Last week, we published Joey Vizzi’s predictions on where Florida’s biggest prospects would sign their letters of intent. Today, I’m going to expand upon his analysis and add my own as National Signing Day looms one week away.
So, in order of need for the Gators, here we go:
1) RB Jordan Scarlett
High school: St. Thomas Aquinas (FL)
Scouting report: Scarlett is literally a terror for opposing defenses. While he doesn’t have the most amazing juke moves that some of these top backs have, he’s shifty enough on his feet to never let defenders get a clean shot at him, reducing their efforts to arm tackles; thus, he’s near impossible to bring down. Combine that with his 4.3 40 and ability to get to the edge and turn the corner, and you’ve got one of the best running backs in the country. Plain and simple.
Why Florida needs him: Kelvin Taylor provides the Gators with one dependable running back, but after that, the depth chart drops off like a continental shelf. Adam Lane had a big game in the Birmingham Bowl, but one impressive performance in a third tier bowl against an also-ran from the AAC does not convince me that he’s an elite back. He very well may turn out to be one, but we don’t know that he will- and that’s where Scarlett comes into play.
Currently: Committed to Miami
Offer list: Florida, FSU, Alabama, Miami, Auburn, Wisconsin, LSU, Ohio State, Georgia, others
Prediction: Though Scarlett has been a longtime Cane commit (and before people noticed him, a Florida Atlantic commit), I expect him to flip to Florida. He enjoyed his visit to Gainesville, and I think his desire to play a key role in the offense immediately will make him want to call the Swamp his home.
2) OL Martez Ivey
High school: Apopka (FL)
Scouting report: Ivey is a tremendous athlete, something that’s extremely coveted at the offensive tackle position in the SEC. He’s a little under 300 lbs. right now; if he bulks up just a little, he could be the best lineman in the entire class when it’s all said and done. Ivey displays the pure quickness and explosive first step off the snap that can’t be taught. The only question mark on Ivey is that his high school team ran the ball a lot, so he’ll need lots of reps in pass protection. But again, with his natural ability, I don’t think this will be too much of a problem.
Why Florida needs him: The Gators’ offensive line is in shambles. Three starting linemen will need to be replaced in Max Garcia, Chaz Green and DJ Humphries. Oh, and the Gators also lose Trenton Brown and Tyler Moore, key reserves who each started in six of the Gators’ 12 games last year. So Florida really has five key contributors to replace on the offensive line. Even if Ivey goes through the growing pains in 2015 that most freshmen go through, this is a must get for the future.
Offer list: Florida, FSU, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Auburn, Clemson, Notre Dame, Ohio State, others
Prediction: It’s a tossup between Florida and Auburn for Ivey’s services, and I believe Ivey picks the Gators due to wanting to play immediately. Auburn’s offensive line is in much better shape than Florida’s, especially with their star tackle Avery Young returning. But I wouldn’t be shocked if Ivey goes to Auburn, either.
3) DL Cece Jefferson
High school: Glen Saint Mary (FL)
Scouting report: You can flip-flop Jefferson and Byron Cowart as the third and fourth most needed prospects for Florida. They are similarly dominant, but Jefferson is even more explosive as a pass rusher, and possesses outstanding intelligence and recognition of plays. Few high school players in the country can simply run around offensive tackles and diagnose a play like Jefferson can. I can see him having an immediate impact on Florida’s defensive line. Or FSU’s defensive line. Or Auburn’s defensive line. Or Mississippi’s defensive line. You get the picture.
Why Florida needs him: Because of Will Muschamp’s long-running offensive ineptitude, Scarlett and Ivey are needed more, and thus listed ahead of him, but that doesn’t mean Jefferson wouldn’t be a gigantic catch for McElwain, especially in a class that’s not likely to completely get filled out. Even though the Gators’ defense appears to be in pretty good shape right now (particularly in the front seven), it’s always nice to grab a player of consensus five star caliber.
