football Edit

Class of 2016 Great Eight

Inside the Gators polls such as the Hot 11 and Great Eight are usually reserved for ranking the performance of University of Florida football players or recruiting targets remaining on the board.

However, this time around we are using it to predict which of the incoming freshmen will be the biggest difference makers during their Gator career.

Trying to predict which high school signees will or won't be capable of making a major contribution on the next level can be a tricky situation.

It is a given that any prospect signed by a major power such as Florida has talent, but what they do with that talent is still an unknown.

Will they continue to develop or have they reached their ceiling? Will they stay injury free or be injury prone? Will they have off-the-field issues or be solid citizens?

All of that is is still an unknown. However, with that in mind, here are the Great Eight signees in the class of 2016 based on need, ranking, ability and future prospects.

#1

The Process: I'm not one of those who believes every kid Florida signed is flying under the radar or deserves a bump up in the rankings. For the most part kids are ranked roughly around where they should be. However, when it comes to Cleveland, I do believe there was room for a bit of a move up. Florida reeling him in on National Signing Day was likely the difference between a 15th and 20th place finish in recruiting rankings as well as keeping several Gators fans from looking for a cliff, bridge or high building to leap from.

Constructive Criticism: Other than the fact that his school's announcement ceremony was perhaps the longest, most boring event I've sat through in my lifetime (I kid because I care), there really isn't anything bad to be said here.

The Bottom Line: This young man had the top overall SPARQ rating heading into The Opening last summer. At a legit 6-foot-3, 180-pounds he twice ran the forty in a laser timed sub 4.36, while also turning in one of the top two shuttle times. As a senior he averaged a touchdown every three catches while adding three more scores in the return game. He has A.J. Green, Julio Jones type of ability and should make an immediate impact on special teams and in the passing game.

#2

The Process: Just after NSD new Central Florida head coach Scott Frost made the comment that he didn't want to sign kids who want to be recruited. Now, some would make the argument that he doesn't want those kids, because UCF isn't in a position to land those type of elite players. However, I do agree with him to a point. If you go back in each class, and you look at the kids who were considered 'Drama Queens' during the recruiting process, though they are talented, they don't turn out at as high a rate as the kids who were more either mature or steady in their process. Now, I am not talking about a kid who makes a decommitment, I am talking about kids who are all over the map from beginning to end. The roller-coaster types. The ones you look at the latest update and shake your head about. Gardner, once the new staff was in place in Gainesville, wasn't just as steady and solid as a rock, he was all but part of the staff when it came to recruiting. Dedication like that carries over to other aspects of your life. Guys with good intentions like that, tend to be good teammates and reach their potential (barring injury).

Constructive Criticism: After a great week of practices in Orlando leading up to the actual Under Armour Bowl, Gardner took a step or two back during the game itself with a fumble, getting beaten for a touchdown and dropping a sure fire interception. Game results are important, but that one outting in my mind doesn't erase a spring, summer and fall worth of results.

The Bottom Line: I think he compares somewhat favorably to Jalen Ramsey coming out of high school in that he has the physicallity to play safety, but has coverage ability as well. Gardner II ran a 4.5 laser timed forty with just over a 37-inch vertical. That's pretty solid athletic numbers for a 190-pounder.

#3

The Process: To me, Hoover High School kids, because the program as a whole is so good and gets so much attention (think MTV series) might be a bit overrated as a group coming out. However, to me, the opposite is true in the case of Moon. I only saw him when Hoover took on North Marion, but in that game he was all over the place. Someone who moves so well, and is that physical at that size is a four-star in my book.

Constructive Criticism: He was at one time rated as a four-star, but was dropped back to three-star status back in the spring. I can understand why, even if I don't agree with it. He does look a bit too lanky to be a physical threat at linebacker in the SEC.

The Bottom Line: Though Florida has now only signed four linebackers in the past three recruiting classes combined, I don't think the need is there where you just take players at the position in order to have bodies at the position. Moon's ranking here is probably inflated somewhat because Florida has depth issues at linebacker, but that isn't the only reason I think so highly of him. When (or I guess if) he puts on another 20-25 pounds, he has the ability to be a playmaker against the run and pass in the SEC.

#4

The Process: Early on it was Florida, then Florida and Auburn, then Florida, Auburn and Clemson, then Florida, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, etc... Every trip he went on was the greatest trip he was ever on and this looked like it was going to be a situation where whoever spoke with him last, that is where he would sign. However, something strange took place, he visited Florida, committed, and never wavered. Give him all the credit in the world for that. The recruiting process can be overwhelming. You are treated like a king, and it can go to your head. But, once he made his pledge, he stuck with it.

Constructive Criticism: Yes, I know, he had an incredible week in Orlando for the Under Armour Bowl. Two things about that: it is the first time he saw top competition and to his credit he didn't shirk away from it. However, the flip side is defensive linemen always have the upper-hand in those settings. Always. And what normally follows is recruiting analysts, because that is the freshest thing in their minds, give those said defensive linemen big bumps in the rankings. Perhaps bumps that their season long play indicate that they might not deserve.

