Revisiting the Class of 2009
Fresh off of winning their second National Championship in three years, under the guidance of Urban Meyer Florida did well down the stretch, adding six prospects who were rated as four and five stars over the last month of the recruiting cycle, but still finished a disappointing 11th overall in the Rivals Recruiting Team Rankings.
This was Meyer's last Florida signing class that was unaffected by his decision to retire, change his mind, and then retire once again. After three straight top three classes, on paper this was one of Meyer and Company's worst classes.
Today Inside the Gators will take an in-depth look at the players who made up the Class of 2009.
Here is the breakdown.
By the Numbers:
All 17 signees were admitted for academic eligibility at the University of Florida.
11 of the 17 signees started at least one game for the Gators during their collegiate careers. (Alajajian, Bostic, Debose, Evans, Gillislee, Halapio, Harrison, Jenkins, Koehne, Nixon, Reed)
4 others played in at least one game for Florida but never started (Alli, Finley, Herbert, Johnson)
2 never played a single game for the Gators (Brown, Parks)
8 saw enough game action as freshmen to avoid a redshirt. (Alajajian, Bostic, Evans, Finley, Gillislee, Jenkins, Nixon, Reed)
6 were drafted by National Football League franchises. (Bostic - Chicago, 2nd round, Evans - Jacksonville, 6th round, Gillislee - Miami, 5th round, Halapio - New England, 6th round, Jenkins - Miami, 4th round, Reed - Washington, 3rd round)
2 have been with or are with NFL franchises as undrafted free agents. (Harrison - Colts, Nixon - Redskins, Colts)
2 were named to an All-SEC team during their collegiate careers. (Bostic and Reed - both 2nd-team)
1 signee still has eligibility remaining. (Debose)
0 were named to an All-American team during their collegiate careers.
Most Valuable Player: This is a tough call because unlike in most classes, there was no superstar type of standout contributor here. That is further pointed out by the lack of a First Team All SEC selection from the class. In the end, though he was never spectacular, Jonathan Bostic was a rock manning the middle of a couple of top 10 rated defenses.
Most Underrated: As is often the case with offensive linemen seemingly more so than any other position, a prospect turns out to be a bigger contributor than his high school ranking would indicate. That is certainly the case when it comes to Jon Halapio. Coming out of a small private school in the Bay area, besides Florida he didn't have much of an offer list to speak of and was all but an after thought in the class. However, he not only went on to play as a freshman for the Gators, but started more games than anyone else in his class and was eventually drafted into the NFL.
Most Overrated: This might be the easiest pick of all. At the time it was seen as a huge recruiting coup for Florida when the Gators were able to waltz into the state capitol and steal five-star defensive tackle Gary Brown from Florida State. And it might have ended that way, but unfortunately for Brown (and UF), his work ethic never matched up to his talent level. That shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone though, that was his reputation in high school as well.
Biggest Surprise: Based solely on their Rivals rankings this is a hard category to choose because no one really out performed where their rating coming out of high school. However, based on my own personal opinion, though he didn't do anything significant until his final season, running back Mike Gillislee was better than I thought he would be after seeing him as a senior at Deland. I didn't believe he was Rivals250 worthy, and he ended up rushing for over 1,000 yards as a senior and is currently in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins.
Biggest Disappointment: This isn't the same thing as most overrated because this category belongs to a player who had the talent level to be deserving of his ranking, but simply never lived up to it despite remaining on the team. At one point during his high school senior season offensive tackle Xavier Nixon was rated as the No. 28 prospect in the Rivals100. Though he fell to the bottom of the Rivals100 by the time Signing Day rolled around, he just never lived up to that billing. He was undersized for most of his career and was often abused by outside speed rushers. Most of it seemed to be mental. Once things started to go bad, that would get the ball rolling and lead to more problems ahead. Despite his troubles at Florida, he is employed by the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL.
Rivals.com was dead on: Coming out of high school Andre Debose was designated a five-star due to his big ability to make the big play. Though he isn't exactly a student of the game or the most dedicated of practice participants, there is no doubting his talent and ability. He is a game changer. That is evidenced by his Florida record four kickoff returns for a touchdown, despite very limited attempts. In the one season he contributed significantly as a wide receiver, he averaged 27-yards per reception and scored a touchdown every fourth time he caught the ball. When healthy, and willing to put in the time and effort, he is as close to a home run threat as Florida has had since Percy Harvin. Granted his sixth year, he has one more chance to put it altogether.
Rivals.com was way off: As happens way too often when it comes to junior college players, where it seems as though players are for some reason awarded an extra star above their actual talent level, defensive tackle Edwin Herbert simply did not have the on the field ability to be considered a four-star. Mid three-stars might have even been a little on the generous side.
