Gator prospects @ Under Armour AA Game

This will be a bit of a different setting for the Florida Gators in terms of the Under Armour All-American Game and the amount of prospects in the game that might be looking hard at the Gators. A transition year for the staff means a lot of changeover in recruiting as well. Still, there are ten prospects that we will be watching closely in Orlando.

The leader of the McElwain train will be offensive lineman Tyler Jordan. The Jacksonville Bishop Kenny center brings a tough hard-nosed style of play in the trenches with the brain to handle the center position which he will be asked to do at Florida. He has been told to be prepared to play center this week, but will start as a guard for his team.

Jordan has been the lead recruiter for the Gators 2015 class during the entire process, never wavering on his commitment despite the coaching change. He is a valuable part of a class that really needs to have six offensive linemen among the group just to fill roster needs. He also is an underrated player that plays tenacious in the trenches and could play defense if called upon to do so. The 6-foot-4, 285 pound Jordan will be working the other prospects in the game to be a part of this Gator class.

The quarterback position is another important one for the Gators in this class. Florida likely will return just three scholarship quarterbacks in 201, so adding a fourth player would be ideal. The main target we will be watching this week is Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy gun slinger Deondre Francois.

There likely isn’t a stronger arm in the 2015 class and at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Francois is also a terrific athlete that can run. Touch on the deep ball is something to work on, but he has all the tools.

Francois is currently committed to the Florida State and is on again / off again about whether he will visit Florida, but we will be watching and asking about his interest in the Gators throughout the week in Orlando.

Clemson commit Ray-Ray McCloud is a dynamic play maker at running back and a guy that continues to get interest from the Florida staff. The Tampa (Fla.) Sickles star was supposed to enroll early at Clemson, but that has changed at least once and we are waiting to see if it changes again. He is a top target for the Gators as a slot receiver and a running back because of his electric play making ability.

McCloud has visited the Florida campus numerous times even after his commitment and has met with Jim McElwain as well since he took over the reins at Florida earlier in the month. At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, McCloud would add something to the Florida roster that they just don’t have enough of… quickness, strength, elusiveness, and more all in one nifty package.

Fightin’ Gators will be on the tail of McCloud throughout the week in Orlando.

At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds D’Anfernee McGriff is a huge running back in the 2015 class and is also currently committed to Auburn. The Gators and Jim McElwain have made it a priority to recruit and so is someone to watch this week.

With the expected loss of Matt Jones to the NFL, Florida needs a bigger back on the roster and the athletic McGriff would be a terrific one to land. Early in the process Florida seemed like a school he could really land at, but he committed to Auburn all the way back in April.

McGriff comes with the smarts required to play quarterback in which he does at Tallahassee (Fla.) Leon HS.

We talked about the help that Jordan needs on the offensive line, and one player that could go a long way in helping a depleted roster is Brooksville (Fla.) nature Coast monster lineman Christian Pellage. Pellage is currently committed to South Carolina, but could be open to visiting some schools in January as the visit weekends start up.

The 6-foot-7, 271 pound Pellage camped at Florida in June and is familiar with Florida offensive line coach Mike Summers, who McElwain is expected to retain on staff. The Gators will return just eight or nine scholarship linemen in 2015 and playing time is there for the taking even for a true freshman. And Pellage has the frame and strength to be able to play early.

For the Gators on defense, recruiting starts with the defensive ends. One of those is Seffner Armwood 5-star monster Byron Cowart. Cowart has been a main stay on the Florida campus for a couple of years now, but with the recent change in staff has been publicly leaning elsewhere.

At 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds Cowart has the ability to take over games from his defensive end position and wants to play a hybrid BUCK type role in college. He knows that Florida has made him a priority and he is currently looking at other programs like Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, and Oregon.

Cowart was going to announce at the Under Armour game but has since decided that he will make his decision closer to signing day.

Defensive tackle will be one of the more elusive positions during this cycle, but one the staff has its eye on is Jacksonville Trinity Christian two-way lineman Kendrick Norton. Norton is another that has been to campus a lot during the cycle and seems pretty noncommittal in his recruitment so far.

At 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds Norton is strong at defensive tackle or offensive guard but it appears the Gators are continuing to recruit him on defense.

Miami, Ole Miss, and Virginia Tech are the schools that remain the obstacles for Florida to get over in Norton’s recruitment with Gainesville being the closest school by several hours in a car.

Jeff Holland is another Trinity Christian star and another that has been a mainstay on Florida’s campus for a couple of years now. The 4-star outside linebacker is a hard hitting athlete with elite size at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and is being hotly pursued by Florida, Auburn, and UCLA.

Holland is another raw athlete with a very high ceiling who plays the game fearlessly. He can be a SAM linebacker or a BUCK in the old defense and would be a great 3-4 linebacker if the Gators decide to go that direction on that side of the ball.

Auburn looks to be the real competition here as former Gator head coach Will Muschamp will be running the defense on The Plains. We will stay on top of Holland’s recruitment and follow him closely during the week.

Roquan Smith is a big question in terms of Florida recruiting. The Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County linebacker is another that seemed destined for Gainesville over the summer. He visited Florida no less than four times between January and August and the 4-star middle linebacker really liked what he saw.

The staff change may have a bigger effect on him than others because there is a distance factor as well, and the Gators would have a lot of work to do on this one. The need at linebacker is so great and this is no secret to Smith who they hope can get a bigger look from moving forward.

Finally, another linebacker who was previously committed to Florida is one we will watch. Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett bruiser Adonis Thomas flipped his commitment to Alabama earlier in the month and it was a hard pill to swallow for gator fans that know how important the position is to the roster at Florida.

Thomas has premiere size at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and a guy that only looks to get bigger and better. He is another one that made several trips to Gainesville before he originally committed to the Gators and another one that knows the situation at linebacker.

It will take even more to overcome the obstacles for Thomas because of his commitment to the Crimson Tide and the relationships he has with the Bama staff.

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