Wednesday February 5, 2014Live Blog: #Gators14 National Signing Day is Here
Today is National Signing Day and GatorZone.com has you covered.
Today is National Signing Day and GatorZone.com has you covered.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp's press conference on National Signing Day Wednesday.
Updated -- 6:15 p.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators coach Will Muschamp did drop a few news items today during his National Signing Day press conference.
The most notable is the transfer of fifth-year senior defensive back Cody Riggs, who has started 26 games the past four seasons. Riggs (photo, left) finished fourth on the team with 51 tackles last season after moving from cornerback to safety.
"[He] and his parents came to me and he's going to finish up in May and transfer to another school to finish his last year of eligibility," Muschamp said. "Wanted a fresh start. I appreciate his contributions to Florida."
Riggs is scheduled to finish his undergraduate degree in May and is eligible to play at another Division I school next season. He finishes his UF career with 107 tackles, one interception, two sacks and a forced fumble in 40 games.
Also, Muschamp said running back Matt Jones underwent a second surgery on his injured knee Wednesday and had good news to report. Jones suffered a torn radial meniscus at LSU last season and missed the final six games.
"It was 90 percent healed,'' Muschamp said. "They [doctors] feel very comfortable that it's way further along than they thought it would be at this time and feel really good about him progressing well. He still won't go through spring."
Muschamp said that as of Wednesday, the only injured players from last season who are ruled out of spring are linebackers Matt Rolin, Jeremi Powell and Alex Anzalone.
Finally, former NFL and Gators linebacker Mike Peterson has joined the program in a full-time position in the weight room.
"We looked around in the coaching ranks, and we had an opportunity in the weight room, and to be able to hire a guy like that, former Gator, knows how it's going to be done the right way,'' Muschamp said. "That's invaluable for our players. So, great to have him on staff."
Updated -- 5:15 p.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators head coach Will Muschamp held a press conference a little more than an hour ago to discuss Florida's 2014 signing class.
Despite a 4-8 season in 2013, the Gators put together a class that is considered one of the top 10 in the country by most major recruiting analysts.
Muschamp wasn't surprised Florida assembled a good class despite a difficult season.
'We had a rough fall, but recruiting is being here, building relationships,'' he said. "They saw us win 11 games two years ago."
The Gators focused a lot of attention on the offensive line in this year's class. Florida signed six offensive linemen, more newcomers than in any other position group.
First-year offensive line coach Mike Summers hasn't been around long -- he joined the program in January after spending last season at USC -- but Summers said he inherits a strong incoming class that includes three early enrollees -- Drew Sarvary, Kavaris Harkless and Nolan Kelleher -- and the trio of David Sharpe, Travaris Dorsey and Andrew Mike that signed Wednesday.
I wrote about everyone other than Sharpe and Dorsey earlier in the blog. Sharpe is a 6-foot-6, 315-pounder out of the Providence School in Jacksonville, and Dorsey is listed at 6-3 and 310 pounds out of Raines High in Jacksonville.
Here is what Summers had to say about the pair of beefy linemen after studying their film:
“He is a very large, strong football player, an inside guy who will probably end up playing offensive guard for us,’’ Summers said. “Excited about his power and explosiveness. Feel like that he can anchor inside and be able to do a great job in the run game. He doesn’t get pushed in the pass game. He takes up a lot of space.”
“He is a long, big offensive left tackle that has great athletic ability, really great feet,’’ Summers said. “He has the length to be able to separate himself from the defensive line. I feel like he’s got a huge upside in terms of his development potential.”
As a whole, Summers expects the six newcomers to make an impact in his first season at UF.
"I’m real excited about this group of guys,'' he said. "I think there are guys in here who can develop into solid offensive linemen for us and will give us a lot of depth this year and be a real foundation for us as we move forward.”
Here is video of Dorsey:
And film of Sharpe, who worked under former NFL offensive lineman Tony Boselli in high school ...
Updated -- 3:05 p.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Had a chance to catch up with Gators head coach Will Muschamp prior to his National Signing Day press conference. Here is Muschamp taking a few questions about this year's class and what needs the Gators filled:
Updated 1:40 p.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For much of the time on the recruiting trail it appeared quarterback Treon Harris was a lock to go to Florida State.
