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Coming in at No. 3 overall in the Class of 2008 Rivals Team Recruiting Rankings, this was the third of three straight top three recruiting classes for the Florida Gators under Urban Meyer. However, make no mistake about it, the Class of 2008 came nowhere close to matching the productivity of the 2006 and 2007 classes. As a matter of fact, last summer Rivals deemed it as one of The Unlucky 13: Top classes that fizzled.
Other than the ciaos created by Meyer's departure, return and subsequent departure, the failure of this class to produce was what most directly resulted in Florida's sub par 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Today Inside the Gators will take an in-depth look at the players who made up the Class of 2008.
Here is the breakdown.
By the Numbers:
20 of the 22 signees that year were admitted for freshman eligibility at the University of Florida (Adrian Bushell enrolled but was unable to compete as a freshman, while Dee Finley attended Prep School and resigned with UF in 2009).
13 of the 21 enrollees started at least one game for the Gators during their career in Gainesville (Brown, Demps, Green, Hammond Jr., Hill, Hines, Hunter, Jenkins, McCray, Moore, Patchan, Pridemore, Sturgis).
6 others played in at least one game for the Gators, but never started (Bushell, Epps, Lawrence, Okine, Robey, Young).
2 never played in a game for the Gators (Beal, Jones).
10 played enough during their first year on the team to avoid a redshirt (Demps, Epps, Green, Hill, Jenkins, McCray, Moore, Patchan, Sturgis, Young).
4 received redshirts later in their careers (McCray, Moore, Patchan, Sturgis).
2 were drafted by the NFL (Jenkins (2nd round St. Louis), Sturgis (5th round Miami)).
8 have been with or are currently with NFL teams as undrafted free agents Demps (Tampa Bay), Green (Cleveland), Hammond Jr. (Kansas City), Hill (N.Y. Giants), Hines (Baltimore), Hunter (Pittsburgh), McCray (Denver), Okine (Houston).
1 was named to an All-SEC team during their career (Sturgis).
1 was named to an All-American team during his career (Sturgis).
0 were recognized as the top player nationally at their position.
2 were in the starting lineup for the 2008 National Championship win over Oklahoma (Demps, Jenkins).
4 others didn't start but saw action in the 2008 National Championship win over Oklahoma (Green, Hill, McCray, Sturgis).
Most Valuable Player: Yes, overall this was a weak class by Florida standards, but having a kicker, Caleb Sturgis, as MVP isn't meant as a reflection on how weak the class is, he was simply that good.
Most Underrated: This is a hard pick because there are no three-star signees who outplayed their billing. Going over the list, based on his speed alone, it is hard to believe that Jeffrey Demps barely snuck inside the Rivals250 at No. 241 overall. He was a four year contributor who made plays on offense and special teams.
Most Overrated: Go ahead and put the names on a board, cover your eyes and throw a dart. The odds are you will hit the name of someone who didn't play up to their ranking. Okay, well, maybe it wasn't that bad, but multiple signees from this class failed to live up to the high school hype afforded them in the rankings. For this category though, we'll focus on the four five-star rated signees. When you sign a five-star, you have visions of him being a future All Conference, if not all American, type of player. Neither Will Hill, Omar Hunter, Carl Moore or Matt Patchan came close to making any post season All 'Anything' type of teams. Really, overall, none of them played well enough to justify their five star ranking. Of that group, though he played more games than the others, Hunter simply didn't have the tools (height, burst) to be considered a five-star and thus was probably the most overrated of the four.
Biggest Surprise: All you need to really know about this class is that not only did the majority of the signees not live up to their ranking, but really, none of them outplayed their ranking either. You could make the case that at two-stars Sturgis didn't get his due coming out, but kickers are never given many stars to begin with.
Biggest Disappointment: Remember back when Meyer serenaded Will Hill on the sidelines at Friday Night Lights. Getting a commitment from him, a five-star out of the northeast, really signified Florida's arrival as a recruiting power on the national stage. In the end he was better known for suspensions and embarrassing tweets than for his play on the field.
Rivals.com was dead on: Back in 2008 the Rivals.com team of analysts had Janoris Jenkins as the top cornerbacks in the nation and the No. 51 rated prospect overall. It goes without saying that they were spot on with their evaluation. If not for off the field issues, he would have likely been an All American in 2010 and a first round draft choice.
Rivals.com was way off: Forget the injuries (ACL and then neck) which caused him to miss his first two seasons at Florida, the fact is Brendan Beal wasn't an SEC caliber linebacker due to his athletic limitations. The 4.5 speed on his former Rivals100 member's profile page seems to be a misprint for anyone who actually saw him suit up for a Gators' practice.
Re-ranking the class of 2008:
The re-ranking isn't based on their best or worst season or their pro potential. The players were ranked based solely on what they were able to accomplish during their time at Florida.
1) Caleb Sturgis: When he first set foot on campus he was known for having a big leg, but wasn't the most accurate of kickers during practices. In the end though he was 70-for-88 (.795) on field goal attempts and 130-for-136 on PATs in his career. His 70 made field goals are a school record. His 79.5 field goal percentage is 10th best in SEC history.
2) Jeffrey Demps: He was known more for his speed than anything else, but unlike most of the others who run track and play football, he was able to utilize that speed on a football field. Though it seemed like he was always banged up, he actually ended up playing in 51 games, with 27 starts. Over the last 15 years of Florida football, he has twice as many 60-yard plus runs (four) than any other Gator player. He finished 8th on the all time rushing yards list at Florida (2,470) while averaging close to 7 yards per carry.
