye Howard.

    Committed to Rutgers on 1/31

Leonard Williams, DL, Daytona Beach Mainland

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    At 6'5", 265 pounds, Williams is a natural end who could grow into a tackle at the next level.

    He is quick and strong, but often plays higher than he should, something college defensive line coaches will work on with him. Rivals' 53rd-ranked overall prospect, Williams also doesn't play with much technique, using his natural ability to either overpower or run by would-be blockers.

    The Gators got his final visit, so that could be a plus, though UF probably wouldn't be considered the favorite to land his services.

     

    Committed to USC on 2/1

Dante Fowler, DE, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood

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    A Florida State commitment for more than 13 months, Fowler has said publicly on many occasions he will sign a national letter of intent with the Seminoles.

    However, it also is pretty well-known he's always had a love of UF, and turning him could be possible.

    At 6'3", 236 pounds, Fowler is undersized as a defensive end. But college weight rooms and buffet lines will add any weight he may need.

    At Florida, he could be a nice fit in the Buck role (hybrid end/outside linebacker), played by junior-to-be Ronald Powell. 

    Fowler has 4.65 40-speed, and his biggest on-field strength is his ability to get to the quarterback. Of the 106 tackles he recorded as a junior, 32 of those were for-loss, and 20 of those were sacks.

     

    Committed to Florida on 2/1

Schyler Miles, ILB, Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep

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    A prep teammate of Nelson Agholor, the Gators would love to sign both former Tampa Berkeley Prep standouts to national letters of intent.

    A 6'1", 215-pound inside linebacker prospect, Miles picked up an offer from UF not very long ago. He does a lot very well and is a good athlete.

    The nation's 27th-ranked linebacker (per rivals), Miles is a sure tackler who also thrives as a blitzer. He could prove to be an early factor on special teams.

    Also a potential college fullback, Miles will be asked to pack on some pounds no matter where he signs.

     

    Committed to Kansas on 2/1

Jake Meador, OT, Whiteland (Ind.) Community High School

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    This is a prospect who hasn't been talked about a lot by the Gators until recently.

    Florida is looking to sign three or four offensive linemen, and it would love to add Avery Young and Meador to already-enrolled Jessamen Dunker and D.J. Humphries.

    At 6'7", 305 pounds, Meador is a versatile talent who can play guard or tackle.

    The nation's No. 43 offensive line prospect (per rivals) has long arms and is strong and tough at the point of initial contact. A former Mississippi commitment, Meador also has good footwork and a fiery demeanor.

    He visited Florida on the weekend of Jan. 20, but NFL-offensive-line processing plant Wisconsin got his final visit. Will that be a factor?

    Committed to Wisconsin on 2/1

D.J. Humphries, OT, Charlotte (NC) Ballard Creek

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    The consensus No. 1 offensive line prospect in the country, Humphries often has been compared to New York Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

    Humphries is a gifted 6'6", 275-pound athlete who will need to add some pounds to compete in the SEC. That shouldn't be a problem.

    Adept at run and pass blocking, he also has outstanding footwork and long arms.

    Gator coaches are thrilled Humphries has enrolled early, and he could have a shot at playing a good bit next season, even with Xavier Nixon, Chaz Green and Matt Patchan—all talented players—returning.

    Considering: Enrolled at Florida

Jonathan Bullard, DE, Shelby (NC) Crest

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    Even though UF will be signing a plethora of defensive linemen, Bullard was a great get for the Gators.

    At 6'4", 255 pounds, he is rivals' No. 1 defensive end and sixth overall prospect. Bullard presents a lot of options for Florida coaches.

    He can play end or add weight and move to tackle. Perhaps coaches will do like they did with similar-sized Ronald Powell and move Bullard to the Buck position. 

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Jessamen Dunker, OG, Boynton Beach (Fla.)

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    A prep tackle, Dunker will move to guard at Florida. At 6'6", 315 pounds, he is physical and athletic with a quick first step that makes him ideally suited to pull and trap.

    The nation's fifth-ranked offensive guard prospect (per rivals), Dunker also has long arms and a willingness to find another defender to block once he has disengaged with his first assignment.

    He has enrolled early, giving him the spring to work with the team and possibly find his way into the rotation, or even starting lineup.

    Considering: Enrolled at Florida

Brian Poole, CB, Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast

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    A very good, though not elite, athlete, Poole adds yet another talented young defensive back to Florida's roster.

    Rivals' No. 5-ranked corner nationally, Poole is a very good tackler who is willing to take on bigger players. He's also a quality cover man who has a similar skillset to current Gator safety/nickelback Pop Sauders.

    In an ideal situation, Poole would redshirt the 2012 season, though if he proves good enough to play, he will.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Dante Phillips, DT/OT, Venice (Fla.)

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    One of the earliest commitments to this class, Phillips was a prep teammate of current Gators Trey and Clay Burton.

    Also an offensive tackle prospect, Phillips has tremendous initial burst, evidenced by his 28.5-inch vertical leap.

    He is 6'5", 270 pounds, but has the frame to carry more than 300 pounds without losing any athleticism.

