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As you might expect, the release of the updated Rivals250 brought plenty of questions concerning Florida's commitments and targets. Inside the Gators spoke with Rivals analysts Mike Farrell, Adam Friedman, Adam Gorney, Josh Helmholdt and Woody Wommack for their thoughts and opinions on the updated rankings.
Though the recruiting process seems to get started earlier each year, the fact is, time wise, there's over eight months still remaining in this recruiting cycle. Florida is sitting at an unheard of 28th in the Rivals Team Recruiting Rankings because of a combination of a 4-8 record and three straight years of a sub par offense. What are your thoughts on where Florida currently stands and what happens going forward?
Gorney: There are going to be some major factors that go into Florida's class. A strong start to the season will be one of them. An offense that has a pulse and can show it can score easier will be another. I think that should happen with Kurt Roper in charge. I do think, however, that the Gators will be fighting an uphill battle for some top prospects because the situation in Gainesville is unstable. If the season is average, coach Will Muschamp will be on a very hot seat. Not many players that are looking at many other programs want to get locked in if there are off-season changes. Florida will bounce back but it could be tougher than usual.
Helmholdt: On-field results are an important factor in recruiting success, so I expect the Gators are going to take a hit in recruiting. How big of a hit will be determined by how well they manage this class and the job their coaches do on the road during this cycle. Covering the Midwest I don't have a large enough sample size to make an intelligent analysis of that effort, but their appearances in this region thus far have been about in line with past classes.
Wommack: I think it's still really early to be looking at rankings. If everything goes to plan for the Florida staff, an improved record will lead to a surge in recruiting. However, if there's a repeat of last year's sub par season, it could be tough for the Gators to land the type of class they're used to getting.
He may not have moved up much, just two spots, but Byron Cowart ascended to the No. 1 spot overall. What did you see from him since the last rankings update that caused the jump? Why is he special enough to considered the overall top prospect in the nation?
Farrell: Cowart reminds me a lot of Da'Shawn Hand from last year, a super athletic end with good size, excellent balance and agility and a great desire to get better. He is simply a dominant player at his position and after seeing so many No. 1 prospects over the years, you just get a feel for when a player is that special.
Wommack: Cowart has been in the mix for the No. 1 overall player based on his film and his body of work. He only slightly lost out on the top spot during the last round of evaluations. After coming to and dominating the Rivals Camp Series Orlando, he had done enough to push over into the top spot. However, just because he's currently the top dog, doesn't mean he's not going to have to fight to keep it. Unlike in years past, there is no runaway No. 1, at least not yet.
Cowart is a life long Florida fan, but currently has Oregon leading. Do you have any insight as to how you think this will play out?
Farrell: I think in the end he picks Florida, but I felt the same way at the beginning about Leon McQuay and he headed to the west coast. I don't think it's any secret that Cowart talks to Leon and his family and I think heading west is a true option. A lot will be determined by how Florida does this season I believe.
Wommack: It's nice for Cowart to say that Oregon is leading, but until he visits Eugene I would say that Florida is the team to beat for his signature.
When prospects such as Cowart are rising and falling in the off-season, how much stock is put into seeing a player a couple of hours at a camp rather than a season of film? What factors into the ratings at this time of the year?
Farrell: Camps are an important evaluation tool and it's a barometer to see if what we are seeing on film matches up in person. All the fans freak out about camp evaluations, but colleges do them every summer and end up offering a ton of kids who aren't padded up. It's an important evaluation tool for everyone from us to colleges to the NFL with the combine.
Helmholdt: Every opportunity to evaluate a prospect is valuable. Some are more valuable than others, some events showcase different aspects of a player's game more than others. One of the advantages of camps is we get to see D1 prospects go against other D1 prospects. Game film is an important evaluation tool as well, and all evaluation opportunities go into a player's rating.
Wommack: It's all about body of work. A "few hours at a camp" isn't going to make or break a prospect, but at the same time when you're facing top quality opponents rep after rep you can get a pretty good idea of where a prospect is at in his development. It's exactly why colleges give out and take back scholarship offers based on camp performances.
Florida received a visit from Damien Harris, the top overall running back and No. 4 rated prospect in the nation. Realizing that it is early and anything can happen, who are the legitimate contenders here?
Farrell: He loved Gainesville I am told, so Florida is a real contender and option. He's so quiet about everything it's hard to tell, but I know he liked Florida, Alabama, Ohio State and a few others. Michigan fans think he is going to re-commit and he could, but I don't think they lead at all. I think he's still wide open.
Helmholdt: Florida is in play with Harris, and I would comfortably put them in his top five. The team to beat at this stage would be Ohio State. Alabama is in play, Michigan - where he committed to originally - is still in play, and Kentucky is the fifth school I would mention. Getting an official visit from Harris is going to be key. The Gators need him to spend as much time in Gainesville as possible to give them the best possible shot here.
Wommack: He's sort of all over the map. The fact that Florida got a visit means they're in the mix but I think Ohio State is shaping up as the team to beat.
CeCe Jefferson moved down five spots from No. 5 to No. 10 overall - as well as moving from defensive tackle to strongside end. What are the thoughts on him and the position change?
Farrell: Love his film but he isn't big enough to be a defensive tackle and he was a bit of a fish out of water at defensive end when we saw him. His bump down is minimal overall and he's a 3-4 gap end or a 4-3 5 or 7 technique with his size. I think it's impressive how dominant he is in high school at around 6-2 and 244 pounds. He's amazingly agile and his motor is non-stop, but he's not a defensive tackle at the next level at least not now.
Wommack: Jefferson's film is solely at defensive tackle, and his height and weight was previously listed much higher than he actually weighed in at the Rivals Camp in Orlando. This doesn't mean he's any less of a player, but it's clear his future will be at end not tackle. He still has a ton of talent, but he's still learning to play end and that's why he slipped a little.
[RELATED: FIVE-STAR JEFFERSON IS 85% CERTAIN]
One of the biggest risers in this latest re-ranking was Ray-Ray McCloud III jumping up 79 spots to No. 26 overall. He is listed as an athlete but could start out at running back, wide out or defensive back on the next level. Where do you like him? What are his strengths?
Farrell: I like him as a running back or wide receiver, he needs to be on offense and with the ball in his hands, he's too electric for anything else. He's a dynamic prospect who runs good routes and gets consistent separation.
Wommack: I like him at all three positions. There's not real flaws in his game at this point, he's a special player. The one knock might be his size, but I don't think that will impact him at any of those positions.
Tune in on Wednesday for the latest on Isaiah Prince, George Campbell, Marcus Lewis and where Florida's eight commitments stand now and where they may be ranked going forward.