Recruiting Board - Top Prospects at each Position

As the first set of January official visitors start to roll in to town, the Florida Gators are suddenly a hot commodity. This recruiting class seems to be gathering steam daily as one great athlete after another announces that Florida is now in the mix for a visit and possibly the final destination. Here is our look at who is at the top of the recruiting board at each position. These are all players that I think the Gators have at least a reasonable shot at landing.

QUARTERBACK: Woodland Hills, California's Josh Portis is an early enrollee and will participate in spring practice and compete against the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster. Portis comes in at 6-4 and 200 pounds. He sports a rifle arm and cat-like agility. He is the poster child for what the Urban Meyer offense was doing at Utah. With Gavin Dickey possibly splitting his time with baseball and Cornelius Ingram spending time with basketball, a quarterback like Portis is key for this class. He may be able to make a huge push for playing time in the spring.

RUNNING BACK: In my opinion, Pahokee's Antone Smith was the best back in the state, perhaps even the best in the entire country. The 5-8, 187-pound all around talent was passed over for the US Army All American Team and I have no idea why. He is blazing fast and extremely difficult for defenders to hit with a clean shot. He is rated Scout.com's number two running back in the nation, and he's as elusive to recruiters as he is on the playing field. His will be a signing day announcement for Florida, Miami, Florida State, or Auburn.

TIGHT END/FULLBACK: The Gators are not currently pursuing any tight ends or fullbacks that we are aware of.

WIDE RECEIVER: This is a position of great need for this class, and it's evident by the number of extraordinary receivers that have jumped on the Urban Meyer bandwagon that this class could be special once the ink dries on the scholarships on signing day. Receivers from Texas (Brandon La Fell and David Nelson) to California (DeSean Jackson) to New York (LaVar Lodbell) have all taken an interest in the Gators and plan to visit, which certainly helps make up for the loss of Derrick Williams, who signed early to play for Penn State. The number two target on the board has always been Tampa Middleton's receiver with after-burner speed, OJ Murdock. He is now the top target at this position. He is Scout.com's number eight receiver in the country. The 6-0, 185-pound Murdock was the fastest player at the Florida Rising Senior's Camp in July. Florida already has one outstanding commitment here, St. Petersburg Lakewood's outstanding deep threat, Louis Murphy, an Eagle Scout who has great speed to go with 6-3, 180-pound size.

OFFENSIVE LINE: This is an area where the Gators have to fill some major holes as five offensive linemen depart via graduation plus there are another five who will be seniors next year. Florida already has a jump start here with the early enrollment of center/tackle Eddie Haupt (6-4, 295) from Merritt Island and Pompano Beach Blanche Ely's Ronnie Wilson (6-4, 330). The Gators would like to add another five linemen for the 2005 signing class. At the top of the list current available players is 6-4, 315-pound Chris Scott. The Lovejoy (GA) offensive tackle would be a huge gain for the Gators and a big surprise if he does sign. Still, the Gators have a nice depth chart for him to eyeball and his visit this weekend ( January 7-9) could open those eyes. He is the number 10 rated offensive lineman in the country according to Scout.com and is a member of the Scout.com US Army All American Team.

DEFENSIVE LINE: The Gators are likely to sign only two players here, one tackle and one end. Vladimir Richard of Sunrise Piper is a soft commit to UF. The 6-4, 255-pound pass rusher supreme wants to play defensive end wherever he goes but he's predicted to grow into defensive tackle size. Richard was a starter in the Cali-Florida game. Tennessee and Georgia are also making a hard push for him. Richard Gordon of Miami Norland also wants to play defensive end in college. Many of the schools that are recruiting him want him as a tight end and that has opened the door for UF, which sees him as a defensive lineman all the way. Gordon is 6-4, 240 with offers from Oklahoma, LSU and Florida State among others.

LINEBACKER: Florida already has two commits at this position (Kalvin Baker of Columbus, Georgia and Fort Lauderdale's Gerald Williams) but the Gators will need to sign at least four or five linebackers. Two players from New Jersey share the top spot on the board of available players: Jerome Hayes of Bayonne (Scout.com's number 14 rated linebacker) and Bergen Catholic's Brian Cushing (rated six by Scout.com). The versatile Hayes played on both sides of the ball in high school and has been a Mike Locksley recruit from the very beginning. Hayes visited during the Rising Senior Camp and has maintained an interest in Florida all along. Cushing showed up after Meyer and his staff jumped on board with the Gators. Cushing is also versatile and plays on both sides of the ball. Both are members of the East squad for the US Army All American Game.

CORNERBACK: Florida is looking to sign five or six at corner where the top of the board is occupied by Dayton Beach Mainland's Avery Atkins. The 6-1, 185-pound shutdown cover corner starred in the Cali-Florida game. He was in on several tackles and completely locked down the receiver he was covering, both in the game and throughout the week in practice. He has had fun with the recruiting process and he's presently a soft commit to Florida, although his plans are to make the official announcement on Countdown to Signing Day.

SAFETY: Reggie Nelson is the safety the Gators have wanted on the field for three years now. The Palm Bay All-American did not qualify out of high school in 2003 and had to enroll in junior college where he was Scout.com's top rated junior college prospect in the nation at Coffeyville (Kansas). Although there is one grade issue that has to be resolved, it's very likely that he will become a Gator.

PLACEKICKER: Andrew Friedman is my choice for a kicker. There are other talented kickers that the Gators are recruiting, but Friedman may be the best. He can boom the ball with the best of them and constantly places kickoffs in the end zone. He is very accurate field goal kicker who can easily reach 55 yards.

These are my picks for the top choices at each position that we have a shot at landing at this moment. We will continue our individual position analysis tomorrow finishing with the DB's, Athletes, and Kickers.


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