Florida Football: Highlighting Recruits Already Committed to Gators Ahead of NSD
When healthy, Florida's defense is good enough to contend for an SEC title and spot in the College Football Playoff. The offense is what's holding it back.
Accordingly, much of this offseason has been spent focusing on the offense, which was predictably dismal during Florida's ugly 4-8 season in 2013. Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was hired to replace Brent Pease, who was fired after two uninspiring years.
Florida's recruiting has had a big offensive focus, too. The Gators have 21 committed prospects at time of publication, two-thirds of whom play on the attacking side of the ball. It's clear where their priorities now lie.
Let's take a moment to highlight each guy.
Brandon Powell is a scat-back whom the Gators poached from rival Miami, much to the chagrin of Hurricanes fans, who were hoping he'd be the next Duke Johnson. Only 5'9'', he doesn't have the frame to hold up as a three-down back, but Powell could be a nice third-down option in the future if he improves his pass blocking.
Deiondre Porter is the lowest-ranked player in Florida's current class, but he's one of the more intriguing. A dual-threat quarterback with the potential to play cornerback or receiver, he seems like a low-risk proposition. Florida recently snared him from USF.
Will Grier has been billed, by some, as the next Aaron Rodgers, but Florida fans know better than to hike up expectations before the real games start. After the development (or lack thereof) of blue-chip prospect Jeff Driskel, folks in Gainesville have been trained to expect Murphy's Law.
But there's a reason that Grier, the No. 4 pro-style passer on the 247Sports composite, is regarded so highly in the first place. He has a live arm and sneaky mobility on the edge. If Kurt Roper is as good as advertised, he should be able to mold Grier into a quality SEC starter.
WR J.C. Jackson is the star of the class after the decommitment of Ermon Lane, but there's a chance he follows suit. Labeled a "soft" commit, Jackson is entertaining offers from Florida State, Miami and Georgia. If he leaves, it would be a big blow to the Gators, who could use his speed and explosiveness—both on offense and in the return game.
TE Moral Stephens is an old-school tight end, better served in the short game than making plays down the field. He simply isn't fast enough to dominate vertically, but that doesn't mean Florida will have no use for him. If he progresses as a run blocker, he could see the field quite a lot.
TE DeAndre Goolsby is a different shade than Stephens. Despite also lacking top-end speed, he projects as a receiving option, though his route-running mechanics need to be tweaked. Gooslby also needs to be schooled on how to block, but that should (hopefully) come with time and reps.
WR Ryan Sousa doesn't turn heads with his size, build or speed, but he shows well on tape and has a knack for getting open. That is something Florida receivers struggled with, to put it lightly, in 2013, so stealing Sousa away from Florida State was a nice coup.
TE C'yontai Lewis is an H-back-type—raw but with very good potential. He can make difficult grabs look easy and easy blocks look difficult, so like many high school prospects, he'll need to refine his mechanics in the trenches. If he holds true to his commitment and comes to Gainesville, he'll be a low-risk, high-upside project.
OT David Sharpe is 6'6'' with a nice reach and a rangy frame. He has nimble feet for a man his size, and seemingly the only thing holding him back from being game-ready is improved technique and some added bulk. He has a mean streak, but if he wants to compete in the run game, he needs to get even meaner.
OG Nolan Kelleher is 6'6'' and 305 pounds, and a good portion of that weight comes form the upper body. Because of that, he seems like a logical fit at tackle, but Kelleher's contributions to the run game might be better suited at guard. He's very versatile, so it should be interesting to see how Will Muschamp chooses to use him.
OT Taven Bryan is one of the few, if any, prospects of note from the state of Wyoming. Like any big-country kid, he likes to mix it up in the pile. Unlike most big-country kids, he has rare athleticism at the offensive line position, which might even make him a candidate to switch to defense.
OG Travaris Dorsey weighs 315 pounds and might have the creepiest profile picture in ESPN recruiting history. Don't let that fool you, though. He's a powerful blocker who should only get better with college coaching. He relies on his size too much right now, but things like that can be fixed.
OT Kavaris Harkless comes over from Louisville, which wasn't able to retain him after losing Charlie Strong. The Cardinals' loss is the Gators' gain, as Harkless is an impressive 6'5'' athlete who likes to play nasty in the trench. He might be the hidden gem of this class.
OT Drew Sarvary is a 3-star prospect coming over from Tyler Junior College. Average in almost every facet of the game, he has good size at 310 pounds and should provide, at the very least, solid depth along the line. Sarvary rarely makes you notice him on tape, but for offensive linemen, that can sometimes be a good thing.
DT Gerald Willis has all the physical tools you look for in a defensive tackle, though he doesn't always show up to play. Will Muschamp should have his hands full trying to coach Willis up, but if he succeeds, the reward will be massive. Willis is also the brother of Alabama safety Landon Collins.
DT Thomas Holley reneged on his commitment to Penn State after Bill O'Brien left Happy Valley, and his move to Gainesville was one of the biggest moments of the current cycle. Something seemed to click for Holley, one of the fastest-rising players in the class, in his senior season. If he continues to improve at the same rate in college, he'll be an All-SEC-type player.
DT Khairi Clark got lost in the shuffle when Willis and Hosley committed to Florida, but his presence should not be taken for granted. At 325 pounds, he commands attention almost immediately, and at times he can look un-blockable. With some fine tuning, he'll be a menace against the run.
DE Justus Reed is slender at 216 pounds, and he likely won't make an impact for at least a couple of more seasons. With some time in a college weight training program, however, he has the leverage and technique to become a rotational player. He must buy in to the system.
CB Jalen Tabor is a rare talent who should develop into one of the SEC's finest defenders. He's long, he's athletic, he's savvy, and and he relishes the spotlight. At 6'1'', he has the height to take on bigger receivers and jams well at the line. For at least two seasons, he and Vernon Hargreaves III will be a special pair to behold.
CB Duke Dawson has good reactions and mirroring ability, which should allow him to eventually become a valuable piece of the Gators secondary. He needs to add some bulk and shore up his tackling, but he's already capable of seeing the field on passing downs.
S Quincy Wilson is a solid-enough prospect, though his skills and technique are raw. He's 6'1'' and likes to play physically, which should encourage Will Muschamp to keep him at safety, though cornerback might also be in his future. The coverage skills aren't there yet, but Wilson is a fluid athlete so there's no reason he shouldn't be able to learn.