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Gators stay quiet but fill needs

Published Aug. 27, 2005

In his first full season of recruiting, Florida coach Ron Zook and his staff hauled in a class widely considered to be among the top two in the nation.

It included the USA Today offensive player of the year, quarterback Chris Leak, and Tampa standout receiver Andre Caldwell, both making their announcements on national TV.

One year later, things are slightly different.

The Gators have not received oral commitments from many players ranked high by recruiting services, but they have done what's necessary, one analyst said.

They have adequately filled their needs.

"They are doing fine," said Jamie Newberg, national recruiting analyst for "People are making a big deal that they lost out on a lot of those receivers, but they don't really need receivers. They were in on those guys because they were so good those are guys you don't turn away. But the only positions they really didn't need this year are running backs and receivers.

"That's what recruiting is all about. You have to fill your needs. You can't make the sexy signees of all the receivers and quarterbacks. You've got to go out there and get what you've got to get. And with Florida, it's linemen on both sides of the ball, linebackers and secondary help."

The Gators have 15 oral commitments, including four offensive linemen, which is among their biggest needs. Florida must replace senior starters Max Starks and Shannon Snell and add depth.

Among the commitments is Sarasota's Drew Miller, a Class 5A first-team all-state selection ranked among the top 15 linemen in the nation. The Gators also have commitments from two safeties, two cornerbacks and touted linebacker Brandon Siler of Orlando.

"Offensive linemen, they got all the guys they wanted," Newberg said. "Defensive line, they are waiting on a couple. Linebacker, they are waiting on a couple, and they filled the secondary needs."

Five of Florida's commitments are from outside the state. Atlanta defensive tackle Michael Brown orally committed to the Gators last week but has backed away from that. He still is deciding between Georgia and Florida.

Zook said the Gators remain committed to recruiting their home state first but convincing Florida's best to come can be intense.

"In the state of Florida, you are battling everyone," Zook said last month. "I like to think that in the state of Florida, we need to go in and do our job and do our work and have an opportunity to get them all. Obviously, you are not going to get them all. I think with our university, the facilities and our coaching staff, that we should have a chance if we do what we are supposed to do. . . . I think the thing that is exciting is we are targeted on the guys we think we need for our program."

Florida continued its solid presence in Jacksonville, picking up oral commitments from Ed White cornerback Dawayne Grace and Fletcher safety Kyle Jackson.

The Gators also have commitments from Orlando and Pompano Beach but none from Miami. Zook said he's proud of how his staff has made inroads in the state in two years.

"A couple of coaches from out of state made mention to me at the coaches convention (recently held in Orlando) that our staff has changed the way you recruit Florida," he said. "I kind of like that when they say that. It means they have to get after it now."

With national signing day Wednesday, Florida still is in the hunt for several key players, including Hawthorne quarterback Cornelius Ingram.

Newberg said if Florida continues on its path, it should finish solidly.

"They have filled two of their big four needs. Now they are just waiting," Newberg said. "If things fall the way we think they are, with the guys left on their board, they are going to get most of the guys. You see some years where they get everybody, some years they don't. If they get most of these guys like we think, at the end of the day, they'll have a top 10 class in the country and they will have fulfilled their needs."