Harris and two other Florida signees today -- receivers C.J. Worton and Ryan Sousa -- were all FSU commits at one point.
In Harris' case, the Gators always liked his talent. And then when Gators coach Will Muschamp hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to install a more up-tempo spread offense, Harris was a prime target.
"Early in the recruiting process, we were looking at him at different positions because of what we did on offense. When Coach Roper got in, the offensive system changed and we went back and looked at all the quarterbacks throughout the recruiting process and Treon was a guy that Coach Roper labeled the No. 1 guy he wanted,'' said Gators assistant Travaris Robinson, who primarily recruits South Florida. "It was a tremendous deal to be able to get in on Treon.
"We don’t want to bring a guy into the University of Florida because he is a good player but doesn’t fit. We want to bring in a guy that fits and is going to enjoy his Florida experience. Treon is a tremendous kid. He is a proven winner. He won multiple championships at Booker T. We are excited about all the intangibles that he brings into the program, from the leadership to the championship atmosphere and all the different things that come with being a great quarterback.”
Harris (5-11, 185) starred at Booker T. Washington High in Miami and is the type of dual-threat quarterback that often excels in a spread-type offense.
Worton (6-0, 172) is another product of South Florida. He played at South Dade High in Homestead and at one point was an FSU commit.
The Gators flipped Worton and he joins Sousa as the two wide receivers in this class. Based on scouting reports, Worton has soft hands and the knack to get open on underneath routes.
Florida receivers coach Joker Phillips said Worton's a heady receiver who grew up around the game. His older brother is UCF receiver J.J. Worton, whose one-handed catch last season against Temple was replayed on ESPN over and over.
"He is a very explosive guy from what you see on film,'' Phillips said. "He has two older brothers that have played the position. He’s a guy that understands the position. He has been taught well by his older brothers and his coaches there at South Dade. Again, he is another guy who understands the position. So often you have great athletes who don’t really understand the position, but these two guys [Worton and Sousa] really understand the position of wide receiver.”
Here is video of Harris:
And video of Worton...
Updated -- 12:55 p.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Defensive tackle Thomas Holley (6-4, 295) is a player the Gators chased hard after Holley decommitted from Penn State. The Florida coaching staff developed a good relationship with Holley and got him to come to UF all the way from Abe Lincoln High in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Holley was a two-sport standout at Lincoln High. Gators defensive line coach Brad Lawing was impressed after watching Holley play basketball. The agility and quickness Holley showed were impressive, but so was Holley's dunking ability.
“I’ve been to Brooklyn more than I would have ever imagined,'' said Lawing. "Thomas is a tremendous athlete for his size. You just don’t play basketball at Abe Lincoln High School unless you are really good. He can move. He is a guy that has power and athleticism. He thought he was going to be a basketball player. He’s only played two years of football.
"And then his body just exploded and he realized his best avenue was football. He has hardly no body fat at all, and that’s unusual for a 300-pounder coming out of high school.”
Lawing also saw Holley play in a Public School League championship football game at Yankee Stadium and never left one of Holley's sporting events without wondering what he would be like to coach.
Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin can relate.
"It’s a line-of-scrimmage league, which is something we stress and is very important to us, and he really fits what we do defensively,'' Durkin said. "He is a big athletic guy. I had a chance to go watch him play basketball and it was really impressive. To see a 300-pounder move around the basketball court like he does, he has legitimate basketball skills.
"That just speaks to the type of athlete he is. He is a guy that is going to really help us, probably early in his career up on the defensive line. He’s physically mature enough and he’s mentally mature enough to be able to handle that. That was a great get for us.”
Here is video of Holley:
Updated 11:15 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Offensive lineman Andrew Mike grew up in Arizona and showed up on the Gators' radar later in the recruiting process.
They are now glad he did.
Mike officially joined the program this morning when Florida received his LOI from Sabino High in Tucson, Ariz.
A 6-foot-6, 280-pound lineman, Mike was recruiting by Florida assistant coach Coleman Hutzler at New Mexico.
They reconnected after Hutzler arrived at Florida as the new special teams coordinator.
