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Despite some misses, Florida Gators land a top-5 recruiting class

Running back Matt Jones and stepfather Donald Singleton do the Gator chomp at Armwood.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Running back Matt Jones and stepfather Donald Singleton do the Gator chomp at Armwood.

GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Will Muschamp is known for being unimpressed with the ranking system of high school recruits, but you can bet deep down he was celebrating Wednesday afternoon.

The Gators closed out Wednesday's national signing day with a top five class in the major national recruiting rankings. Florida was No. 4 in the ESPN rankings, No. 3 in Rivals.com and No. 5 on Scout.com.

Muschamp and his staff had said it was critical to get stronger on both lines, and 14 recruits are big players up front or at linebacker.

The class helped bring the Gators closer to the 80-man roster limit; as is customary with Muschamp, the second-year coach wasn't declaring victory just yet.

"We'll know a lot more about this class in two or three years," Muschamp said. "At the end of the day, this is a developmental game. It's not about winning in February, it's about winning in the fall, and developing your football team and addressing your needs and I think we've done that."

GUARANTEED FOR FOUR: For the first time in school history, Florida extended scholarships that are guaranteed for four years — a trend that is growing in college football and many expect will become a mandate soon. Previously, scholarships were renewed annually, but Muschamp downplayed the change. "We're on the four year," he said. "At the end of the day it's not a whole lot different from a single-year contract. Instead of the day having a guy come in and sign his scholarship saying that it's going to be renewed … It's just what it says in the scholarship now, which is probably what all schools are doing."

Actually, for now it's still unusual.

CLOSE, BUT NOT QUITE: The Gators finished with a solid class but went 0-for-4 with players whose narrowed choices on the final day included the Gators. Among them: Berkeley Prep's Nelson Agholor and Daytona Beach Mainland defensive end Leonard Williams, who both chose USC; cornerback Tracy Howard (Miami) and the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle, Eddie Goldman, who chose Florida State. "To not land any of those guys probably stunted their growth toward finishing with a No. 1 class," said ESPN recruiting analyst Craig Haubert.

TALENTED DUO: Muschamp said he expects big things from tight ends Kent Taylor (Land O'Lakes) and Colin Thompson. "I think they complement each other very well," Muschamp said. "They are both guys we're excited about."

THREE CHEERS FOR JONES: Muschamp said Armwood's Matt Jones is exactly the kind of running back the Gators desperately needed. What makes Jones so good? "Toughness," Muschamp said. "At the end of the day his toughness. He runs behind his pads, and in the fourth quarter you get tired of tackling. That's what we need. We need more of those guys who can run up in there when it's fourth and 1, know that you are going to move the pile by turning around and handing it to somebody. That's something I didn't always feel as comfortable with this year."

DID YOU KNOW? Seven of the schools ranked in the ESPN Top 25 recruiting class are on the Gators' 2012 schedule.

Despite some misses, Florida Gators land a top-5 recruiting class 02/01/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 4, 2012 9:55pm]

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