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July 25, 2014
Friday Night Lights: Top Prospects Preview
THE FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS COUNTDOWN:
Friday is looking to be a big day in Florida Gator recruiting as they will host a number of top prospects under the lights in The Swamp for their annual Friday Night Lights camp. Inside the Gators will be on hand in the middle of the action, but first brings you a look at just who to expect on hand for the big event.
Commits Looking to Recruit
Though Florida will only have three of their current eight commits on hand, they are all very solid in their pledge to the Orange & Blue and will have their hands full making the rounds, getting in the ear of many of the top prospects in attendance. Jacksonville (Fla.) Bishop Kenny center Tyler Jordan is making an early case as the Gators' ace recruiter this cycle. He already has his sights set on many of Florida's top big men, including attendees Martez Ivey and Jalen Merrick.
Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange three-star athlete Jalen Julius is bringing teammate Dexter Williams, a Miami commitment, who has long been targeted by Florida. Though Williams gave his pledge to the Hurricanes this past spring, he has kept constant, almost daily, contact with Gators running back coach Brian White, and also has his parents pushing him towards UF as well.
Also Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln tight end Camrin Knight will be making his second trip to Gainesville this summer. Last time in town he stopped by to observe a summer camp held on campus, and likely will participate in the action Friday.
The lone 2016 Florida commit expected is Cocoa (Fla.) cornerback Chauncey Gardner. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder flipped his commitment from Miami to Florida after an impressive showing during one of the Gators summer camps in June.
Big Men on Tap
When you look at the visitor list for Friday Night Lights the first things that jumps out is the insane amount of offensive line talent the Gators will have on hand. Starting with Apopka (Fla.) four-star offensive tackle Ivey. Though Ivey will not participate in the camp, he is coming to observe, there is no denying his talent. He is one of the top lineman in the nation and very much coveted by the Gators. He is currently between Florida and Auburn, but isn't looking to make a commitment until this fall at the earliest.
Another big name tackle expected to participate in the camp is Greenbelt (MD) Eleanor Roosevelt Rivals100 offensive tackle Isaiah Prince. Early on Florida was a school sitting at the top (along with Maryland) of this four-star big man's leader board, but lately he's opened it up a little more with the addition of new offers and taking more visits. He is coming off visits to Alabama and Auburn before hitting Gainesville. A good visit here could certainly help the Gators move up his list once again.
Though Montverde (Fla.) Montverde Academy three-star offensive tackle Abdul Bello just gave his commitment to the Gators in-state rival Florida State, he is still expected to be in attendance Friday. The Gators have been a team long associated with Bello, and don't expect them to stop recruiting the 6-foot-6, 298-pounder.
Woodbridge (VA) C.D. Hylton Rivals250 offensive guard Matthew Burrell Jr. is also yet another big name Florida will have on display at the camp. This is Burrell's first ever time in the Swamp, and he is planning to work out for the coaches and showcase his talents at tackle, guard and even center. The four-star's head coach is former Gator great Tony Lilly, so there is some connection between Burrell and the Orange and Blue. Heading into the visit Ohio State appears to be in the best position to land Burrell with FSU likely in second place.
Though he may be ranked only a three-star rest assured the Gators covet New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) offensive tackle Merrick. There has been some buzz on the recruiting trail that Merrick is looking to make a commitment soon, and the Gators are in excellent position to land him. Miami, South Carolina and Florida State are also in the mix as well, but if there is going to be a commitment later tonight, doin't be surprised if it is Merrick pulling the trigger.
Another linemen expected in attendance is Warner Robbins (Ga) Northside School three-star offensive guard Brandon Sandifer. The 6-foot-3, 332-pounder is looking to also visit South Carolina on Saturday as well. It seems the Gators, Gamecocks and even Georgia Tech are all standing out at this time.
The offensive linemen will have their hands full with a couple of impressive defensive linemen scheduled to be at the event. Headlining the group is Brandon (MS) Rivals250 defensive tackle Fletcher Adams. This is Adams first time in Gainesville and is looking to forge a better relationship with the UF staff. Rocky Mount (N.C.) Nash Central three-star defensive end Houshun Gaines is another pass rusher also expected.