“He’s a kid that when I was at New Mexico and I recruited Arizona, I saw him in the spring," Hutzler said. "He got Pac-12 offers and when I got here, I went back through my area and checked who wasn’t committed and he was a guy that was still out there. His size sticks out. Obviously watching his tape, he does some great things on tape. He’s a basketball player. He is a very intelligent kid, a high GPA. He wanted to go to a place with highly-rated academics."
New Gators offensive line coach Mike Summers views Mike as a good prospect at this stage of his career and is ready to get him on campus.
"Andrew is a guy that I learned about late in the recruiting process, but at 6-6 and with great length, he will be a tackle for us,’’ Summers said. “He’s got really good feet, explosive, a really intelligent football player – a guy we’re excited to bring in and develop on the offensive line, especially at that tackle position. When I got here and saw we had the opportunity to recruit him, it got me excited.”
Here is a video of Mike in action:
Updated 10:20 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators defensive line coach Brad Lawing is smiling in his office right now.
The Gators just officially added three defensive linemen to their roster: Khairi Clark (6-2, 325), Gerald Willis (6-3, 270) and Justus Reed (6-3, 220).
Willis is perhaps the most touted out of Edna Karr High in New Orleans; Clark is considered a unique athlete out of Chaminade-Madonna College Prep in Hollywood, Fla., and Reed could one day be a speed rusher off the end out of Clearwater Central Catholic.
Here is what Lawing has to say about the three newcomers:
“He’s got tremendous power,'' Lawing said. "He is what a typical nose tackle should look like. When we are in our three-down [linemen] stuff -- that fits him to a T. He moves like a linebacker. I’m very impressed with his attitude and his athleticism, which for his body type is very unusual.”
“He’s got really good quickness. You don’t know where he is going to go growth-wise,'' Lawing said. "His genetic upside is really good. You don’t know how big he’ll be. He may end being a 280-, 290-pound guy or play more around 260. You just don’t know. He’s got good initial quickness and good football skills. We’re really excited about him.”
"He’s got tremendous upside with growth potential. He can run and change direction,'' Lawing said. "He runs tremendously well. I see him being a heck of a pass rusher for us. He was playing basketball and was one of their best players. He said his future is in football. His dad played at North Carolina, so he comes from an athletic family.”
Gators running backs coach Brian White has been familiar with Reed for several years and helped recruit him.
"He has come to camp here for three years,'' White said. "He was this really skinny kid that has continued to develop. You knew he had a lot of athletic ability. He’s a really long athlete and has really good speed.”
Let's check out video of each player:
First, a look at Clark...
And here is Willis...
Updated 9:45 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The latest two in the fold for the Gators are receiver Ryan Sousa and athlete Deiondre Porter.
Sousa (6-0, 180) joins the Gators out of Lake Nona High in Orlando; Porter (6-1, 170) played at Jefferson High in Tampa.
Gators tight ends coach Derek Lewis was involved in Porter's recruitment and said his athleticism is definitely one of his strenghts as Porter joins the program.
"He’s a track guy. He runs a ton of events," Lewis said. "He played quarterback for Tampa Jefferson and came to camp two years ago and we didn’t know quite where he fit. He was tremendous. He even played defensive back, wide receiver and quarterback. The kid is really a talented athlete.”
Video of Porter:
Meanwhile, Sousa gives the Gators a young receiver who is no stranger to the passing game. In high school Sousa caught more than 200 passes and 30 touchdowns in a record-setting career.
Florida receivers coach Joker Phillips likes how much knowledge Sousa has of the passing game before stepping on campus.
"He’s a very polished receiver. He understands how to run routes. He has handled the ball a lot,'' Phillips said. "He’s caught over 100 balls this past season. That’s one of the things you are looking for – guys who have handled the football. So many times you see a receiver that has only caught about 20 or 25 passes, and they had explosive plays on them, but this guy has had a lot of passes thrown to him. He understands the passing game.”
Video of Sousa:
Updated 9:30 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators have added two more tight ends to the roster: C'yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens.
Both players' LOIs have officially arrived and been validated by UF's compliance officials.
Lewis and Stephens join early enrollee DeAndre Goolsby in Florida's deep class of tight end prospects.
Gators running backs coach Brian White was in Alabama last spring to watch another player when the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Lewis forced White to watch him.
