RECRUITING: Who's Coming to Town?

This weekend, in addition to hosting the Seminoles, the Florida Gators be rolling out the red carpet for eight talented prospects on official visits and many more who will be there unofficially. It will mark the second big visit weekend for the Gators this season with some of the countries best high school and junior college players in attendance as invited guests for the game.

The south end zone's temporary stands will be littered with US Army All Americans and the state of Florida's best players at almost every position. The Gators' recruiting class is shaping up to be a spectacular one and the ability to sign players at every position is important to the class as well as the foundation for a team being led by a relatively new staff.

Recruiting Coordinator Chuck Heater believes it is essential to sign a class that takes care of every position, every single year.

"I think the optimum is to sign guys at every position," Heater said. "If there is change for any reason, then you have someone to step in. The rule of thumb is you sign people at every position every year."

Coach Urban Meyer and his offense have struggled this year to a certain degree. In the middle of the pack on offense with a team high in quality of talent, but short on quantity, the Gator offense has not run as efficiently as he wants. According to Heater, the quarterback position is going to be important and specific to the needs of the offense for that team.

"If there is one position that has some specifics to it, it is the quarterback," Heater said. "The other positions, a good player will be utilized. A quarterback is more specific to the style. I think it is that way for whatever pattern of offense. Often you have to marry the system with players."

The door is now wide open for Tim Tebow. The Jacksonville Nease quarterback is a five-star quarterback, ranked third nationally, who seems perfectly tailored to run the Meyer system. Tall, fleet of foot, sturdy, and with a strong arm, the 6-3, 225 pound Tebow looks to be the only remaining quarterback on the Gator's board. Meyer recently announced third string quarterback Cornelius Ingram would switch positions in the fall and suddenly Tebow steps in at no worse than third team on day one if he commits. With senior Chris Leak in his last season, he would then have to compete against sophomore Josh Portis for the lead spot.

The talent that Meyer and company is looking to pull in at the receiver and offensive line positions have to make Tebow wonder about his chance to have a successful career at Florida. Already committed are three receivers of four stars or more according to Scout.com.

The crowd on Saturday night will certainly be aware of the presence of the long time Gator fan with long time Florida roots. Tebow is rumored to be favoring Florida or Alabama, depending on which fans you talk of each school. He blows that off, but lots of eyes will be watching him to see how he cheers for the Gators Saturday in The Swamp.

Gator commitment Chevon Walker will be making his official visit for the weekend and will be at the game Saturday. Florida's first commitment, the 5-11, 185 pound Walker had an excellent season leading his Fort Myers-Riverdale team to the second round of the playoffs. Walker is probably a much underrated back because of his early commitment to Florida, but the Gators are certainly glad to have him.

Walker is the kind of player the Gators are looking for. According to Coach Heater, instead of position specific prowess, the Gators are looking for football players and will then put them in their right positions on the team.

"I think you have to take football players," Heater said. "The football quotient is big. Ultimately you have to take a guy that likes to play football."

One position not stressed early in the recruiting was tight end. The Gators landed tight end Ben Cleveland out of Springdale, Arkansas in July and the Gators seemed set. One season later and a better look at their own roster and how it stacks up to play in the SEC and the Gators seem to be looking to add players from positions not first thought of.

"You get more knowledge of the players on the team and who we believe can help us," Heater said about going through the first season with the roster. "We have a better idea and get a clearer picture of how you have to fit it."

Enter Na Derris Ward, of Oakland (CA) McClumonds. The 6-5, 245 pound prototype tight end is said to favor Georgia, but the Gators would certainly love to influence his decision in a good way. The Mayer offense has always used the tight end, yet sparingly. In the SEC they may be forced to use it a little more than first thought and Ward would be a good fit in the system.

Of course, on either side of the ball it all starts up front and it doesn't get any bigger or better than Carl Johnson of Durham (NC) Southern. The 6-6, 335 pound "pancake man" will take his official visit after committing to the Gators way back in June. The Seminoles still think they have a shot at Johnson, but what they don't realize is his second favorite to Florida was actually Tennessee. The US Army all American and five-star selection by Scout.com is a foundation that the Gator offensive line and entire offense can be built around.

The Gators missed last year on the defensive line, not signing a single player that made it into school. The gap in recruiting is not what they want and defensive line will be a high priority this recruiting season. Lawrence Marsh of Augusta (GA) Josey is a 6-5, 260 pound defensive end that ended with 15 sacks and almost ninety tackles in his senior season and will make his official visit to Gainesville this weekend. Marsh is expected to make his decision in the next few weeks and the Gators are reportedly very hot on his trail. He told Gator Country that the Gators are definitely recruiting him the hardest.

Linebacker is a huge need for the Gators and three will be officially visiting for the Florida State game weekend. At the top of the big linebacker board is Brandon Spikes of Shelby (NC) Crest. Spikes will make it to Gainesville on Saturday morning due to his team still playing in the North Carolina state playoffs. The 6-4, 230 pound US Army All-American would be a prize get for a defense that has played well most of the year.

Linebacker Toryan Smith of Rome (GA) brings his 6-1, 235 pound body to The Swamp for his final official visit of the year. This will be Smith's fourth official visit and maybe his last. He is rumored to be ready to make his decision very soon on what school he will go to.

One enigma for the visitor list is junior College All-American linebacker Larry Grant. The 6-3, 225 pound Community College of San Francisco sophomore is a five-star prospect that played high school football in Georgia. He signed with CSF as a running back and was quickly moved to linebacker where he has blossomed. The Gators' lack of depth at linebacker may be appealing to Grant who has two years of eligibility left.

There are countless other prospects that should be attending the game. At wide receiver, recent Gator commitments Justin Williams of Charlton County (GA) and Jamar Hornsby of Jacksonville are two big time players that will be in attendance. Jarred Fayson, who is great friends with Hornsby and Tebow, should be at the game. Riley Cooper of Clearwater, Johnny Patrick of DeLand and Brandon James of St. Augustine are three other receivers that may be on the sidelines for the contest.

Running back C.J. Spiller will most likely be in attendance for the game. Spiller has five favorites including the Gators at this time. He should be joined by Union County Teammates Kasey Nobles and Kevin Alexander.

Tight end Trent Pupello of Tampa Jefferson was supposed to be making his official visit, but it apparently got changed to a later date. Teammate and offensive lineman Daron Rose is also expected to make it in.

Don't look for the St. Thomas Aquinas trio of Sam Young, Dan Wenger, and Marcus Gilbert to make it to the game. Aquinas is still in the state playoffs and the players have obligations on Saturdays after games.

Jim Barrie of Tampa will be in to watch the game. What seems to be coming down to a Florida – Florida State battle for the life long Gator fan, should make for an interesting game for him to watch.

Defensive tackles and Gator commitments Corey Hobbs of Oviedo and Terron Sanders of Bradenton are expected to be at the game on Saturday. Hobbs was going to make it his official visit, but those plans have been moved back a week or so.

The linebacker position won't be left empty with Gator commitment Dustin Doe of Live Oak and Tampa Middleton's A.J. Jones most likely in attendance for the game.

The secondary should be well represented on Saturday with Ft Myers' Markihe Anderson. Gator fans should also look for Jacques Rickerson of St. Augustine, Marcus Udell of Tallahassee, Patrick Robinson of Miami, Bryan Thomas of Zephyrhills, and Darin Baldwin of Miami to be roaming the south end zone.

With all the talent coming in for the weekend, it's certainly a huge weekend for the Gators not only on the field, but also in recruiting. In both cases, the Gators hope to win big.


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