RECRUITING: Can Gators Strike Gold Twice?

The University of Florida has already struck gold with two commitments (Damian Williams and Ben Cleveland) from Springdale, Arkansas which has five top-rated Division I prospects. Now the Gators have set their sights on Olive Branch, Mississippi, a small town that just happens to have more than its share of top recruits. Can Florida strike gold again and land one or more out of state prospects that are being chased by all the big schools in the south?

Olive Branch has four top prospects in receiver/defensive back Allen Walker, receiver/defensive back Markeith Summers, quarterback Anthony Summers (Markeith's brother) and defensive back Vic Thomas. All four have Florida on their favorites list.

Walker, who is known as A-Walk, is a big time receiver and defensive back prospect. He is 6-2, 200, and rated four stars by Scout.com. He is the tenth-rated safety in the nation.

"Ole Miss and Florida are probably recruiting me the hardest," he said. "My two favorites right now are Florida and LSU."

Walker talked about his two favorites:

FLORIDA: "I haven't been there yet. I will probably go there on an official visit. Coach (Doc) Holliday is keeping in touch with me. He sends me a text message almost every day. They are recruiting me as an athlete I guess."

LSU: "I like the program there and the coaches."

Talent alone dictates that Olive Branch will be a top team in Mississippi this year, but this is a team that isn't relying just on talent. Walker says that the team put in the effort in the offseason to prep for the 2005 season.

"We worked hard this summer and we just got done with two a days," he said. "We start school on Monday."

Walker took the time to assess his skills on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

"My ability to get open as a receiver and my route running are strengths," he said. "As a defensive back, reading the quarterback is a strength and I like hitting."

Walker won't encumber the football season with recruiting trips. He plans to concentrate on football until the season ends. "I will probably take my visits in January and December," he said.

Walker's teammates Markeith Summers and Anthony Summers visited Gainesville this season to check out the University of Florida. Coach Urban Meyer and UF made a strong impression on the brothers but meanwhile there are plenty of schools making a pitch for this talented two-some.

"Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Memphis and a few more are recruiting me hard," said Markeith. "All the letters and attention are nice … I never thought I would get so much attention."

Florida, Oklahoma and LSU stand at the top of Markeith's list of favorites. He talked about the three schools at the top:

FLORIDA: "It is the top of the group right now. They haven't offered just yet. I just like the atmosphere and I like the Gators. The camp was pretty good … I didn't do any workouts though. Coach Meyer, Coach (Billy) Gonzalez, and Coach Holliday are all recruiting me."

LSU: "I like the offense that they run and the coaching staff. I like the students and the campus there."

OKLAHOMA: "I like how they produce receivers into the NFL."

He turned in some impressive offensive stats last season, but Markeith isn't concerned about which side of the ball he plays at the next level. He's as comfortable in the defensive backfield as he is catching the football.

"I had 21 catches for 649 yards and seven touchdowns, on offense," he said. "I play both ways and it really doesn't matter where I play in college."

While Markeith Summers waits for the offer from the Gators, it seems only a matter of time before that offer comes.

Markeith's brother Anthony has received an offer to play for the Gators. Anthony is a quarterback in high school but he knows he will be playing another position at the next level. His favorite team is recruiting his as a defensive back.

"Florida is number one with me right now," he said. "I like the coaching staff … I met them all and they seem real down to earth. I met a lot of players and really got a chance to meet almost half the team and it was a good time. We just went for about one hour of the camp, that was it. I met Chris Leak, Skyler Thornton, Terrance Holmes … I met half the defense. I like the campus. Coach Holliday is recruiting me … he is great. I want to see how the team competes. I want to know how the players are like on the team and I want to go there to get a ring. Right now, Florida is the school that shows all of that. I hope I play free safety at the next level. That is where Florida is recruiting me."

Walker and Markeith share something in common with Anthony. Both of them are being recruiting by LSU, too.

"LSU would be number two," he said. "I like the atmosphere at LSU … playing under the lights. Those two are really it for me right now."

Even though he has only two schools on his list of favorites, he is not ready to pull the trigger on a decision.

"I will take a bunch of visits, after the season," he said.

Anthony took a moment to remind Gator Country fans that there is a fourth Olive Branch teammate that the Gators are looking at.

"Vic Thomas is a defensive end for us and he is looking at Florida too," he said. "It would be nice to play at the same school, but it doesn't really matter."

Florida has already stepped in at Springdale, Arkansas to walk away with two of the top prospects in that state. The Gators now have targeted Olive Branch where there are four big time kids. Can the Gators do it twice? Can they go into a hostile environment and come away with one or more of the top players from a small high school with a big time program? Only time will tell but it's obvious that Florida has a legitimate shot at more than one of these kids.


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