A true running back was one of two positions where UF could afford to not sign anyone. But they did and Coach Zook and the Gators landed the top running back from the state of Alabama in Markus Manson. Manson, from Tuscaloosa, was the first high schooler to commit to Florida and that was late in October. The Gators had to hang on because Alabama fought hard to the bitter end. But in the end, Manson stuck to his guns and signed with the team he had said he wanted to go to all along – Florida.
Manson is blessed with a good combination of size, speed and power and should fit in very nicely with the stable of backs already at Florida.
What his coach said?
"Markus has all the tools – power, speed and he can catch the football," Hillcrest Head Coach Bart Harper said. "His best attribute is his speed. You can forget about it once he gets in the open field. Markus played for us as a 9th grader and we knew then that he had a lot of potential. He is an outstanding young man, a great person with high character who will work hard in the weight room, on the field and in the classroom."
Manson rushed for over 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior and over 1,900 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior.
This was a luxury need filled by the Gators meaning you don't turn down a talent like Manson even though you are loaded at running backs. Besides you can never have enough running backs on your roster and now the Gators have one more with tons of upside. This was a bitter fight and for the second consecutive season Florida beat Crimson Tide on a top prospect (wide receiver Chad Jackson last season) from the state of Alabama.
Fullback was a big need for Florida and the Gators made a big push for two. David Holbert, from Brentwood, Tennessee, decided to stay home and play for the Vols. Eric Rutledge, from Gainesville (Fla.) P.K. Younge, decided to stay home too and play for the Gators. Rutledge, 6-0 and 235 pounds, is a gifted and versatile talent with excellent size and speed. He had to battle some high school injuries and has a very promising future in Gainesville. Rutledge could play on either side of the ball but will likely be a fullback for the Gators. Don't be surprised if he becomes the sleeper of the class.
What his coach said?
"Eric has great athletic ability," said P.K. Younge Head Coach John Clifford. "He is also a standout basketball player. Eric has good hands and is big, strong and fast. I guess you could say he is just a versatile player because he can play on offense or defense. He is just a gifted player that is big and fast."
Rutledge rushed for over 600 yards on 75 carries as a senior. He also recorded 70 tackles and two interceptions. He rushed for over 1,200 yards as a junior.
Last week I watched Eric Rutledge film and this was my first time evaluating him. He is big and strong and has terrific speed for a player his size. He runs like a big power back, breaks tackles, has breakaway speed for a 230-pounder and blocks well. Defensively, he plays with a lot of aggression and is quick off the corner. He could play either way as a fullback, in a one set back or linebacker. To me, he could become the sleeper of this class. I think he's a lot like Holbert and with Holbert signing with Tennessee I don't think the Gators will lose anything. In fact, it could be a blessing in disguise for both Florida and Rutledge. And lets face it he fills two needs depending on where he ends up – fullback and linebacker.
Overall, I believe Florida did very well getting a top-notch running back and an underrated fullback prospect.