Offer list: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio State, Auburn, Clemson, LSU, FSU, others
Prediction: Jefferson is a tough one to call. He has claimed that he, Byron Cowart and Jeffrey Holland are a “package deal”, which is what makes him very tough to predict- this is the word of a high school kid with a gigantic ego. He may be telling the truth, or he may just be talking for headlines. At the end of the day, though, I say he goes to Auburn because of his relationship with Will Muschamp- but it wouldn’t totally stun me if he picked Florida, either.
4) DL Byron Cowart
High School: Armwood (FL)
Scouting report: Cowart, like Jefferson, is a freak of nature. He’s big (250 lbs.), he’s fast (4.58 40 yard dash) and combines an explosive first step with great closing speed to make tons of tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Cowart pretty much dominated every camp or workout he participated in, and as long as opponents didn’t devise a game plan specifically aimed to avoid him (which happened on multiple occasions this past year), he dominated every game he played in, too.
Why Florida needs him: Same reason Florida needs Jefferson. The departure of Dante Fowler to the NFL leaves a void on the defensive line. It’s a void that Alex McCalister or Bryan Cox is probably going to fill anyway in 2015, but having a deeper stable of ferocious defensive linemen never hurts, particularly when Cox and Jonathan Bullard- both seniors- leave for the NFL. And even next year, Cowart would likely contribute in a key reserve role if he didn’t beat out the incumbents for the starting position.
Offer list: Florida, FSU, Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Mississippi, Oregon, others
Prediction: Publicly, it’s down to Florida and Auburn for Cowart, but he’s probably going to Auburn. He left his Florida visit early, and even though I don’t doubt that this was because his mother really had to go back to work, it just doesn’t leave me with a good feeling about him. His relationship with Will Muschamp was what made Florida so appealing to him in the first place, and even though he likes the current UF staff, I believe he’s going to follow Muschamp and Jefferson to the Plains.
5) WR Ryan Davis
High School: Lakewood (FL)
Scouting report: Davis earned his spot as one of the top receivers in the Class of 2015 as an explosive playmaker with excellent ball skills. He isn’t the biggest receiver you’ll find (5’11), or even the fastest (4.74 40 yard dash), but he has big play ability that you just can’t teach. He was actually a QB in high school, and thus got to show off his athletic ability on QB runs; his ability to make defenders miss in the open field almost overshadows the vertical threat he poses.
Why Florida needs him: Uh, because UF doesn’t really have any dependable receivers other than Demarcus Robinson? Davis could make a huge impact on what’s been an anemic Gators’ offense since Muschamp took over in 2011. Losing Quinton Dunbar and Andre Debose leaves Robinson and Latroy Pittman as the only two receivers who possess a threat to burn a defense. I guess Ahmad Fulwood makes three if you count his big play in the Birmingham Bowl. But yeah: Florida would be thrilled to get Davis.
Offer list: Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Miami, FSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Mississippi, others
Prediction: I’m pretty certain Davis is a Gator. He’s quickly built a strong relationship with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and I don’t think he really wants to leave the state. Pencil him in as a solid late addition to the Gators’ small recruiting class.
6) QB Deondre Francois
High School: IMG Academy (FL)
Scouting report: Francois looks like a classic dual threat QB. But while he is fairly mobile, he’s going to be strictly a pocket passer at the next level. He has a very good arm, makes good decisions and is capable of making just about every throw you can ask him to make. Essentially, he’s not the best in the class in any of those categories, but he’s well above average in each of them, and doesn’t have any glaring deficiencies in his mechanics.
Why Florida needs him: You can never have too many quarterbacks. If you disagree with this, just remember what happened to the Gators in 2013. Remember Skyler Mornhinweg? Me too. It wasn’t pretty. The current QB situation features a battle between Will Grier and incumbent Treon Harris, but after that, there’s a huge gap. Francois would be a more than adequate way to fill it.
Currently: Committed to FSU
Offer list: Florida, FSU, Miami, Auburn, Michigan State, Clemson, Ohio State, Oregon, Nebraska, others
Prediction: It’s going to be very hard to pull Francois away from FSU with the departure of Jameis Winston. Given the current QB situation at UF, it’s worth a shot, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up here. Then again, I didn’t expect the Gators to be able to flip Treon Harris, either….
