The one thing recruiting rankings don’t tell you is did the team actually meet its needs. You can have the #1 class in the nation as Florida did in 2010 and yet the class didn’t meet its needs. Nowhere was that more apparent than at quarterback where Trey Burton morphed into a tight end/H-back and Tyler Murphy sat for three years before showing what he could do in six games in 2013 – then transferred out. Murphy was one of 10 players from that class of 27 signees that finished his career somewhere other than Gainesville.
Since 2010, Florida has a 47-30 record, which is just the ninth best record in the Southeastern Conference. Coaching change certainly had something to do with the Gators’ fall from championship levels – Jim McElwain is the third UF coach since 2010 – and that has something but not everything to do with what happened with recruiting. As we will see in this series, when we break down recruiting since 2010 position-by-position, the Gators have not recruited efficiently. When you have too many holes in recruiting, you can expect a yo-yo effect in the won-lost column, which is what UF has had.
Today, we’ll take a look at the running back position. Prior to the 2016 class of two, which has yet to take the field, the Gators recruited nine running backs. Two of them transferred out, one of them before ever taking a snap at UF, and another didn’t qualify. Of the remaining six, one was moved immediately to the slot and two left for the NFL after three seasons.
Mack Brown: He was everybody’s All-American out of high school, choosing the Gators over Michigan, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama. At UF he never developed and turned in only one productive year (2013, 543 yards, 4 TDs). He was handicapped by a lack of speed and an inability to pick up pass rushers when called on to block. Career totals 805 rushing yards for 4 TDs, 18 catches for 78 yards.
Assessment: Like a lot of high school backs, Brown never had to block anyone but it was shocking that he had such trouble picking up assignments. Even more astonishing was his lack of speed. This looked like an A+ on signing day and turned out to be a D+.
Mike Blakely: Blakely was an early enrollee who transferred out after spring practice. He enrolled at Auburn, sat out the 2011 season and then played in six games in 2012, gaining 153 yards. He transferred from Auburn to Hutchinson Community College. Wanted to transfer to USF but didn’t graduate from Hutchinson.
Assessment: Blakely was a big time recruit but he really never wanted to be at Florida and after one spring under Will Muschamp and running backs coach Brian White, it was a mutual decision to let him go wherever he wanted. Can you grade an F-? Considering the coaches knew Brown had issues they should have signed more than one running back in this class.
Matt Jones: He had limited carries as a freshman in 2012 because Mike Gillislee had an All-SEC year. He was just one more big time casualty in 2013 when he got hurt in the LSU game. He had huge games in 2014 against Kentucky (156 yards, 1 TD) and Georgia (192 yards, 2 TDs) and finished the season with 817 yards and 6 TDs rushing, 11 catches for 65 yards and 1 TD. Career numbers of 1,431 yards (4.8 per carry) and 11 TDs, 19 catches for 100 yards and 1 TD. Left early for the NFL and was taken in the third round by the Washington Redskins.
Assessment: Jones was the perfect combination of size and speed so you wonder what might have been if he had been able to stay injury-free thoughout his career. Grade this a B-.
Kelvin Taylor: Fred Taylor’s kid did well. Was he Fred? No, but he had a solid career and in 2015 had just the third 1,000-yard season (Ciatrick Fason, 2004, and Mike Gillislee, 2012, were the others) by a Florida runner since his dad did it in 1997. Kelvin had 508 yards in 2013 and 565 in 2014. In 2015, running behind the most inexperienced line in the Southeastern Conference, Kelvin ran for 1,035 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. His career numbers were 2,108 yards and 23 TDs plus 24 catches for 179 yards. Declared for the NFL after the 2015 season and was taken sixth round by the San Francisco 49ers.
Adam Lane: After taking a redshirt in 2013, spent most of 2014 on the bench. Injuries gave him a shot to play in the Birmingham Bowl, where he won MVP honors when he ran for 109 yards and a TD. Lane elected to transfer in the spring of 2015 citing family issues, then went to Eastern Kentucky. Puzzling since he was from Winter Haven. At EKU he played in eight games in 2015, gaining 264 yards and scoring 4 TDs. Is not listed on EKU’s spring roster.
Assessment: Any time you get more than 2000 yards and 20 touchdowns in three years from one back, you get a good grade but losing Lane was somewhat of a blow, particularly after he ran the ball so well in the bowl game in 2014. This would be an A or a B+ grade if Lane had stuck around. That he transferred lowers the score to a B.
