Critical weekend for Florida

For the Florida Gators, the big month of January officially starts today with UF's first solid visit weekend. Lots of <i>key</i> recruits are coming in and what happens this weekend looms large for what happens on National Signing Day for Ron Zook and his Gators.

The Florida Gators and Ron Zook enter the month of January at a critical juncture in the recruiting process. With only seven commitments to date for the class of 2004 and Signing Day less than a month away, the next two weekends will ultimately impact this Gator recruiting class. Don't expect the commitment barrage to all happen on Sunday night. Florida may get some or it may happen later this week or in the coming weeks. Regardless, we will call every single one for visit updates so make sure you check back often on Sunday.

Lets break down who's coming in this weekend to the University of Florida.

Fred Davis (WR)
This is a new name publicly for Florida. He's obviously one of the nation's elite wide receiver prospects. Davis looks so impressive on film as he can flat out do it all. In fact, his game is very similar to Lance Leggett, except he's a little bigger.

Early on Davis listed UF among a ton of schools but it looked as if he wouldn't visit Florida. But that has changed. Although I was unable to reach him last night I did talk with his older brother and he confirmed his weekend trip to Gainesville. He has already visited Oklahoma, USC, Miami, and Ohio State. Earlier this week, he narrowed things down to USC and Miami. I do know this- don't count out the Buckeyes. Don't. Just remember what happened with tight end Louis Irizarry last season. There's enormous pressure for Fred to stay home.

At this point, it's hard to handicap Florida's chances. I have always had the belief that if a prospect visits you have a chance. Fred, who will graduate high school next week, is planning on committing to a school on Wednesday. Florida gets the last crack but remember the contact period starts on Sunday once again. So Miami, USC, Ohio State and Florida will likely try to get up to Toledo to make one last pitch for the nation's No. 4 rated wide receiver.

Doug Dutch (WR)
Dutch is a member of Hot 100 and is one of the top prospects in the Maryland/D.C. area. He can fly and is a terrific player. Dutch is one of the nation's best kick returners. Florida coach Mike Locksley has had a long relationship with Dutch from his days at Maryland. Florida was always thought of as one of the teams to beat for Dutch in the end. Recently, it was suspected that Dutch may not visit the Gators but he will be in this weekend with his family. UF is his fifth and final visit. He has already been to Miami, Michigan, Maryland and Virginia. At this point Miami and Michigan are his two leaders but it's really unknown what he will ultimately do and the Gators have to make up some ground.

Tate Casey (TE)
Honestly, I don't know Casey like most of the other prospects UF is on. But I do know he's one of the top prospects from the state of Texas and one of the better tight end in the nation. Florida is his leader at this point and it's very obvious how desperate the Gators are to get some tight ends this season. Casey has already visited UCLA and Arizona. He has scheduled visits to Arkansas and LSU after his trip to Gainesville. Casey is also a big-time baseball player with a big league arm.

Drew Miller (OL)
What will Drew Miller do? Will he be a ‘Cane or Gator? It will boil down to these two. You have to like Florida's chances a little better because of one factor – the success they have had recruiting Riverview High School over the years. UF signed offensive lineman Steven Rissler from that school last season. Rissler has already visited Georgia and Miami. He has scheduled trips to FSU and Tennessee this month.

Jason Watkins (OL)
Watkins and Miller could be future teammates in Gainesville. But like with Miller, another rival is in the mix with Watkins – LSU. Watkins is from Louisiana and recently moved to Lakeland. Watkins is former teammates with LSU signee Kirston Pittman. He has already visited Auburn and Michigan State. The chances he signs with Florida are better than good.

Jim Tartt (OL)
This is going to likely be a Florida/FSU battle for this big guard prospect. Although Clemson has offered him as well and is in the mix. Tartt is coming to Gainesville this weekend for what I think is his first official visit. The family really likes the Gator coaching staff, especially Zook. Should be interesting as always between the UF and FSU. The recruiting rivalry is as bitter as ever between the two.

Chris Rutledge (OL)
Rutledge is one of the emerging prospects from the Sunshine State. His stock is really on the rise and so will his ranking. Rutledge has already visited NC State and Pittsburgh. He has two visits left to Miami and Rutgers with the Canes getting the last visit. The Gators are playing catch up with Miami and NC State. They have to make up ground this weekend.

Joe Joseph (DT)
Joseph had been leaning to Florida until he took his official visit to Miami last month. UF will have to turn him this weekend. Joseph is one of the key defensive line recruits for Florida. He has already visit UM and South Carolina. Tennessee is scheduled for a visit next weekend. This will be another one that comes down to Florida and Miami.

Keith Rivers (LB)
The million dollar question among Florida fans is can the Gators get this super linebacker prospect from nearby Lake Mary, Florida. I think it's a long shot that Zook and company to turn Rivers. He has been a long time lean to Southern Cal and he visited the Trojans last month. The difference in this one if Pete Carroll, the USC head coach. Plain and simple, Rivers loves him.

But as we have learned not to underestimate Ron Zook and his staff when it comes to recruiting. When push comes to shove distance could play a factor. Another big key this weekend is Ron Zook and the players at UF. They need to make a big, lasting impression on Keith. Lastly, it has been well documented that Keith and Channing Crowder have struck up a nice friendship so that relationship could impact Keith's decision.

Rivers may be the No. 1 recruit on their board for what they need this season and he could also be the big fish that got a way. Look for a decision shortly after his visit.

Brandon Siler (LB)
Siler is now one of the most talked about defensive prospects on Florida's hit list because of his performance in last weekend's all-star game in California. Siler was named the game's MVP. He has already visited Maryland and has a trip scheduled to Tennessee after his visit to UF. The Gators have great shot at landing this one.

James Bryant (LB)
Bryant is a big and physical middle linebacker prospect, exactly what the Gators are looking for. But this could be a tough one to pull from Pennsylvania because his older brother plays for the Pitt Panters. Still, Bryant is visiting some persuasive schools like UF, Miami, LSU and Ohio State. He wants to make a decision that is best for him and his future because Bryant wants to take care of his mom and family. This could get very interesting.

Dawayne Grace (CB)
Like former teammate Demetrice Webb, Grace is down to Florida and Miami. It seems more and more the Gators and Hurricanes are going one on one for these prospects. This is one I see UF beating UM on. He has already visited Miami.

McIntosh Nicolas (CB)
Nicolas is a big athlete that can really run. He ran a faster forty than track star Xavier Carter at Florida's summer camp in June. He's now leaning to Florida and fans want to know about his academics. It could go either way but with the right work ethic in the classroom Nicolas can make it. Nicolas has visited LSU, Michigan State and Pittsburgh. He has a scheduled trip to Florida State next weekend.

Kyle Jackson (S)
Kyle has committed to Florida.

Tony Joiner (S)
Tony has committed to Florida but he may still take visits to LSU and NC State. I wouldn't read too much into this other than he wants to keep his word to the coaching staffs at LSU and NC State.

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