While some schools hold the camp with the same name, there is something about a hot muggy night in The Swamp with the music blaring and football under the lights. THE Friday Night Lights was the first of its kind among huge programs and it remains a stomping ground for the best athletes in America to come before they start their high school football season.
Florida will host some 200 plus high school football players Friday and will do so without a big name quarterback in the 2015 class. Completely content with four-star Sheriron Jones from California, the Gators will likely have a couple of 2016 class slingers on hand, but could rely on the services of current Gators Jeff Driskel, Will Grier to throw the ball around. We will just have to see what happens on Friday to know what takes place.
Guys to tote the rock
The Gators are expected to host a quartet of big time running backs on Friday and most eyes will be on Tampa Sickles four-star crafty Ray-Ray McCloud. McCloud has declared that he will commit publicly on Monday and the Gators are in the mix and thought to be one of the favorites. It is likely that Florida will be the last place he can camp at as we come upon a dead period after the weekend when fall practices start for college and high school teams. The Gators want to take advantage of that last shot with the ultra-electric McCloud.
The Gators are also expecting a visit from Miami commitment and four-star running back Dexter Williams. The Winter Garden West Orange star back is one to watch after saying he will be looking around lately. Williams is a star with all of the tools Florida is looking for in a back.
The big back has been a priority for the last few years at Florida and four-star Jacques Patrick of Orlando Timber Creek fits the criteria. The Gators now are looking for shiftier, speedy backs, but they certainly wouldn’t run away from Patrick who seems destined for Florida State.
Lakeland Christian running back T.J. Simmons surprised a lot of people when he showed up on Wednesday in Gainesville and is planning on staying through the event Friday. Simmons committed to UCLA earlier this month, but the gators have been recruiting him for a long time. Despite the maneuver, I don’t see a change at the moment. But, the Gators will get their chance to show him some things.
Play making receivers…
One position the Gators have been trying to overhaul lately is receiver. Looking for speed, speed, and more speed, Florida should host some of that on Friday.
The biggest issue as we approach the camp is whether Tampa area four-star receivers George Campbell of Eastlake and Ryan Davis of Lakewood will make it to the event. The two actually tripped to FSU on Thursday and are expected to stay the night before making it back to Gainesville sometime in the evening. That is the way I expect it to go, but stranger things hav happened.
The other big headline name also comes from Tampa. Four-star Auden Tate of Wharton is a big guy (6-4.5, 208) and can move. Recently offered by Florida, this is their first chance since then to have him on campus and get him into a competitive atmosphere like the one he will see Friday.
One I will be paying attention to Friday is David Gardner out of Jacksonville Atlantic Coast. Gardner has made several trips to Gainesville in the last month and a half and seems on the verge of getting an offer. He will definitely compete Friday to try and lock an offer up.
Two out-of-state receivers that are supposed to be in attendance are Stanley Morgan of New Orleans, Louisiana and Najee Clayton of Paramus, New Jersey. Both have offers and will be here to check out The Swamp.
Three 2016 class receivers expected are ones to watch as well. Freddie Swain of Citra North Marion, four-star Eli Stove from Niceville, and Tre Nixon from Viera, Florida add depth to a pretty strong position on Friday.
Looking for one more tight end…
Florida has changed it up at the tight end position and are looking for prospects that can really get down field and make plays. Tallahassee Lincoln athlete Camrin Knight is currently committed to Florida and has the tools necessary to play like the Gators want. Duncan (SC) Byrnes athlete Tavin Richardson will make his way down here to compete as well. He is more of a big receiver type and big play maker.
The 2016 class will be represented at the tight end / B position by four-star Mark Birmingham of Ashburn (Va.).
Unprecedented group of offensive linemen
I have covered this event for all ten years of its existence and can say without a doubt this will be the best offensive line group in the history of the event.
Center Tyler Jordan is committed to Florida and probably one of the most underrated prospects in the state. Jordan won’t be competing as he was asked not to, but he will keep applying some recruiting juice to the prospects that he wants to play alongside when he makes it to Florida.
He has a good nucleus to start with on Friday. The headliner of the group is five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey. It has been a little while since Ivey was on campus, so getting him back to Gainesville is big. The Apopka star is the number one player at his position on Scout.
Greenbelt (Md.) four-star offensive tackle Isaiah Prince is pretty wide open at the moment and will be making his way to Gainesville for Friday’s event. He’s the number seven tackle on Scout for the 2015 class and one the staff would love to snag in the end.
IMG Academy tackle Tyree St Louis has an offer from Florida but has been relatively quiet in his recruitment. From the Tampa area and in school in Bradenton, St. Louis is a masher of a tackle Florida would like to get.
From a school that has been very friendly to the Gators in the past, 2016 tackle Baveon Johnson from Lakeland High School is expected in attendance.
After committing to Florida State on Tuesday it appeared that four-star offensive tackle Abdul Bello of Montverde Academy would visit the Gators for the event. Things have gotten a little dicey in this situation and it appears he will not take that trip after all.
The interior linemen expected are another fine group. New Smyrna Beach four-star road grater Jalen Merrick will be in Gainesville and the Gators seem to have become the team to beat. When asked if there is a chance he could commit Friday, he swerved from answering, but we believe that is something that could happen. He camped in Gainesville in June and is back for more. Slowed by a little illness, he badly wants to participate, but he may not be able to.
