Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp pleased with quality of talent on signing day

Bradenton Manatee running back Mike Blakely, who ran for more than 1,000 yards this past season, is an early enrollee at UF, but he had shoulder surgery and will miss spring practice. He is expected to be ready in the fall.

SCOTT McINTYRE | Times

Bradenton Manatee running back Mike Blakely, who ran for more than 1,000 yards this past season, is an early enrollee at UF, but he had shoulder surgery and will miss spring practice. He is expected to be ready in the fall.

GAINESVILLE — Considering everything he had to battle — most notably spending just one month on the recruiting trail while trying to hire a staff during that span — new Florida coach Will Muschamp was quite satisfied with his first recruiting class.

"The Gators got better today," Muschamp said Wednesday afternoon.

Florida signed 18 of a possible 25 players, but Muschamp said that was by design. His strategy once he was hired in December was to try his best to hold the players former coach Urban Meyer and his staff had received oral commitments from, while adding a few players at key positions of need.

"We have a smaller senior class for next season," he said. "I'd rather have held those scholar­ships to the next season to give our staff a whole year to evaluate and recruit."

LIKING THE LOCALS: Two area players — Nature Coast WR Ja'Juan Story and Tampa Catholic/Wesley Chapel FB Hunter Joyer — are among this year's class. Muschamp had high praise for both.

"Ja'Juan is a bigger receiver," Muschamp said of Story, who is 6 feet 4. "He's going to be a tough matchup with a smaller corner. He's a guy that can vertically stretch the field. He's got great ball skills down the field, very athletic. … He's electric with the ball in his hands."

Expect Joyer, who recently transferred back to Wesley Chapel after spending two seasons at Tampa Catholic, to help the Gators establish a stronger running game.

"Hunter Joyer, we're going to get back to more traditional as far as running two-back runs," Muschamp said. "And he's got a lower-body punch and explosion. He's a very strong young man. He lives in the weight room, and we're excited about what he brings to our football team from a toughness standpoint."

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas DB Marcus Roberson originally committed to Texas Tech, then changed his mind and gave Auburn his oral commitment. But when Wednesday rolled around, the four-star recruit signed with Florida.

CREAM OF THE CROP: QB Jeff Driskel is the No. 10 player in the ESPNU Top 150 and is already enrolled at UF. It's no exaggeration that retaining him after Meyer left helped Muschamp salvage Florida's class.

"That was critical," Muschamp said. "It was a very short period of time to make that happen. Jeff's an outstanding player. He's a very athletic, big quarterback that can really spin it. I mean, he's got great velocity on the ball. He's shown good leadership, good skills."

ESPN The Magazine writer Bruce Feldman lists TE A.C. Leonard as No. 8 of the nation's top 10 early enrollees.

NUMBERS GAME: The Gators are listed No. 12 in ESPN's final recruiting rankings, No. 14 by Rivals.com and No. 21 by Scout.com. As for player rankings, Muschamp said he's unfazed by that kind of talk.

"I don't count stars," he said. "I watch the tape. I recruit. "I don't want to disappoint or offend anyone, but I don't read the Internet. I just put the tape on and decide from a critical factor standpoint, this guy can fit in our program and be a good football player."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp pleased with quality of talent on signing day 02/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 10:34pm]

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