COUNTDOWN: Tebow Headed Top Recruit Class

Four years ago it was Chris Leak making his public pledge to UF on national television helping to spark a superb recruiting year for Ron Zook and his staff. This time it was Tim Tebow, the highly touted quarterback from St. Augustine Nease who did precisely the same thing with the same results for Coach Urban Meyer.

(Sixth in a series of 10 stories)

Tebow's Commitment sparked a surge of activity where it seemed everyone in the country was announcing for UF. At one point it looked like the Gators would not sign the top class in the country, but the top two classes. There were a dozen receivers at one stage for cryin' out loud.

Deep, Balanced Class Was Urgently Needed

The Gator staff knew this was a roster with plenty of holes that needed to be filled. Some were due to some misses by the previous staff, some due to UF's annual bad luck at a need position (linebacker) and others were because of different priorities created by the Gator offensive scheme. But whatever the reason, it had to be a big year in order to get the talent up to championship level and it appears that it was.

First and foremost, the Gators had to get the right quarterback for this offense. Florida's spread-option demands the quarterback be a serious running threat a quick decision maker and a good passer. Florida targeted the two guys who best fit that description and got them both. Jevan Snead from Texas was the first to commit, but he switched to the Longhorns after Tebow made it clear he was following suit. Oh, the timing of the public announcements may not reflect that, but that IS what happened.

Next the Gators needed speed and size at receiver as well as numbers. While there are several signees who can play either WR or DB, it appears the Gators ended up with seven receiver commitments. Two of them, Damon McDaniel and Damian Williams later reneged, but Florida loves the five who are coming in; Riley Cooper, Jarred Fayson, Percy Harvin, Jamar Hornsby and Justin Williams.

Numbers are also very short at corner, so the Gators went out and got several possibilities. Actually Florida got commitments from five corner prospects. However, Derrick Robinson will instead be a pro baseball player and Patrick Robinson switched to FSU on signing day. Jacques Rickerson is the most touted of the trio that's coming in, but Markihe Anderson and Wondy Pierre-Louis will have a shot to get into the mix this fall.

Here's The Beef

You can't have a great recruiting class without a strong collection of linemen and this group offers up eight of them. The big plus is that two offensive line prospects, Maurice Hurt and Carl Johnson showed they could make the two deep during spring practice. They'll be joined by Jim Barrie and Marcus Gilbert this spring. Defensively Florida loves the potential of Brandon Antwine, Terron Sanders, Lawrence Marsh and Corey Hobbs. None of the four is likely to be needed this fall, but they will have to be ready to play major roles in 2007. Jermaine Cunningham is a great pass rusher who could be a defensive end or "Sam" linebacker depending on how he develops physically.

Once again the Gators failed to load up at linebacker, but you can't kick about the trip of Brandon Spikes, A.J. Jones and Dustin Doe. Florida should try to add at least four this year if not five or six. Safety was addressed with Bryan Thomas, tight end with Trent Pupello and running back gets a boost with the early admission of Chevon Walker and fall brings Mon Williams. Interestingly, they are the first and last commitments of this class.

Finished Off With Someone "Special"

The one added element of this class that I really like is return specialist Brandon James from St. Augustine. Florida has been simply awful at returning kicks lately. The Gators did not have a 50-yard kickoff return or even a 30-yard punt return last year. That makes it six years without a kickoff return for a touchdown and five years without scoring on a punt return. James may be able to change that. If he can, that's a scholarship well spent.

It was a "must" year in recruiting and this staff did an outstanding job. Of course, signing great talent is just job one. Developing that talent to play at a championship level is the tougher job and begins in two months. Still, Tebow' commitment gave UF the momentum it needed to cash in big on the recruiting trail. Thus, it's the #5 sports story of the year.

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