A step ahead for Willis

One of the things that Florida head coach Will Muschamp preaches about rosters in the SEC is that the games are won in the trenches. With that in mind the guy in charge of building the roster has spent the last couple of recruiting classes adding pieces to each side of the ball in the trenches. This week a major piece fell into place when Gerald Willis arrived early.

One of the issues for the defensive front in 2014 is the lack of depth. Will Muschamp feels really good about the starting unit, even if he had to move a player or two around to make it look good, but the guys behind those starters are inexperienced and almost all have their questions.

Gerald Willis just left high school, graduated a little early from Edna Karr High School in New Orleans (Lou.) and enrolled in classes at Florida on Monday. He's about a month ahead of the other players in his recruiting class that didn't arrive even earlier in January. Although a month doesn't seem like a lot of time, Muschamp thinks it is definitely beneficial for Willis to be here now.

"It's huge to be able to get from a technique point in the weight room and do the dead lift and the power clean, to be able to do those things, to get with our football team, to be able to run with our strength staff and be in shape," Muschamp said. "As much as anything -- with big kids especially -- that's the biggest issue you worry about with them coming in… are they going to be in shape? He's got a good step ahead of most of the guys coming in with him, he should be in shape."

At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Willis comes in as a prototype of what Muschamp is looking for at defensive end.

"He is an explosive guy, he really uses his hands well," he said of his newest roster member. "He came from a winning program at Edna Karr High School. He is a guy that I believe has a lot of positional variety. I think he can play end, I think girth wise he has enough strength in his upper and lower body to play inside if he needs to. I view him a little bit like Jonathan Bullard, a guy that is probably an end, but can slide inside in NICKEL situations eventually and be an inside player. I don't know that he could handle all of that right now, but believe they have a very similar skill set."

Willis was a coup for the 2014 class. The highest rated and only Scout.com 5-star in the class, the gators were able to pry him from Louisiana. LSU was considered the favorite to land Willis as the recruiting cycle wound down, and getting top prospects in the state away from LSU hardly ever happens. Muschamp was quick to credit Gator assistant Derek Lewis for handling most of the process.

"I think there are a lot of good players over there," Muschamp said about landing a Bayou State prospect. "The University of Florida is an attractive place for a lot of people. Derek Lewis did a fantastic job of recruiting him. He's from New Orleans and knows a lot of people. So much of recruiting is trust, knowing people and understanding the background of all the situations and Derek did a fantastic job."

A huge get and a big bonus to get him in early, Gerald Willis can use this time to help him compete to get on the field early.


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