RECRUITING: Atkins heads list on final weekend

Five-star corner Avery Atkins of Daytona Beach Mainland heads up a group of nine who are expected to arrive in Gainesville today on the final recruiting weekend for Coach Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators. The Gators have a very good chance to close strongly in what has been a very good first recruiting effort for Meyer.

Six offensive and three defensive players are expected in with the headliner Atkins, who is the fifth-rated corner in the nation by Scout.com. Atkins committed to the Gators on July 13 but he's been an on again, off again commitment in the months since. He seems solid to the Gators now. The 5-11, 185-pounder says he will make his final announcement on television as part of a big national signing day Wednesday.

Joining Atkins will be his Daytona Mainland teammate Brian Ellis, rated three stars by Scout.com. The 6-3, 235-pound Ellis is a tight end/defensive end and an imposing physical specimen who is a longtime Gator fan. Ellis told Gator Country Thursday, "I've just been waiting to come down there." Ellis had a great senior season with 27 catches for almost 400 yards and seven touchdowns. He also played defensive end early in the season. That could be the place he winds up if he comes to Gainesville. There is also the possibility that he could end up the only defensive line prospect the Gators sign. It is a Florida-FSU battle for Ellis, but with the final visit, Florida probably gets the edge.

Another significant visitor will be Jon Demps, rated four stars by Scout.com and the number 32 linebacker in the country. Demps is 6-4, 228, with outstanding 4.7 speed. Demps, who is from Pensacola Washington, is well aware that the Florida depth chart (only four linebackers on scholarship at the moment) is conducive to early playing time. Florida hopes to sign six or seven linebackers to shore up this position. He is friends with Atkins and the two have talked about visiting Florida together. The five remaining schools on Demps' list are: Florida, Auburn, LSU, FSU and Miami.

Apopka's Quentin Taylor is the third defensive player who will be making the trip. Taylor is a little less heralded than Demps but he's a solid player who can get on the field quickly. He's 6-1, 205, rated three stars by Scout.com and the number 63 linebacker in the country. His high school teammate Eric Sledge committed to the Gators last weekend so the conditions are quite favorable for the Gators to get his commitment this weekend. His final two schools are Florida and Ole Miss, so consider the Gators the team to beat.

There have been a lot of rumors swirling around about RJ Jackson of Houston (TX) Westside. At one point there was speculation that Jackson might not make it to Gainesville after the Gators got a commitment from another Texas, Kestahn Moore. Jackson will make the trip, though, and he is considered a primary target for the Gator staff. The 5-11, 200-pounder is rated four stars by Scout.com and the number 10 running back in the nation. He's versatile as a runner and receiver, making him an ideal fit for the Urban Meyer spread offense. He comes to Gainesville fresh off a visit to Texas. Jackson favors four at the moment: UF, LSU, Oklahoma State, and Texas.

Jackson's close friend Brandon La Fell of Houston (TX) Lamar will also be in Gainesville. La Fell has LSU listed as his favorite, but he explained that is because he hasn't been to Gainesville yet. He is one of the most electric wide receivers in the country, tall and rangy with speed and moves that make him a game breaker type. Scout.com has him rated four stars and the number 35 receiver in the country. Florida's chances of landing La Fell are excellent since Meyer and quarterback Coach Dan Mullen were both recruiting him for Utah before they came to UF.

Wide receiver LaVar Lobdell arrives in Gainesville amid swirling rumors that he has already committed to Miami. Lobdell caught 21 touchdown passes as a senior at Syracuse (NY) Christian Brothers Academy. The 6-3, 192-pounder is rated the number 18 receiver and four stars by Scout.com. Lobdell continues to deny that he's a Miami commitment but it's obvious that the Hurricanes are the team to beat for his commitment.

Derrick McPhearson signed with Florida last year, but spent the last year in prep school at Fork Union Military Academy. The speedy wide receiver from Hyattstown, Maryland committed to the Gators again this year, but it has been hard to get a grip on where he stands in the past few weeks. His father has said he is no longer a Florida commitment and he has been visiting other schools including Illinois where he is being recruited by Coach Ron Zook and Coach Mike Locksley. McPhearson is a four-star recruit, 5-11, 185 and with 4.4 speed in the 40. If Florida has an advantage here, it's because he's been to Gainesville on official visits before as well as the Gators have the last shot at him before signing day.

Tampa Middleton wide receiver O.J. Murdock comes in this weekend to round out the visitors. Murdock is a blazing fast receiver with good size. The 6-0, 185-pound Murdock was the fastest player in the Rising Senior Camp back in July. Scout.com has him rated four stars and as the number 10 rated receiver in the nation. He was only the second player, outside of DeSean Jackson, that I saw could consistently beat Demetrice Morley on a pattern. It appears to be down to Florida and South Carolina for his services.

As with any weekend, there could be another player or two that shows up unaccounted for. With the small crew of visitors, it certainly seems the Gator staff is not willing to reach on any players. There are no B-listers here folks. Any players the Gators sign from this list are very high quality players.


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