3) Janoris Jenkins: While his time at Florida came to a premature end due to three arrests, he was without question one of the best cornerbacks in Florida football history. He was just the second true freshman to start at his position on opening day (Joe Haden) and finished his career with 8 interceptions.
4) Omar Hunter: Playing in 56 games (31 starts) he collected 111 tackles, 11.0 TFL, a sack, 5 pass breakups, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal while being a space eater inside. Those are solid numbers for a run stuffing defensive tackle. The problem being, many were expecting him to be more than just solid. Coming out of high school not only was he rated as a five-star prospect, but he had the added burden of Meyer being on a 'Omar Hunter Watch' during his spring Gator Gathering tour that year. He was never able to live up to that hype. Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect someone with his tool set to be the superstar he was pegged to be.
5) Lerentee McCray: He is a player where the statistics (65 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 interception, 4 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, 2 quarterback hurries and 1 fumble recovery) don't tell the whole story. He seemed to make plays when the Gators needed it the most, making his contribution greater than his stat line.
6) Frankie Hammond Jr.: Maybe because of how well he did off the football field in track, it always felt like he was on the verge of being a breakout type of player. That of course never happened. In 48 games (19 starts) he had 63 catches for 809 yards and 6 touchdowns. That would be an outstanding single season, but it barely equals up to an even average career.
7) Omarius Hines: He played in 51 games with 9 starts totaling 61 receptions for 767 yards and 2 touchdown while adding 323 yards on 31 carries (10.1 avg.) and 4 touchdowns on the ground. The biggest question mark with him is how did he not produce more? He had the size, physicality, hands, speed and athleticism to be a bigger part of the offense than he was.
8) Will Hill: In 38 games (15 starts) he totaled 144 tackles, 4 picks and 1 1/2 sacks. He however was known more for missed tackles due to bad angles and off the field issues. The talent is there (he plays for the Giants), but he was never able to put it altogether while in Gainesville.
9) William Green: There might not be another Gators player in the last decade where the coaching staff's praise simply doesn't match up with the production of the player. Coach after coach had great things to say about him as a person and a player, but in 53 games (4 starts) this defensive end recorded but 2 1/2 sacks.
10) Earl Okine: He had the physical tools to be a much better player than he actually was. That is evidenced by the fact that he has been signed by the NFL's Houston Texans despite the fact that he never started a game and recorded but 1 sack in his entire Gators career.
11) Jeremy Brown: When he first reported, during the first preseason practices, he looked like he was going to be just as good as, if not better than fellow freshman corner Jenkins. However, he has missed three (08, 09, 11) with back and various other injuries. He is eligible to play this coming season, but with his injury history and Florida's depth at the position, who knows how much he will see the field, if at all.
12) Matt Patchan: This is a player who has the tools, work ethic, motor and desire to be a top tier player, but was never able to show what he had due to injury after injury after injury. From a gun shot wound, to an ACL injury to a torn pectoral, he was sidelined most of his time in Gainesville. After playing in 27 games, with 8 starts, he transferred to Boston College for his final season.
13) Troy Epps: He was a solid big bodied, space eater in the middle. He played in 12 games, with no starts, recording 7 tackles in two years.
14) Carl Moore: In the end, he was an 'okay' player for Florida, with 41 catches for 533 yards (13.0 avg) and 2 touchdowns in his two years at UF. However, he didn't produce at anywhere near the level you would expect from a five-star prospect. He might be best known for the two issues brought up during his recruiting process. UF signing his girlfriend gymnast and Meyer handing his phone to Tim Tebow during the Heisman Trophy ceremony (Meyer's version of events) to talk to Moore.
15) Adrian Bushell: Though it was never officially addressed, Bushell enrolled as a freshman, practiced with the team, but was unable to play. Was he a Prop 48 signee? He played in 14 games for Florida in 2009 and recorded 1 interception. He was lightening in a bottle during spring practice 2010, but then was suspended for academic and off-the-field issues. He left the team for JUCO and eventually signed with Louisville. Where he had the last laugh, starting in the Cardinals Sugar Bowl victory over Florida.
16) Sam Robey: While he never started a game, he was a solid contributor for the Gators, playing in 45 games during his career.
17) David Young: Florida took him on Signing Day, faxing him an LOI only after losing out on Ricky Barnum to Michigan. Young was lightly recruited after suffering two broken knee caps in high school. He suffered another knee injury at Florida that limited him for two years. He ended up playing in 29 games for the Gators.
18) T.J. Pridemore: Coming out of high school many thought Florida took him because his father had a prior relationship with former Florida coach Doc Holiday, and of course, as a way to sway his high school teammate Omar Hunter. He moved from linebacker to fullback where he played 25 games with 1 start before unexpectedly giving up football.
19) T.J. Lawrence: Signed as a wide receiver, but the only time he saw the field was on special teams. He never caught a pass for the Gators before transferring to Florida A&M.
20) Brendan Beal: A big bodied player who looked more like an SEC defensive end than a linebacker. He sat out his first two seasons at Florida with injuries before transferring to Minnesota.
21) Byran Jones: He seemed to be a reach when Florida signed him out of Jacksonville (Fla.) Forrest. He came in wanting to play defensive line, but Florida started him out on the offensive line because the staff was unhappy with his reporting weight. In the end, it didn't matter, he left the program before ever suiting up for the Gators.
Statistics in the re-ranking segment are courtesy of Gatorzone