Brandon Powell: Powell’s size (5-9, 184) ensured that he wasn’t going to be an every down back. He gravitated to the slot and that’s where he’s stayed although he does pick up a carry or two every now and then. He has carried the ball 30 times for 101 yards and 1 TD and caught 44 passes for 537 yards and 4 more scores in his career. In 2015, he caught 29 passes for 390 yards and 3 TDs.
Assessment: Powell was destined for the slot from the day he was signed. Florida needed an every down back in this class and whiffed. The C grade is generous and it’s not Powell’s fault.
Jordan Scarlett: Scarlett was a US Army All-American out of St. Thomas Aquinas and a stud recruit. His freshman numbers were moderate – 34-181 rushing for a TD – but his combination of size and speed bode well for the future.
Jordan Cronkrite: Another US Army All-American out of Dade County, Cronkrite showed some versatility as a true freshman, carrying 44 times for 157 yards and 3 TDs while catching 6 passes for 89 yards and another TD. He’s another back whose best days are ahead of him.
D’Anfernee McGriff: Did not qualify.
Assessment: Neither Scarlett nor Cronkrite played a prominent role in 2015 but the O-line was a mess and Taylor put together an outstanding junior season. McGriff’s failure to qualify takes this grade down a notch, but it’s still a solid B.
Mark Thompson: This guy is a stud, an every down back with tremendous size (242 pounds) and breakaway speed. He’s a juco so he might be a one-and-done at Florida if he has a great season since he will be draft eligible.
Lamical Perine: McElwain and staff went into the heart of Crimson Tide country to steal this guy away from Alabama. Given Florida’s depth at running back, he won’t be required to play immediately, but by all accounts, this is a tough runner with outstanding speed.
Assessment: Give this an A+ grade not only for the quality but because the addition of two scholarship running backs gives the Gators the four they need heading into another rugged SEC season.
FINAL ASSESSMENT OF RUNNING BACKS: While there is reason to believe good things are ahead for the Gators because of good recruiting the last two years, recruiting from 2010-14 didn’t produce a single back who made either first or second team All-SEC. While you can’t lay all the problems at the feet of the running backs, it’s been since 2009 that the Gators averaged more than 200 yards per game rushing.
GATORS KNOCK OFF FSU TWICE IN SOFTBALL
Just three days removed from what can only be considered a subpar weekend, the Florida Gators (49-4, 17-4 SEC) looked like the #1 softball team in the country once again when they took two games from #5 Florida State (42-7) in Tallahassee. In the regularly scheduled game between the two teams, the Gators got a 2-hitter from Delanie Gourley as they battered the Seminoles, 7-1. In the completion of a game suspended in the bottom of the ninth in Gainesville back on April 13, Aleshia Ocasio hit a 1-out homer down to right field in the bottom of the seventh for a 1-0 walkoff win.
Knocking off the Seminoles twice on the road was important since the Gators played poorly even though they won their SEC series with Texas A&M in College Station last weekend. The Gators held onto first place in the ESPN/USA Softball Top 25 poll that came out Tuesday but FSU moved up to fifth and actually took two of the 20 first place votes (Florida had 11).
Gourley had a no-hitter going through 6-1/3 innings Wednesday before giving up a single and a 7th inning home run. She struck out 10 and walked two while raising her record to 17-3 on the season. The Gators backed Gourley with a 9-hit attack with Janell Wheaton delivering a 2-run double down the right field line in the top of the third to stretch Florida’s lead to 3-0. Taylore Fuller hit her 7th home run of the season in the top of the fourth.
Ocasio not only delivered the walkoff homer to decide the suspended game, but she also got credit for the win by pitching seven innings of 1-hit relief.
The two wins set the stage for the Gators to win the Southeastern Conference championship this weekend when Arkansas comes to Gainesville in the final regular season series of the season. The Razorbacks (17-36, 1-20 SEC) have lost 11 games in a row and won their only SEC game of the season back on April 10 when they beat South Carolina, 10-5. Among the SEC losses, the Razorbacks had a series to forget against Auburn when they were beaten 21-0, 23-0 and 10-0.
The two wins over FSU give the Gators a 32-0 record this season against non-conference opposition.