    At this point, it sounds like Phillips is targeted for the defensive line, but he could switch sides if the coaching staff desires. Rivals ranks him as the nation's No. 9 defensive tackle.

    Previously, Matt Patchan and Mike Pouncey began their careers at defensive tackle out of necessity before moving to the offensive line. It isn't likely to happen (in the reverse mode) to Phillips, but it could.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Colin Thompson, TE, Warminster (Pa.) Archbishop Wood

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    The first of Florida's two tight end commitments this season, Thompson is a well-rounded 6'4", 255-pound prospect.

    The nation's No. 6 tight end (per rivals), he is a powerful and willing blocker who also brings nice hands.

    As a prep junior, he wasn't asked to catch many passes (13 receptions for 208 yards with four touchdowns), but the Gators like to throw to the tight end.

    With Jordan Reed and A.C. Leonard returning and Thompson and Kent Taylor signing, could UF be looking to run a tight-end-friendly offense similar to the New England Patriots?

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Kent Taylor, TE, Land O'Lakes (Fla.)

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    At 6'5", 220 pounds, Taylor is tall and has very good speed.

    If the heavier Thompson is the Rob Gronkowski of the class, Taylor is the Aaron Hernandez, though no one actually is comparing the Gator commitments to those elite pros; merely offering an analogy.

    Rivals' No. 1-ranked tight end nationally, Taylor needs to add weight and has the frame to do so. That will help him improve as a blocker. He already should be able to contribute as a pass-catcher.

    Ideally, at least one of the two freshman-to-be tight ends would redshirt in 2012 to put a year between them.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Marcus Maye, S, Melbourne (Fla.) Holy Trinity

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    At 6'0", 195 pounds, Maye already has decent size for a college safety and has the frame to add between 15 and 20 pounds without it affecting his athleticism.

    Rivals' fifth-ranked safety, Maye has been clocked at 4.64 in the 40, but he plays faster than that and has the ability to cover a receiver or wideout in the slot.

    Much like former Gator safeties Lawrence Wright, Marquand Manuel and Major Wright, perhaps Maye's best attribute is his hitting ability.

    There might be room for him to play as a true freshman, but UF is quite deep at safety. If Maye does see the field in 2012, most likely, it will be because he has earned a spot on special teams.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Matt Jones, RB, Seffner (Fla.) Armwood

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    At 6'3", 205 pounds, Jones has the frame to potentially carry 220, giving Muschamp the big back he so desires.

    Jones is very well-rounded, capable of getting hard yards, breaking loose (though not in any way close to Jeff Demps or Chris Rainey), blocking and catching passes (he played wide receiver much of his senior season at powerful Armwood).

    And with senior-to-be Mike Gillislee the only proven tailback on Florida's roster, Jones, rivals' 15th-ranked running back prospect, will be afforded every opportunity to play in 2012.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Latroy Pittman, WR/S, Citra (Fla.) North Marion

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    A local prospect who grew up 30 minutes from campus, Pittman committed to former coach Urban Meyer on Aug. 17, 2010.

    Also a potential safety, the 6'0", 195-pounder was a longtime contributor at North Marion, catching 35 passes for 612 yards with seven touchdowns as a sophomore.

    Pittman isn't a burner, but he should be able to make tough catches and will occasionally surprise the opposition by going deep. The 32nd-ranked wide receiver nationally (per rivals), he also a willing and strong blocker who already is on campus.

    Considering: Enrolled at Florida

Rhaheim Ledbetter, S, Shelby (NC) Crest

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    A prep teammate for Bullard, Ledbetter is a hard hitter with outstanding speed who plays bigger than his 5'10", 190-pound frame and likes to take on ball-carriers.

    Like Maye, Ledbetter signs onto a team with a lot of quality young safeties and may have to wait his turn. That said, Muschamp was more than willing to play freshman defensive backs in 2011, so if Ledbetter proves good enough, he will play. If not, a redshirt could be in order for the player rivals ranks as its No. 25 safety nationally.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Quinteze Williams, DT, Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek

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    At 6'4", 295 pounds, Williams is yet another athletic and powerful defensive line prospect the Gators will sign.

    Perhaps the most impressive of Williams' athletic attributes is his 29.5-inch vertical leap, a pretty astounding number considering his size.

    The nation's No. 22 defensive end prospect (per rivals) also was clocked at 4.66 in the 20-yard shuttle, showing he has quick change-of-direction ability.

    Florida is loaded with quality defensive linemen and have a JUCO transfer already on campus, so the possibility exists Williams could redshirt in 2012 and be required to play a lot in 2013, provided Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley leave school early for the NFL.

    That said, Easley is coming off a bad knee injury, and if Williams proves good enough to play, he will play.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Jeremi Powell, OLB, Pinellas Park (Fla.)

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    At 6'2", 200 pounds, Powell is not physically ready to play outside linebacker in the SEC.

    However, rivals' 17th-ranked OLB prospect has a frame that can add weight without athletic repercussions. So, he'll probably spend the 2012 season getting bigger and learning the Gators defensive system.