"He kept jumping off the practice field making plays,'' White said. ". He is this long, athletic receiver for high school. He has this great structure and great frame. He’s that classic tweener tight end/wide receiver. He’s got huge hands, a great wingspan, catching radius. I’m just watching him practice and thinking ‘wow.’ I called up Will [Muschamp] and said we need to recruit Cyontai Lewis as a tight end. He was really impressive. He is a great basketball player and a fun guy to be around.”
Meanwhile, Florida tight ends coach Derek Lewis is excited about the potentail both players bring to the program. The tight ends did not factor much into Florida's passing game a year ago, but with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper installing more of a spread-type offense, the position is expected to be targeted more.
"He is another kid with great ball skills, a tremendous athlete,'' Derek Lewis said of C'yontai Lewis. "He’ll be able to split out wide and take advantage of guys in the red zone, mismatches. He’s got good speed and will get big enough to handle the point, too. He can really run some good routes.”
Lewis is also intrigued by the skill set of Stephens, a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder out of Taylor County High in Perry:
"He is a kid that can split out wide and create some mismatch problems down the middle because he can run and he can catch,'' Lewis said. "He is another kid with really good ball skills.”
Here is video of both players:
Updated 9 a.m.
The two official newest members of the UF football program are defensive backs Quincy Wilson and J.C. Jackson.
Wilson (6-1, 200) is out of University School of Nova South in Fort Lauderdale, while Jackson (5-11, 185) hails from Immokalee High
Both of their LOIs are signed, sealed and delivered.
Gators secondary coach Travaris Robinson on signing Jackson, who was pursued heavily by Miami too.
"His recruiting process has been very interesting,'' Robinson said. "A lot of people have been on J.C. He was a highly recruited receiver and I saw him when I was recruiting a kid a couple of years ago at Immokalee. From Day 1 I knew he was a guy we needed at the corner position. He is an extreme athlete.”
As for Wilson, he has been a longtime Florida commit.
"He’s a big body. Since the day he committed to Florida, he hasn’t wavered,'' Robinson said. "He is a great player. He is long. He is over 6-foot. That’s how we like to play, guys with big bodies that can finish down the field. He can come up and tackle and he can do some different things for us, whether it’s go inside and play some nickel, or he can play some dime when they put four receivers on the field. I’m excited about him. His football IQ is through the roof. His dad is also the defensive coordinator at his school, so he’s a coach’s kid. That means a lot.”
Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin provides this assessment of the talented defensive backs' skill level as they start their college careers:
(Durkin on J.C. Jackson)
“He’s as physically mature a freshman as you can bring in. He’s well put together and well developed. He will not look out of place one bit on the field with our guys. I think the biggest thing with him will be just how fast he picks up things mentally to learn the scheme and defense. He’s got all the ability and all the talent you need. We are thrilled to have him.”
(Durkin on Quincy Wilson)
“Physically he is a big corner. He is 6-foot plus and can play the style we want to play outside. We want to play bump and play aggressive. He has great movement and change-of-direction ability. His dad has been his coach. He’s really been developed. He knows the game. He has been around the game a lot. I think all of that will help him make a quick transition.”
Here is video on each:
Updated 8:45 a.m.
The Gators wanted to add depth and talent at tight end and they did that with early enrollee DeAndre Goolsby.
And Goolsby isn't the only incoming tight end the Gators expect to round out this year's recruiting class. Two more are projected to sign today.
As for Goolsby, he is a 6-foot-4, 230-pounder out of Derby Senior High in Kansas.
Gators tight ends coach Derek Lewis likes the athleticism Goolsby adds to the position.
“He is a talented kid who can split out and play slot receiver for us,'' Lewis said. "He’ll get big enough to handle the point [of attack]. He’s just a talented guy, which is something that jumped out to me watching him run routes, returning punts at his high school. He has great ball skills.”
Goolsby joins a group that includes Tevin Westbrook, Colin Thompson and Clay Burton from last year's group. Former Gators TE Kent Taylor transferred to Kansas.
Here is video of Goolsby in action:
Updated -- 8:10 a.m.
While we're waiting on some official announcements, defensive back Jalen Tabor is someone you have probably heard about on the recruiting trail.