I-4 Corridor Well Represented
Undoubtedly the man of the hour on Friday is Tampa (Fla.) Sickles Rivals100 athlete Ray-Ray McCloud III. This trip to Gainesville is Florida's last chance to seal the deal heading into McCloud's July 28th commitment date. Though there has been a lot of buzz about UCLA being a team to watch it still seems like Florida and Clemson are the two best in line to land this 5-foot-9, 176-pound speedster, with the Gators the odds on favorite.
Another speedster that has been in Gainesville since Wednesday is Lakeland (Fla.) Lakeland Christian Rivals250 running back T.J. Simmons, who is committed to UCLA. Though he is just coming off his recent commitment to the Bruins ,it's interesting to see him making an extended trip to Gainesville.
The marquee back in attendance will be Orlando (Fla.) Timber Creek five-star running back Jacques Patrick. Though this high profile back will participate on Friday night, the Gators still trail Florida State and Alabama for his services. For the Gators to really get back in the picture they would need to have a big showing on the field this fall.
A trio of Tampa's finest are tentatively expected to be at FNL as well. Five-star defensive end Byron Cowart, Rivals100 wide receiver George Campbell, and Rivals250 wide receiver Ryan Davis visited Florida State on Thursday. They are possibly going to hit Gainesville on their way back, but it's not set in stone at this time.
Top Linebacker Targets On Hand
As has been stated many times, there's no question linebacker is perhaps Florida's biggest priority this recruiting cycle, and to that end the Gators will have several top targets on hand Friday night. Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian Rivals100 linebacker Jeffery Holland is a name the Gators would love to add to the fold. He is coming off a Wednesday visit to Gainesville with his teammate Kendrick Norton. Both prospects are expected to make the short return trip to Gainesville for their second visit in three days.
The Gators will also be lucky to host another one of their top linebackers as well in Montezuma (GA.) Macon County Rivals100 linebacker Roquan Smith. It seems like Smith is Georgia's to lose, but he has very high interest in Auburn, Florida, and UCLA as well. He is friends with four-star linebacker target Adonis Thomas, who is expected to commit to Florida on August 1st. Expect Thomas to put the full court press on Smith if he does in fact pick UF like expected.
Another top linebacker on hand will be Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) four-star linebacker Tevon Coney, who arrived on Thursday in order to spend one-on-one time with the coaches. At this time it seems Florida, Miami, and Notre Dame are the three sticking out the most. Coney is looking to possibly make a commitment sometime late this summer.
Also keep an eye out for Panchatoula (La.) three-star linebacker Reggie Walker, who is hoping to earn an official offer from the Gators at the camp. Walker is outstanding at rushing the passer and is a candidate at the BUCK linebacker position. He is high on the Gators and could be a name to pull the trigger is the staff gives the green light.
South Florida Safety It's been long thought that Palmetto Bay (Fla.) Westminster Christian Rivals100 athlete Tim Irvin was heavy lean to Miami considering his family ties there. However there is definite interest in UF, and the Gators sit inside his top three along with LSU, and Miami. The Gators love Irvin as a safety and have had ace recruiter Travaris Robinson working his magic here. Irvin hasn't visited UF since Friday Night Lights last year so it's big getting him on campus. Though Miami is heavily favorite here, there are some rumblings that if the visit goes well he could start to drift more towards the Gators due to his connection with Coach Robinson.
2016 Class Looking To Impress Coaches
Perhaps the top 2016 lineman in the state of Florida is expected in Tampa (Fla.) Blake defensive end Shavar Manuel. His offer list is already starting off to be very impressive but he was still up in the air with his plans to head to Gainesville.
Another high profile linemen hailing from the 2016 class on hand will be Panama City (Fla.) Bay defensive end Janarius Robinson, who is expected to be a top name in his class. He currently holds offers from a ton of big name programs, but is looking to land an offer from UF.
A few other notable 2016 names to watch on display are Niceville (Fla.) teammates Romeo Finley and Eli Stove, 2016 linebacker Patrick Bethel, 2016 tight end Mark Birmingham, Miami linebacker commit Shaq Quarterman, and 2016 wide receiver Freddie Swain.
This is not meant to be a complete listing of those who are scheduled to attend. Nor will all those listed actually make it in as expected.
Follow along in the Alley as Blake Alderman, Bryan Holt and Morgan Moriarty report live from the Swamp and then tune in after the event for the wrap-up (stories, interviews, notebooks, analysis, photos and more).