    That said, if Powell shows he can contribute on special teams, he will be used there. Often, coverage units need and utilize players of Powell's size, athleticism and skillset.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Alex McCalister, DE, Clemmons (NC) West Forsythe

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    McCallister will come to UF as an undersized (6'6", 220 pounds) defensive end with a lot of promise.

    At this point, his biggest strength is using his athleticism and height to get to the quarterback. As he packs on muscle, McCallister should grow into an every-down player. Right now, the nation's No. 26 defensive end (per rivals) plays stronger than he looks.

    However, unless he plays on special teams or shows he can contribute immediately at the Buck position, look for McCallister to redshirt in order to add weight.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Austin Hardin, PK, Atlanta (Ga.) Marist School

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    If everything goes according to plan, Florida won't sign another kicker for four years.

    Caleb Sturgis will return next season as arguably the nation's best placekicker, and walk-on Brad Phillips has proven to be a capable backup. 

    Ideally, Hardin will redshirt in 2012. The nation's 11th-ranked kicking prospect (per rivals), he could play if Sturgis goes down or has a Blair-Walsh-like slump. Hardin also could see the field if UF is getting sub-par kickoffs from others.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Antonio Morrison, OLB, Bolingbrook (Ill.)

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    As a junior, Morrison recorded 84 tackles (11 for loss) with seven sacks. At 6'3", 230 pounds, he squats more than 600 pounds and does a little bit of everything well.

    Morrison could be called upon to play Buck, outside or inside linebacker, though his earliest contributions should come on special teams or as a scout-team linebacker.

    Gator fans should really like him, as he is a big hitter who can jar the ball loose from ball-carriers. Rivals ranks him as the country's 10th-best inside linebacker prospect in the Class of 2012.

    Considering: Enrolled at Florida

Jafar Mann, DT, Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson

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    You may have read something similar to this already, but Mann is yet another big and athletic defensive lineman on his way to Gainesville.

    At 6'3", 275 pounds, Mann has really nice hips, evidenced by a respectable 8.57-second combine clocking in the three-cone drill. Times for prospects ranged between 7.99 (by 240-pound Arizona commitent Dwight Melvin) and 10.11 seconds.

    Mann isn't flashy, but he is plenty tough, and after adding about 30 pounds, he should end up a mini-wall as a run defender. Rivals ranks him 48th nationally among defensive tackle prospects.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Willie Bailey, CB, Hallandale (Fla.)

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    Another prospect from fertile Broward County, Bailey (6'2", 175 pounds) is a tall cornerback (rivals' No. 38 nationally at the position) who also could get a look at safety.

    He is a physical tackler and a defender with good length from the same high school that produced former Oklahoma/current Tampa Bay Bucs offensive guard Davin Joseph.

    Already in classes at Florida, Bailey also was a star on coverage teams in high school, giving him an avenue to see the field early.

    If Howard also signs with UF, the Gators could end up with four quality corners from Broward (Howard, Bailey, Marcus Roberson and Cody Riggs) on the roster.

    Considering: Enrolled at Florida

Bryan Cox Jr., DE, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas

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    The son of fiery former 12-year NFL linebacker Bryan Cox, like his dad, Junior isn't the biggest or fastest guy, but he plays with unmatched intensity.

    At 6'2", 230 pounds with 4.96 40-yard dash speed, Cox played on the same prep defensive line with Miami end commitment Jelani Hamilton and shined in front of a national television audience early in the season with Hamilton out injured.

    Simply put, Cox is a football player. The nation's No. 37 defensive end prospect (per rivals), he may need a redshirt year to get bigger, stronger and faster. But if he can show he is a capable backup to Powell, perhaps Cox could get an early look at Buck. That said, he appears to be targeted to play end.

    Considering: Committed to Florida

Damien Jacobs, DT, East Mississippi CC

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    With Jaye Howard graduated and Dominique Easley rehabbing a knee injury, there could be a place for Jacobs to contribute immediately in a defensive tackle rotation that also will include Sharrif Floyd, Omar Hunter, as well as possibly Leon Orr and/or Earl Okine (also an end).

    A 2010 Florida State signee who committed to Tennessee last summer, Jacobs will be a Gator, as he already is enrolled in classes.

    Big and strong at 6'3", 295 pounds, Jacobs is stout against the run and is a strong pass rusher. He's a kid who could see the field early in Gainesville. 

    Considering: Enrolled at Florida

Skyler Mornhinweg, QB, Philadelphia St. Joseph's Prep

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    The son of a highly respected longtime NFL coach, Mornhinweg is a former Penn State commitment.

    When Charlie Weis was UF's offensive coordinator, the Gators had no plans on signing a quarterback in 2012. However, Brent Pease's arrival changed those plans.

    A friend of UF tight end commitment Colin Thompson, Mornhinweg is 6'3", 215 pounds with a strong right arm and good footspeed. Rivals ranks him as Pennsylvania's 36th-best prospect.

    Ideally, Mornhinweg would redshirt in 2012, learning behind sophomores-to-be Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett, who will duke it out to be the starter. That said, neither Driskel or Brissett had jaw-dropping 2011 seasons, meaning Mornhinweg possibly would be afforded the opportunity to compete for playing time as a true freshman.

    Considering: Committed to Florida