Woodbridge (Va.) four-star guard Matthew Burrell was a star earlier in the month at The Opening. The Gators have a pretty good influence in Virginia and would like that to pay off with a prospect like Burrell.
Warner Robins (Ga.) Northside 4-star guard Brandon Sandifer will be in attendance, but will also head to South Carolina the following day and likely make his decision on Saturday between the two schools. Right now, It appear the Gamecocks would be the team to beat.
Big names on the defensive line too…
While it is still uncertain whether five-star defensive end Byron Cowart will make it to Gainesville while riding along with Ryan Davis and Campbell above, odds are he will make it in. Cowart has been to UF’s campus a ton since the end of the season and as high as he is ranked, his star continues to rise. Getting him on campus again is a big deal.
Rocky Mount (NC) defensive end Houshun Gaines was offered by Florida a couple of months ago. Ponchatoula (La.) defensive end Reggie Walker is also expected in. The Gators are starting to find some success in the Bayou State in recruiting.
The 2016 class at defensive end will be well represented too. The nation’s top player at the position in the class is Shavar Manuel from Tampa Plant and he is headed to Gainesville on Friday. Panama City (Fla.) Bay is home to Janarius Robinson who is another four-star defensive end in the class. He also plans on being in Gainesville on Friday.
The defensive tackle position will be o slouch either on Friday. One to keep a serious eye on is Jacksonville Trinity Christian star Kendrick Norton. Norton was previously committed to FSU but two months ago dropped the Noles. He came to camp in Gainesville last month shortly after his de-commitment and the Gators have seemed the front runners ever since. We will be watching this one closely Friday night.
Brandon (Miss.) four-star defensive tackle Fletcher Adams is a prospect with offers from most of the big programs all over the southeast. It is such a tough position to find prospects in Florida, especially this year, the Gators would love to wow Adams this weekend.
Finally to match up with the number one defensive end in the 2016 class, the top defensive tackle nationally in the defensive class is also expected in Gainesville on Friday. Five-star Rashan Gary of Paramus (NJ) has been a men among boys all off-season and should show his skills Friday.
Linebacker is another stellar group…
Florida got their first linebacker commitment in two years a couple of weeks ago when Jerome Baker went public with his pledge to the Gators. Friday, they would love to add to Baker and they have quite a few star prospects expected in.
Maybe the most talked about linebacker on the Florida board for the last couple of years in Jacksonville Trinity Christian’s Jeff Holland. The four-star monster linebacker has remained a Florida-Auburn battle in recent months and the Tigers seemed to have kept the lead during that time. Now, Holland has been on campus since Wednesday and will remain through the event. Holland has been on the Florida campus maybe more than any prospect in the 2015 class and having him back again seemingly can’t hurt.
Te’Von Coney used Twitter Thursday night to announce that he was already in Gainesville for the event and that he will join George Brown above at the same school he commits to and Brown commits Friday likely between Kentucky and Florida. This is definitely one to watch on Friday.
A late RSVP came in the form of Montezuma (Ga.) four-star linebacker Roquan Smith who remains close with several prospects that are looking hard at Florida. This looks to be a Florida-Georgia battle and the Bulldogs believe they are the leader. However, Smith has been to Florida numerous times in the off-season and skipped on a Georgia visit just last week.
Miami commitment and three-star linebacker 3* LB Charles Perry says he will also be in Gainesville on Friday.
The 2016 class is well represented at the linebacker position and another University of Miami commitment is expected to be a part of the events on Friday. Orange Park (Fla.) Oakleaf four-star backer Shaquille Quarterman is a big time player and will travel the 70 or so miles to Gainesville to participate.
Four-star Jaleel Laguins of Watkinsville (Ga.) and three-star Pembroke Pines (Fla.) Flanagan backer add more firepower to a pretty nice linebacker group expected.
Under Will Muschamp, the Gators have been able to recruit and sign big time prospects in the defensive backfield. Friday some really good ones will be on hand.
Small but talented DB group
One of the more unheralded, yet exciting commitments for Florida is Jalen Julius of Winter Garden West Orange. Julius is a highlight reel waiting to happen and it will be fun to see his play in action Friday night
Safety Deontai Williams flipped his commitment from Florida to Georgia last week, but has decided he wants to come and see what is going on with the camp on Friday. It is an odd turn of events, but one that seems will take place.
Local Gainesville Buchholz corner Naquan Howard has prototype size and good speed for the position and plans on being at Friday Night Lights, even though an injury will liklely keep him from participating.
Recent North Carolina Tarheel commitment Javarius Davis from Jacksonville Ed White camped last month in Gainesville. He got a serious workout on defense and also special teams as a return man. He can do it all on the football field. No Florida offer yet, but would one make a difference to Davis?
June also saw four-star 2016 safety Chauncey Gardner of Cocoa commit to the Gators. A big DB, Gardner will certainly bring some swagger to the field on Friday. He is fun to watch.
Finally, Romeo Finley of Niceville is a 2016 safety with a Gator offer. He is expected to be in attendance Friday.
The Florida staff looks to finish strong on a summer camp circuit that saw most of not all of their entire recruiting board roll through town. Friday night promises to be one of the more talented groups that has been involved with Friday Night Lights.