College Football: Where the Top Recruits from Florida Could End up
The gravity of the top three programs in the state of Florida sometimes keeps its best players so close that they never need to look elsewhere.
But more and more programs have gotten the word about the seemingly natural athleticism—and sheer number—of the Sunshine State's players.
Let's catch up with the top 10 players in the state of Florida and see if the battle to pull them away from home is going successfully, or if the attraction to Florida, Florida State and/or Miami is too great.
James Wilder, Jr., RB
Were you as surprised as I was to hear the James Wilder's recruitment is actually shaping up to be a game? That he may not be a lock to Florida, since they're the only school in his top five not offering him as a running back?
Wilder is the kind of freakishly athletic player Florida has had no problem landing since they've become the Swivel Hip U of the college football recruitoverse.
But Wilder, a slam-dunk a few months ago, is hesitating.
The Gators just aren't respecting that he doesn't want to play linebacker—a position for which he was Scout's top recruit—at the next level, while Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama and Florida State—which round out his new top five—are.
This may all be a red herring. As long as Florida sees the light and offers Wilder as a running back, they'll cash in on their comfortable lead.
They set down roots with Wilder early in the recruiting process. There's no reason to sacrifice those when he's clearly a gifted runner as well.
Nevertheless, his timetable has legitimately changed. Before, he was merely waiting to see how Florida's offense would look post-Tebow before signing with the Gators. Now, he maintains he will wait until Signing Day.
That seismic shift puts the Bulldogs, Jackets, Tide and Seminoles on full alert. Keep an eye on this one—Wilder will almost certainly be near the top of most top 100 lists.
Tim Jernigan, DT
It's been an in-state battle between the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles for DT Tim Jernigan for some time.
He all but narrowed his list down to two back in November, and since then, Florida appears to have taken the lead.
Jernigan chose to attend Florida's spring game over FSU's (they were on the same date, April 10).
I think schools are sensing the writing is on the wall with him. He's Go Gator all the way.
Brandon Fulse, TE
Fulse's recruitment appears to be wide open, as long as you're a program in Florida.
The buzz around a recent camp was that Fulse will stay in-state, with Alabama being the only school with the pull to bring him out.
Last year, this is a battle Florida wins hands-down, but Florida State has put together some mojo, and Miami's passing attack is turning heads for big men like him. If this one stretches past summer, it could be a three-way race all the way until Signing Day.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB
With the Gators taking their top-tier quarterback in Jeff Driskell, it's looking more and more like Alabama, LSU and Miami will be duking it out for Teddy Bridgewater.
Early returns were that Miami had a slight lead for the mobile quarterback—he attends Northwestern high school in Miami, where he took over for Jacory Harris as a sophomore.
I still think the Canes have the best chance—his favorite receiver at NW, Eli Rogers, also likes Miami.
But the longer done deals play out, the more likely it becomes that a recruit gets swayed. Look at James Wilder as a great example.
I think is Bama and LSU can get Bridgewater to wait until at least the fall before making a decision, they'll be able to get him on campus and into the stadium for an SEC game. Once that happens, all bets are off.
For now, I'd venture Miami's stock is falling, but it's alright. He didn't belong there anyway.
Sammy Watkins, WR
For an athlete long on talent, wide receiver Sammy Watkins' offer sheet sure is light on names.
Recruiting moves fast enough these days that I wonder if it isn't too late for some schools.
Michigan brought Watkins on campus for their spring game, and he had a great time according to B/R's Big House Bob. I think the weather likely turned him off, but I'm not satisfied until they sign on the dotted line.
Watkins was also buzzing about Alabama in a Crimson Confidential article, and
Despite visiting a practice and a spring game and watching his brother, Jaylen, commit to be a part of the Gators in last year's class, Watkins disputed the notion that he would blindly follow his brother to Florida.
Some recruits fight these kind of guarantees (even if they're true) for the sake of the attention. Others are genuinely interested in playing the field.