7) RB Jordan Cronkrite
High School: Westminster Christian (FL)
Scouting report: Cronkrite reminds me a bit of Chris Rainey. He’s a little small, but hits his top speed (4.58 40 yard dash) immediately. Like Rainey, he’s best used running the ball outside, because although he wasn’t afraid to lower his shoulder and initiate contact in high school, he won’t be able to do that at the highest level of college football. He could also play a little slot receiver, as he has decent hands.
Why Florida needs him: Same reason Florida needs Scarlett. There’s a need at running back due to the lack of experience behind Kelvin Taylor, and even though Cronkrite is a different type of back, he could certainly play a role in the Gators’ offense. It’s always nice to be able to terrorize defenses outside the hashmarks, especially with the inside threat that Adam Lane poses.
Offer list: Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, FSU, Wisconsin, Clemson, Miami, Oregon, Texas, others
Prediction: Cronkrite appeared to really enjoy his visit to Florida this past weekend. He is down to Florida and West Virginia, and I believe he’ll elect to remain in state and sign with Florida.
8) LB Adonis Thomas
High School: Central Gwinnette (GA)
Scouting report: Thomas is a top linebacker that combines impressive athletic ability and instincts with a high level of intelligence, something that separates him from most other linebackers in this class. He’s exceptional in pursuit, and once he gets there, he’ll make the tackle in the open field. He’s also extremely versatile, and can play a number of different positions at a very high level (he played inside linebacker his senior year at Central Gwinnette).
Why Florida needs him: It’s more of a depth issue with Thomas, and the rich getting richer, as opposed to filling an immediate need. Sure, it’d be nice to land such a talented linebacker, but Florida’s linebacker corps is loaded with talent between Antonio Morrison, Alex Anzalone, Matt Rolin and Daniel McMillian. Thomas is a solid prospect, but it wouldn’t kill the Gators not to land him.
Currently: Committed to Alabama
Offer list: Florida, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, FSU, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, others
Prediction: Not happening. He’s been solidly committed to Bama for awhile, and though he still likes Florida, I highly doubt McElwain will be able to get him to flip.
9) LB Jeffrey Holland
High School: Trinity Christian (FL)
Scouting report: Holland is an animal, put bluntly. He’s an outstanding natural athlete, and has made himself known for delivering big time hits that often cause drops and fumbles. He’s already big enough (230 lbs.) to play at the college level, and his experience as a tight end on offense speaks volumes of his versatility and ability to play different positions. He could eventually step in and become that psycho that every defense loves. He’s also a master twitter troll.
Why Florida needs him: See this same section under Adonis Thomas.
Offer list: Florida, Auburn, Alabama, FSU, Oregon, Ohio State, Mississippi State, LSU, USC, others
Prediction: Holland was a Gator until Will Muschamp got (righteously) fired. Now, all accounts point to Auburn for the vicious linebacker because of his relationship with Muschamp… and his desire to play with Cowart and Jefferson. I believe he’s an Auburn Tiger.
10) ATH D’Anfernee McGriff
High School: Leon (FL)
Scouting report: McGriff, as one could tell from his ATH label, can play a variety of positions, including running back, linebacker and safety. He’d probably be best utilized on offense at the college level because he has all the traits needed from a running back: he has good hands, he can block well, and he’s got good quickness and acceleration as a runner. He wouldn’t be a prototypical tailback like Kelvin Taylor, but he’d make a good wild card that lined up at several positions, a little like Trey Burton once did.
Why Florida needs him: Well, why not? Florida’s offense sorely lacks offensive playmakers, and McGriff could make those plays in several different facets of the game. His broad range of skills make him an outstanding addition to any team, particularly one that uses each of them.
Currently: Committed to Auburn
Offer list: Florida, Auburn, Alabama, FSU, South Carolina, Louisville, Mississippi, Cincinnati, North Carolina, others
Prediction: Here’s your dark, dark, dark horse potential flip that nobody saw coming. I don’t know if Florida can actually get McGriff to flip from his firm commitment to Auburn, but he did seem to enjoy his visit to Gainesville this past weekend. I say Auburn, but don’t be shocked if he flips. There’s a real possibility.