- Mark Wheeler
Re-ranking the class of 2009:
Players were re-ranked based solely on what they accomplished during the entirety of their time at Florida. Professional potential was not a determining factor.
1 - LB Jonathan Bostic: The Gators didn't realize quite how good they had it with Bostic until he was gone. Consistent and intelligent, Bostic manned Florida's middle linebacker spot for 26 consecutive games to close out his college career. He racked up 162 tackles (16.5 for loss) during that two-year stretch and was a key leader (mostly by example) on defense.
2 - RB Mike Gillislee: Florida's first 1,000-yard season since Ciatrick Fason in 2004 came courtesy of Gillislee, as he led the Gators offense in 2012. While that was clearly his biggest year, Gillislee was a solid contributor in a more limited role during his other seasons. In fact, he averaged at least 5.6 yards per carry in each of his first three seasons.
3 - TE Jordan Reed: After starting his career as a reserve quarterback, Reed eased into finding his niche as a tight end and caught rhythm by the latter portions of his junior year. He led Florida in receiving as a junior, catching 45 passes for 559 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.
4 - S Josh Evans: One of Florida's two primary safeties for the better part of his last two seasons in Gainesville, Evans came along as a junior and starred as a senior. He went from being a questionable open-field tackler to Matt Elam's effective sidekick. He recorded 83 tackles and three interceptions in 2012.
5 - LB Jelani Jenkins: There are loads of "what could have been" with Jenkins, who was Florida's most talented and athletic linebacker but had his career offset by a string of minor injuries. Even while missing time, he managed to start all but five of the games he played and made 182 tackles (16.5 for loss).
6 - C Jonotthan Harrison: After moving to center, Harrison became one of Florida's more consistent offensive linemen through good times and bad. He was never elite in the same class as numerous top-tier centers, but Harrison held his own and started 39 games for the Gators.
7 - OG Jon Halapio: Soft-spoken off the field with a mean streak on it, Halapio was the definition of toughness throughout much of his career. That was highlighted when he played through a torn pectoral injury during his redshirt senior season. Halapio started 43 games for the Gators and was especially tough as a run blocker.
8 - WR/KR Andre Debose: The sixth-year senior is the only player from the 2009 class who remains on campus. His career has largely been underwhelming, but four touchdowns on kick returns is an obvious bright spot. His 29 catches for 543 yards and four touchdowns in 31 games is less than ideal.
9 - OT Xavier Nixon: He became a constant target of Florida fans after he failed to live up to the expectations he created for himself as an SEC All-Freshman selection in 2009. Hampered by injury, he was a constant weakness at left tackle and will be most remembered for the two games in which he was decimated by UGA edge rusher Jarvis Jones.
10 - OG Kyle Koehne: In a way, it says a lot about his work ethic and football IQ that he was able to play 51 games and start 10 for the Gators with his somewhat limited natural ability. Koehne was a necessary yet unremarkable role player who could handle multiple spots along the line.
11 - DE Kedric Johnson: Injuries plagued Johnson's UF career. He recorded nine tackles in 25 games despite suffering a dislocated knee, a torn labrum, a broken hand, two torn MCLs, a dislocated patella tendon and a torn quad muscle, during his time in Gainesville. He eventually graduated and transferred to Fort Hays State in Kansas.
12 - OL/DL Nick Alajajian: His career highlight was a start at left tackle in Florida's 24-17 victory against Ohio State at the Gator Bowl. It was the only start of his career, though he played in 31 other games. Most of his time was spent on the field-goal unit.
13 - WR Stephen Alli: There wasn't much of a career for Alli at Florida despite a tall frame. Played in 33 games, almost exclusively on special teams, and caught three passes for 17 yards. Alli eventually elected to forego a year of eligibility but remain at Florida for graduate school.
14 - LB Dee Finley: His two years at Florida, after going to prep school to gain eligibility, were largely forgettable and included him playing special teams. He had eight tackles in two seasons and eventually transferred to Tuskegee where he finished his college career.
15 - DT Edwin Herbert: The fact there are two people below him says more about their careers than his. Herbert, a JUCO transfer, lasted one year in Gainesville and played just one game as a Gator.
16 - TE Desmond Parks: Injury derailed his career before it ever started, and Parks never played a game for Florida before electing to transfer.
17 - DT Gary Brown: A catastrophic five-star bust, Brown was infamously arrested at a Gainesville party for striking two women. He was soon dismissed from Florida's team and landed at East Mississippi Community College for a year before falling off the face of the football earth.
- Bryan Holt