Few Florida recruits can get away with traveling up to Michigan with school still in session to check out a scrimmage (or want to), so I'll take Watkins' movements to mean he really isn't a cold lock for Florida.
Watch for Alabama, Michigan, USF, Miami (another school he's visited) and Ohio State to make a play for one of his official visits this fall. If he doesn't commit to Florida first, that is.
Mike Bellamy, RB
Bellamy is another recruit slipping through Florida's grasp as time wears on.
Auburn made a strong impression on him during a recent visit, and he also named Clemson his leader. Apparently, he's struck up a friendship with C.J. Spiller.
I know Michigan was after him in a big way back in March, although they were unable to bring him up for the spring game (and have now refocused their efforts on Demetrius Hart).
Scout is still reporting "High" interest in Florida and Georgia, but that looks like old, un-updated news. As of now, the ball is in Florida's court. Respond to the Clemson interest, or move on to the next guy.
By the looks of it, this recruitment is just getting started.
Nick O'Leary, TE
Nick O'Leary of West Palm Beach, Florida, recently named a top four of Ohio State, Georgia, Florida and Miami.
He's the grandson of Jack Nicklaus, a noted Ohio State alum.
Yet even with that ace in the hole, Buckeye fans think OSU might be on the outside looking in, and they're rarely a self-doubting bunch.
Why not Florida? Well, the Gators took a top tight end in Deonte Thompson in last year's class, and have also gained a verbal from A.C. Leonard, considered a tight end by Rivals. Sounds like the depth is spooking O'Leary away.
Miami is a good bet considering they are a local school and it's clear O'Leary isn't keen on playing far from home.
Interestingly, some recruitniks are buzzing that O'Leary, DE Curt Maggitt and QB Jacoby Brissett—all Dwyer High School prospects—are discussing being a package deal for the next level.
O'Leary likes Georgia a lot (his father played for the Bulldogs), so they look like the most likely target. Yet the Bulldogs haven't offered Brissett and are reporting no interest in Maggitt. If the rumor of a package deal is true, Georgia has their work cut out for them.
Curt Maggitt, DE
Weakside defensive end Curt Maggitt liked Florida and West Virginia early in the recruiting process, but now claims he holds no favorites among his double-digit offers.
As mentioned, he's a Dwyer prospect who could form a package deal with teammates Nick O'Leary and QB Jacoby Brissett.
He's one of the Gators' top prospects, and it's hard not to see him rekindling his affection for Florida on an official visit, package deals be damned. If Florida wants him, they'll get him.
Wayne Lyons, S
Crackerjack ESPN recruiting analyst JC Shurburtt posted an interview with Wayne Lyons from the Gainesville Nike Football Training Camp.
Lyons, a safety from Dillard HS in Fort Lauderdale, seems sincere in his efforts to pursue academics (he even mentioned being a Rhodes Scholar; Florida State fans, take note).
Lyons is drawing a tremendous amount of attention across the country. Schools are sensing that they have a chance to draw him out of Florida, and they're offering to try and get a foot in the door.
His response to that attention has been to try and narrow down his list of schools to 15 from an offer sheet of 30+ and counting at the end of the spring.
Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan are all in good shape to get a visit when Lyons heads north this summer. Miami, Florida State, Florida and are battling to keep him nearby, and UCLA and USC have also tossed their hat in the ring.
Once the spring wraps and the list to 15 has been narrowed down, we'll know more, but I can't venture a guess as to his final decision beyond listing the schools above.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR
Miami looks to be in good shape with hulking 2011 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Tharinger's Charles Drake posted a mailbag saying Benjamin has the Hurricanes as his leader with Florida a distant second.
Benjamin likes Miami's go-up-and-get-it offense under offensive coordinator and ex-NFL QB coach Mark Whipple.
What can I say? He's a perfect fit. Hopefully he drops for Miami by the summer.