It’s a busy day in Gator land. Let’s start with the positives.
Say what you want about Will Muschamp as a coach (as I don’t even attempt to hold back from doing), but he sure can recruit kids to play for him. Picking up two of Rivals’ top 250 players in the same day doesn’t happen every day.
But that’s exactly what Muschamp and his staff pulled off today, snagging commitments from offensive tackle David Sharp (Jacksonville, FL/Providence) and tight end Moral Stephens (Perry, FL/Taylor County) to get their 17th and 18th verbal pledges of the class of 2014.
The pair of pledges today makes a hat trick for Muschamp in the last ten days. He also snagged wide receiver Ryan Sousa (Orlando, FL/Lake Nona) last week.
Just a quick note for the future: whenever you want to check out Florida’s full class, you can always go to the menu at the top of the page and click on the “Football Recruiting” tab (for now, you can cheat and just click here). It’s got the list of all of Florida’s commitments, their hometowns, and their Rivals/ESPN rankings.
I don’t put much stock into player rankings at all, so you’re not going to see me list off stats about how many Top 10 position guys Florida has gotten. But I will say that Florida got three guys who I could see making legitimate contributions, Sharpe in particular. His athleticism is off the charts. Plain and simple. The one caveat with Sharpe is that while talented, he is raw, and with the Gators’ struggles on the offensive line, he could be automatically chucked into the starting lineup, and thus set up to fail. It might be that Florida doesn’t really have a choice but to give him a shot, but I remember how Florida tried that with Xavier Nixon a few years back, and it didn’t work so well.
Nixon was thrust into the Gators’ lineup as a freshman in 2009 against South Carolina, and then played just his fourth game ever against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game at left tackle. As a result, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart picked on him time and again, and Tebow was harassed all day from the left side, beginning with Nixon getting beat by Javier Arenas (a cornerback!) on just the third play of the game. As a result (well, at least partly), Nixon never really turned into the blocker Gator fans thought he would be. I still believe today if Urban Meyer kept Nixon on the bench until he thought he was ready, Nixon would have had a much better career at Florida. Throwing a player into the fire before he’s physically and mentally prepared for it, especially at the collegiate level, is a no-no. So I’m worried that Florida might start him before he’s ready, he’ll have a bad game and it destroys his confidence forever. Melodramatic? Sure. But I’ve seen this movie before, with an equally hyped up but raw product in Nixon.
Another thing about Sharpe is that he loves basketball, and wants to play it in college. I know Bruce Ellington does both for South Carolina, and Riley Cooper played baseball and football for Florida, but those are exceptions, not the rule. Plus, Sharpe is going to play offensive line for Florida, which further dims his chances. The conditioning and eating habits required for one job is the polar opposite of the other. Cooper and Ellington were skill position players, so their workouts to get in great football shape were not much different from what they had to do to get in shape for their other sports. But being in shape for an SEC offensive tackle and being in shape to run Billy Donovan’s transition offense and full court press are too far apart for any human being to even dream of attempting the transition in time to make a meaningful contribution for the hardwood program. So this whole basketball thing is nothing but a silly fantasy, and as soon as Sharpe figures that out, he’ll be in a much better position.
So, now that we’ve covered that, let’s move on to the bad stuff: five players are transferring from Florida, including offensive lineman Ian Silberman and tight end Kent Taylor. The loss of Silberman shrinks an already thin offensive line corps, which further causes me to fret about the possibility of throwing Sharpe into a bad position. But oh, wait, there’s more! Two other offensive linemen, Quinteze Williams and Trevon Young, will also transfer, along with safety/fullback Rhaheim Ledbetter. That leaves Florida’s current roster with a grand total of nine- count ’em, nine- offensive linemen, which means the Gators don’t even have enough bodies to throw out a scout team.
In addition to the five we know Florida’s losing, I’ve been told that QB’s Max Staver and Skylar Mornhinweg are also looking to transfer, with Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy and now Will Grier figuring to be ahead of them on the depth chart. Since this hasn’t actually happened yet, we’ll just focus on the five.
The loss of Kent Taylor is disappointing, a perfect example of a lot of talent that just doesn’t pan out. He caught a 5 yard touchdown pass in the Sugar Bowl on a sneaky crossing pattern last year. He also has 5 career receiving yards at Florida, which is definitely not something to write home about. This frees up highly touted tight end Colin Thompson to get some reps, but that’s if he can stay healthy- something he hasn’t been able to do yet.
So, in any case, it’s nice to get two top recruits. Losing players to transfer isn’t good, but hopefully the new guys can come in and fill the void.