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April 20, 2014

Five to Follow: Linebackers

The 2015 recruiting cycle is in full swing and Florida currently sits with six public commitments. The next big event on the calendar as far as prospects are concerned is the spring evaluation period, which runs mid April through the end of May. This week Inside the Gators will unveil a position-by-position look at the top pre-spring targets in our Five to Follow series.

Up today are the linebackers.

This is a position of need, perhaps even great need depending on the health status of some of the younger players. Two years ago, in the 2013 recruiting cycle, in Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis Daniel McMillian and Matt Rolin, Florida signed the top rated linebacker class in the nation. Then, the Gators were completely shut out at the position altogether - signing a grand total of zero linebackers. The issue here is, youngsters such as Anzalone and Rolin have shown to be injury prone to this point. Normally that would call for Florida signing four-to-five prospects this cycle, but more and more the Gators are playing just two linebackers and five defensive backs, perhaps lessening the need at the position.

Here are five top pre-spring prospects to watch at the position.

Inside the Gators' pre-spring top five lists are based on national ranking and of course whether or not Florida is showing interest at this time. One player having an offer this early doesn't necessarily mean he will be a higher priority throughout the process. Therefore it doesn't mean he will be rated higher on our list. What you see here is solely the opinion of the staff of Inside the Gators and does not represent the opinion of the University of Florida or anyone associated with the Gator program.

Tevon Coney | Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) | 6-foot, 221-pounds

What was Said: "I would say right now I am really leaning to Clemson right now and am taking a good look at them, and then also really like Florida," explained Coney. "I want to get back up to Gainesville again and take a good look at both of those schools. I can feel it with both coaches that they need me there and they always put time into getting closer to me. The communication is really good with those schools and they want to know about me and my parents."

Related: Four-star has two stand outs

Competition: Clemson, Miami, and Ohio State.

The Skinny: Growing up Coney was a big fan of the in-state Gators and has repeatedly called UF his dream school since getting his offer. Florida has been one of the schools after this four-star the hardest and have a great shot of adding Coney to their 2015 recruiting class if they keep after him as hard as they have been.

Watch video highlights of Coney by clicking here.

Justin Hilliard | Cincinnati (OH) St. Xavier | 6-foot-2, 225-pounds

What was Said: "Once I get to all the (schools) in my top ten, I'll come up with my top five and then I'll go around and visit those schools again. From there I'll keep narrowing it down until I know for sure."

Related: Hilliard has 10 schools

Competition: Alabama, Florida State, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and USC.

The Skinny: For a while now Hilliard has said he will visit Gainesville sometime in the near future, but has yet to set up anything. The Gators are waging an uphill battle against the Midwest schools, where he's visited quite a few times. If and when UF gets Hilliard on campus, then it will really be known how big of a player the Gators are going to be here.

Watch video highlights of Hilliard by clicking here.

Jeffery Holland | Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian | 6-foot-1, 223-pounds

What was Said: "Florida, that's the team I loved growing up. I love Florida. And it's right up the road, probably and hour and a half away ... I'm gonna get up to Florida on the 20th I think. One of these Saturdays I'm gonna go up there and hang out with the players and talk to the coaches. Just get up there and see how everything goes."

Related: Co-leaders for Holland

Competition: Auburn.

The Skinny: After visiting Auburn this past weekend for the Tigers spring football game, Holland came away naming them his current leader with the Gators in second place. The Rivals100 member has an uncle that played basketball at Auburn, so there are some family ties there. However Florida is a place Holland is familiar with and has visited countless times, so there is no reason to count out the in-state Gators by no means.

Watch video highlights of Holland by clicking here.

Roquan Smith Montezuma (Ga) Macon County | 6-foot-2, 205-pounds

What was Said: "There are so many great people in Gainesville and they make me feel real comfortable," Smith told Inside the Gators. "The fans are great there but the coaches really stuck out the most to me. I got to spend some one-on-one time with them and got to study film and things like that. I know they have been a top 10 defense for a few years now so that is something that speaks to me about them."

Related: Smith doesn't have a leader

Competition: Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia.

The Skinny: The Gators really set themselves up in a good place with this Rival100 defender after hosting him on campus twice this spring. Being on a state away Thomas is familiar with the success UF has had on defense under Will Muschamp, and is something that is drawing this four-star's attention. Two teams that will definitely be tough competition for the Gators are Auburn and Georgia, who also have built strong bonds with Smith.

Watch video highlights of Smith by clicking here.

Adonis Thomas | Lawrenceville (Fla.) Central Gwinnett | 6-foot-3, 217-pounds

What was Said: "I am high on Alabama. They are in my top two with Florida. I feel like they will use me the right way. Some schools try to make me play a straight 3-4 outside linebacker/defensive end. They will use me and let me play in space. I think they will utilize my skills the right way. Alabama and Florida are the teams to beat now."

Related: Four-star comfortable with Florida

Competition: Alabama and Georgia.

The Skinny: Florida has done an excellent job of making this Rivals250 member feel like a top priority in 2015. Not only does Thomas have a great connection with the UF coaching staff, but they also are the school recruiting him the hardest. Though Florida is likely the team to beat right now for the four-star, he isn't in a hurry to make a commitment until at this coming fall at the earliest.

Watch video highlights of Thomas by clicking here.


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