Track and Field: The Florida men are ranked #2 nationally while the UF women are ranked #6. In the men’s poll, SEC teams hold down positions 1-5 with #1 Texas A&M, #2 Florida, #3 LSU, #4 Arkansas and #5 Georgia. Also ranked are #5 Alabama, #13 Mississippi State #19 South Carolina and #24 Tennessee. Over on the women’s side, Kentucky is #1 with Arkansas at #2, Florida #6 and LSU #7. Also from the SEC, #11 Georgia, #13 Tennessee, #16 Mississippi State, #22 Auburn and #23 Ole Miss.
Lacrosse: Second-ranked Florida (16-1, 7-0 Big East) faces Georgetown in the Big East Conference semifinals today. With a win, the Gators will go for the tournament championship game Saturday against the winner of today’s matchup between UConn and Temple.
BRANDONE FRANCIS-RAMIREZ TRANSFERS OUT
Brandone Francis-Ramirez has elected to transfer to a junior college following a season in which his shooting rarely found the mark. Take away that 3-3 effort from the 3-point line to lead the Gators to an 88-71 win over then #9 West Virginia and BFR was 8-56 (14.3%). Coming out of high school at Arlington Country Day, Francis-Ramirez was known for his outside shooting. At Florida’s version of midnight madness, he won the 3-point shooting contest, but he slumped when the season began and just couldn’t break out.
With the transfer, the Gators now have 11 scholarship players – 12 if Alex Murphy is granted a sixth year by the NCAA. Florida is currently in the running to land College of Charleston graduate transfer Canyon Barry, son of Basketball Hall of Fame member Rick Barry. At CofC last year, the 6-6 Barry averaged more than 19 points per game before he was injured.
GRIDIRONNOW.COM RANKS SEC FOOTBALL TOP TO BOTTOM
3. Ole Miss
7. Texas A&M
10. Mississippi State
14. South Carolina
CBSSPORTS.COM RATES POWER 5 FOOTBALL COACHES
The top 10:
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
3. Gary Patterson, TCU
4. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
5. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
6. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
7. Les Miles, LSU
8. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
9. David Shaw, Stanford
10. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Numbers 11-25: 11. Art Briles, Baylor; 12. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; 13. Gus Malzahn, Auburn; 14. Chris Peterson, Washington; 15. David Cutcliffe, Duke; 16. Mark Helfrich, Oregon; 17. Bill Snyder, Kansas State; 18. Mark Richt, Miami; 19. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa; 20. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State; 21. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss; 22. Bret Bielema, Arkansas; 23. Kyle Whittingham, Utah; 24. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona; 25. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
Other coaches from the SEC: 27. Jim McElwain, Florida; 31. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State; 32. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M; 33. Butch Jones, Tennessee; 44. Will Muschamp, South Carolina; 46. Kirby Smart, Georgia; 56. Mark Stoops, Kentucky; 57. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt; 62. Barry Odom, Missouri
Coaches with Florida connections: 28. Charlie Strong, Texas; 35. Larry Fedora, North Carolina; 54. Steve Addazio, Boston College; 60. D.J. Durkin, Maryland
Between Laremy Tunsil and Robert Nkemdiche, it is estimated that this dynamic duo of football intellectuals from Ole Miss cost themselves a combined $20 million with their bad behavior. Kids will be kids, right?
Johnny Manziel turned himself in to Highland Park, Texas police after he was indicted last week on a misdemeanor assault charge. I’m about to believe that if Johnny Football had a functioning brain he would take it out and play with it.
According to NFL.com, 31% of the underclassmen who declared for the recent draft were not selected. In 2015 the rate was 29%, 30% in 2014 and 30% in 2013.
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com has an NBA mock draft with Brandon Ingram (Duke) and Ben Simmons (LSU) going 1-2. He’s got the Orlando Magic drafting Kentucky’s Skai Labassierre at #11. Let’s hope the Magic have better sense than that.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Should college football change the rules and allow undrafted underclassmen to return to school to finish out their eligibility?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
One of the great voices most of you have never heard belonged to the late Minnie Riperton, who was actually re-discovered while living in Gainesville in 1973. Growing up in Chicago she sang backup for a lot of big talents such as Etta James, Ramsey Lewis and Chuck Berry. She was a housewife in Gainesville when re-discovered again. A year later she was performing solo. Her “Perfect Angel” album went to #4 on the US charts in 1974 and included the #1 single “Loving You.” Today’s music is “Perfect Angel.” Minnie’s vocal range on “Loving You” will absolutely blow you away.