The Bottom Line: While there are currently some size concerns, they are more than outweighed by his incredible burst and athleticism. You have to love his potential. He can beat you with his speed off the edge, but once he is tied up by the offensive lineman, he is in a world of trouble. Florida will have to be creative in how they use him at first, bringing him from different angles to make up for his lack of size.

#5

The Process: The one time LSU commit flirted with Florida throughout the season before finally jumping on board just before the December dead period began, leaving him without the bombardment that would have taken place had he flipped much earlier.

Constructive Criticism: This is going to seem strange, if not outright contradictory, because I am doing what I criticize others for doing above. I am allowing my impression of him from an all-star game to override what he did during the season. Yes, he was under enormous pressure. The defensive line has the advantage over the offensive line in these settings. I get that. However, you simply cannot, as a quarterback, throw the ball up for grabs as he did not once but twice in the Army Bowl. Treon Harris did it in the Citrus Bowl and it completely changed the complexion of that game. Florida went from going in for the tie to totaling under 50 yards for the remainder of the game. No turnover is a good turnover (unless you throw a 70 -yard interception on 4th and long), but that type of play is a back breaker. Doing it twice in less then 10 attempts signifies he might just be careless with the ball.

The Bottom Line: While the bad news is he looked horrendous in the actual all-star game, the very good news is he has all the tools to be an elite quarterback in the proper setting with the proper coaching. Unless the injury bug hits the quarterback position, I don't think we will see much of him this year, but he has what it takes (size, arm, some mobility) to be a good one down the road.

#6

The Process: Florida received his commitment back in November and he was kind of forgotten about until Southern Cal came in the picture and made a real run at him. I really didn't know much about him when he pulled the trigger. I saw his junior film and it was okay. I looked up his stats in the Daytona Beach paper, and wasn't impressed at all. Or, I thought it was his stats. There is another J. Polite in the area who, strangely enough, plays defensive line as well. He has had double digit sack in each of the last two seasons.

Constructive Criticism: He doesn't jump off the page with elite burst, but he does have some quickness for his size. It is his size and build that I like most. Based strictly on ability and ranking, this is probably too high for him. But factoring in need along the defensive line, he gets a bump in my eyes.

The Bottom Line: If you look at his frame, he looks like he could be in the 250 range as a freshman and eventually play inside in the 275 range. Mainland turns out some pretty damn good players. While he isn't quite as big, he has some of the same attributes as former Buccaneer Leonard Williams, who signed with Southern Cal before being a first round draft choice this past year. I can see Polite following the same route as Jonathan Bullard.

#7

The Process: Here is something that doesn't take place often, a school flipped a coveted commit from Alabama. The Tide are a recruiting machine who win far more recruiting battles than they lose. However, Pineiro saw a team with a HUGE need at the position which was much closer to his south Florida base.

Constructive Criticism: This is easy enough, he is a YouTube star kicking 60-70 yard field goals with ease. However, he hasn't a single field goal attempt in a real football game - whether it be high school or college.

The Bottom Line: It goes without saying that he has one hell of a leg - there's no questioning that. He is ranked up here in my Great Eight because Florida is desperate for a kicker. I don't think you can really feel comfortable about his ability to actually make a real field goal though until he is doing it in live action with 22 men on the field, nine blockers ahead of him, a holder and he actually boots it through the uprights with 11 men on defense coming after him. This spring, other than the quarterbacks, the most interesting aspect of the first practice may just be his first attempted field goal.

#8

The Process: Hammond's commitment sticks out to me for a few reasons. He committed to Florida back in the summer while Blake and I were in Baltimore for the Five-Star Challenge. We were at an awards ceremony at night, where we may or may not have been enjoying adult beverages, when he decides to pull the trigger. Thus is the life of those of us who are in this profession. There is no clock to be punched, anything can happen at anytime. What also stood out, at that time, was he was a kid who I questioned why the Gators would take. There were so many big names left on the board at that time – too many actually to start naming – but UF took this pledge. He is one of the guys Florida was on early (and perhaps the expanded support staff is the reason) who turned out to be much better than his initial ranking would suggest.

Constructive Criticism: He isn't that big and watching his tape, he doesn't look as though he possesses elite straight line speed, but he has the ability to take a short pass a long way. That is something Florida is currently missing from their roster.

The Bottom Line: Hammond, like his older brother, former Florida wide out Frankie Hammond Jr. is a slightly better than average athlete who doesn't have jaw dropping ability, but they always seem to outperform those who do. You look at what he did in high school, against top flight talent week in and week out, then that, to me at least, makes his impressive performance at Under Armour stand out even more. He isn't a one hit wonder. He didn't get moved up because he 'wowed' the right person in a combine like setting – he built his resume throughout the year and only solidified his standing with a great all-star week.

---------------

2016 PARTING THOUGHTS:

Josh Grady Parting Thoughts: I | II

Anthony Harrell Parting Thoughts: I | II

RELATED LINKS:

Signing Class Positional Grades - Offense

Signing Class Positional Grades - Defense

Impact Analysis: What Treon Harris moving to wide receiver would mean

Class of 2016 Recruiting Superlatives

Take Five: New Gators defensive backs coach Torrian Gray

Video | Florida adds offensive firepower with Cleveland

A closer look at Florida's post Signing Day football roster

Coaches talk signees and early enrollees

Florida hires new secondary coach