Linebacker is position of glaring need for Gators

<b>Part V in a series of the wants and needs for the University of Florida recruiting class of 2005.</b> <p> Maybe the most glaring position of need in recruiting in quite some time for the Florida Gators is the linebacker position this year. With the expected early departure of Channing Crowder to the NFL, the Gators would be left with five linebackers on scholarship for three positions which creates a need to sign several players.

Scholarship Players (6, probably 5): Todd McCullough (Sr.), Channing Crowder (Jr.), Earl Everett (Jr.), Brandon Siler (So.), Javier Estopinan (So.), Jarvis Moss (So.)

Roster Analysis: This list may change with the change to the 3-3 defense but we will go with this year's group. If Crowder stays, the starting group of Crowder, Siler, and Everett would be one of the best in the entire country. Todd McCullough is no slouch when he is healthy and playing well but the starters will have to stay healthy for this group to be good. Any injury either to starters or backups with these numbers is a real problem.

Options (Gators want 5-6): The Gators currently have two commitments in Kalvin "Pig" Baker and Gerald Williams. Baker was a star on his Columbus (GA) Pacelli team and the first commitment to the Gators before the summer. The 6-0, 228-pound Baker is a solid player and a welcome addition to the class. Williams was just named Broward County High School Defensive Player of the Year and is hell on wheels running across the field and making plays. The 6-5, 225-pound Williams is rangy and should be a great fit at Sam linebacker if Coach Charlie Strong does go to the 3-3 as expected.

Jerome Hayes continues to list the Gators among his leaders. Inevitably, it looks like the Gators and Miami will go to the wire for his services. The 6-2, 225-pounder from Bayonne, NJ is rated the number 14 linebacker in the country by scout.com. Coach Mike Locksley has been important in maintaining this relationship even after the firing of Coach Ron Zook. Hayes has to like the opportunity for early playing time in Gainesville. I like the Gators chances on this one.

Darryl Gresham Jr., the 6-3, 230-pound linebacker from Roanoke,Virginia is another player who very likely could sign with the Gators. He is another that Coach Locksley has kept in touch with, and will until signing day. Gresham's father Darryl Sr,, signed and played with the Gators basketball team in the early 80's. He is a soft commitment to Virginia and has been for sometime, but he still wants to take some trips. One little note on this recruit is that he has a coach for his high school team that is a "prominent" (and I use that word lightly) poster on Dottie's board. This doesn't seem to make Gresham interested in that SOW (School Out West) however.

Matt Lewis of Mainland HS in Daytona is a kid that will move up the recruiting rankings once more film is seen. He has good size at 6-2 and 235 pounds and can really move. The current Gator staff likes Lewis and his teammate Avery Atkins to come in as a combo. He hits like a truck and plays for a winning program.

Earlier in the week Jamie Newberg mentioned Tavares Kearney on our message boards. Kearney is a 6-2, 225-pound linebacker out of Tucker, Georgia. He has flown under the radar a little and is waiting on an offer from the Gators. This is a guy that will probably get a solid look and offer once everything starts shaking out for this class.

The University of Miami has a few linebacker commitments that the Gators will continue to recruit. Spencer Adkins of Naples is the number eight linebacker in the country according to Scout.com and was a fixture in most Gators mock recruiting classes at the beginning of the football season. The Gators fell out of favor with Adkins when the previous Gator staff was fired, but that has not deterred the current staff from pursuing the All-American linebacker. The 6-0, 228-pound Adkins was maybe the top prospect on the entire recruiting board at one time due to need.

Eric Houston recently committed to Miami. The 6-2, 220-pound linebacker from Miami Coral Reef will also visit Florida and Florida State in January. The bruising linebacker had 130 tackles this season.

Fred Bussey of Thomaston (GA) Lee is an all around athlete but a complete bear to try and get on the phone. No one has gotten an interview with him in months. He plays quarterback on offense and linebacker on defense. He can really fly and loves to hit. The 6-1, 225-pound linebacker/safety may be a perfect fit in Strong's proposed 3-3 scheme.

Brian Cushing is now the highest rated linebacker on the Gators board. The "other" New Jersey linebacker plays at Bergen Catholic in Oradell, NJ. He lists his favorite as Southern Cal and will announce his decision on national television on signing day. The Gators have the last visit on January 28. The 6-3, 227-pound linebacker also plays on offense as a wide receiver. His stats included 115 tackles, 10 sacks, two interceptions, 19 offensive touchdowns, and a punt return for a touchdown. He would be an awesome although unexpected addition to the Gators recruiting class.

There are other names on the board that may be committed elsewhere that the current staff will be looking at. Some of these names include Taalib Tucker of Atlanta Westlake, Pig Baker's teammate Matt Dunham (FSU commit) of Columbus Pacelli, Jon Demps of Pensacola High, Avery Vogt (NCSU commit) of Miami, and Demetri Stewart (Miami commit). I am sure there will be more for us recruitniks to ponder before signing day.


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