Tabor is considered one of the nation's top cornerback prospects after a celebrated career at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, D.C.
Tabor signed with the Gators last month and enrolled in school early to get a head start on his college career.
Florida secondary coach Travaris Robinson recruited Tabor heavily and envisions the 6-1, 188-pound defensive back to be an impact player.
"From a corner standpoint, you lose Loucheiz [Purifoy], you lose Marcus [Roberson], and length is something we obviously look at in corners,'' Robinson said. "He is over 6-foot, 190 pounds. He is long, has great range and great ball skills. He played receiver in high school also. I’m very excited about his arrival on campus. From a size and ability standpoint, he is able to do that. Now it’s just mentally getting him on board on what we’re doing and how we do it.”
Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, whose defense was boosted by a true freshman cornerback in 2013 -- Vernon Hargreaves III -- said Tabor is exactly the kind of player the Gators want at cornerback.
"For just the little time we’ve been around him, he is going to be a dynamic guy for us,'' Durkin said. "There’s not many guys his length and his size out there that can do what he does in terms or running and movement. For a guy to be able to come in and play press and man like we do, I think he’ll be able to do it right away for us. We’re going to count on some young guys this year on the back end and I think we’ve got the right ones. These are all guys we feel good about in our locker room, we feel good about academically, we feel good about athletically. They have the full package to come in right away and help you.”
Here is some video on Tabor:
Updated -- 7:52 a.m.
Continuing with the offensive line theme, early enrollees Kavaris Harkless and Nolan Kelleher are true freshmen the Gators added.
Harkless is 6-5, 275 and from Jacksonville's Trinity Christian Academy. Kelleher is 6-6, 305 and played at Wando High in Mount Pleasant, S.C.
I will have a story on Harkless posted this week on GatorZone. As for Kelleher, assistant coach Brad Lawing helped recruit him and is impressed with his maturity both mentally and physically.
"He is very intelligent. Really one of the smartest players I’ve been around in a long time,'' Lawing said. "And he can move. He is a big body that can really move. He had his pick of schools and when he came this summer something really attracted him to Florida. He fell in love with the place. If you watch his tape, he is a very good blocker.”
Let's take a look a video of both newcomers:
And here is Harkless, a Louisville commit originally who the Gators flipped after Charlie Strong's departure to Texas...
Update -- 7:37 a.m.
The offensive line is one area the Gators emphasized on the recruiting trail.
Florida loses veteran starters Jon Harrison and Jon Halapio, and among the nine early enrollees, three are offensive linemen: Nolan Kelleher, Kavaris Harkless and Drew Sarvary.
Sarvary is the most experienced of that group. He comes to UF after a season at Florida A&M and a season at Tyler (Texas) Junior College.
Here is some video of the 6-foot-6, 318-pound junior-college transfer:
7:20 a.m. -- The fax machine has started to buzz and once compliance validates the arriving LOIs, we will post video and quotes from coaches about the players.
For starters, some video of early enrollee Taven Bryan, a two-way lineman from Casper, Wyo., who signed with the Gators as a defensive lineman with a lot of upside.
"He has a great work ethic and is an excellent athlete,'' Florida assistant coach Brad Lawing said. "He also has great growth potential. This is a guy who can probably be a 280-pounder one day. His dad is a retired Navy Seal. That’s where he gets his work ethic from I’m sure.”
7:00 a.m. -- Good morning on National Signing Day.
It's still dark outside but the lights are on here inside the football offices at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and more importantly on this day, the fax machine is plugged in.
The Gators are expected to sign another strong recruiting class and the National Letters of Intent are expected to start arriving in a little while.
The Gators already have nine early enrollees in school and you can follow the latest members of the 2014 Class by clicking here for GatorZone.com's Signee Tracker.
Back to the fax machine.
Here is a good read on that subject from Jon Solomon of AL.com. Yes, it's true, the fax machine, which turns 50 years old in 2014, is still the major lifeline on National Signing Day between recruits and the football programs they sign with.
Meanwhile, check back with GatorZone.com throughout the day for live updates, quotes from coaches on the new signees, player videos and more. I'll be updating this blog throughout the day.
See you soon.