I have talked to a ton of kids that are showing interest in the Gators, some stronger than others but they are showing interest none the less. Florida is in a position for the first time in a long time to be somewhat patient as they hand pick the ideal players that they want in next year's class. Remember, over the last three recruiting seasons, the Gators have stock piled talent at every single position. The 2008 Gators could end up being one of the deepest and talented teams to take the field for sometime.
With that said, this is the first part of a two part series identifying here 21 names to keep an eye on as we move into the recruiting season.
The Gators would love to land a premier signal caller this year and last week I mentioned five to keep a close eye on. The top target on the board this year is Russell Sheppard. Sheppard is 6-3, 190-pounds from Cypress Ridge High School in Houston. He is everything you want from a spread quarterback. I spoke with him last night and he has strong interest in the Gators. Head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen are recruiting the Texas gunslinger and he will be one to watch this season. He is a high school legend in the state of Texas and has been recruited since his 9th grade season. Sheppard will be in Gainesville for Friday Night Lights.
Sheppard is also the cousin of Craig Loston. Loston is one of if not the top safeties in the nation. Sheppard said that he is a true beast and is up to 6-3, 210-pounds and might be one of the fastest players in the nation. Loston is from Eisenhower High School in Aldine, Texas. The Florida staff will be all over these two players and have been for sometime. Eisenhower is the same school that defensive tackle Rod Davis and Texas A&M commit attended.
Levine Toilolo (6-7, 240) is a big time defensive end/tight end prospect from Helix High School in Le Mesa, Cali. He and his father were in the stands for the game against Florida Atlantic last year and had a great trip. They will return to Gainesville in April for spring practice. Former UF Director of Football Operations Troy Star is the head coach at Helix High School.
Frankie Telfort is another prospect that is hot on Florida's radar and Telfort has returned the favor with at least eight trips to Gainesville so far. Telfort is from Gulliver Prep High School in Miami and is 5-11, 190-pounds and plays the weakside linebacker spot. He also plays safety and is a big hitter. Telfort attended the Florida junior day on January 27. He is very fast and explosive and plays much bigger than he is.
"I want to take a couple trips to some schools out of state like USC, LSU, West Virginia and Oregon," he said. "I rooted for Miami especially because of that 2001 defense where everyone basically made it to the NFL. The Gators are recruiting me really hard, hardest out of anyone with coach Meyer and coach [Billy] Gonzales. It doesn't matter what position I play it all depends on where the team needs me because I am very flexible to what positions I can play."
Cierre Wood can write his own ticket. The 6-0, 192-pound running back from Santa Clara High School in Oxnard, Cali. has offers from every major program in the country. Three to keep on eye for his services would be Southern Cal, Notre Dame and Florida. UCLA could be the sleeper for Wood who has some pretty impressive junior numbers. As a junior, Wood scored 42 touchdowns, rushed for 2,612 yards on 178 carries and caught seven passes for 191 yards. He also played cornerback, recording 50 tackles and three interceptions. Wood averaged 14.7 yards per carry and 200.9 yards per game.
Florida recently offered one of the best in the Peach State in wide receiver Jamal Patterson. Patterson is a 6-2, 190-pound wide out from Henry County High School in McDonough, Ga. He is currently showing interest in not only Florida but Central Florida, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina, Purdue and South Carolina. Patterson caught 44 passes for 933 yards and 11 touchdowns during his junior season.
Keeping with the wide receivers, look out for Ricco Sanders who has an offer from the Gators. The 5-11, 175-pound burner has legit 4.36 speed and resides in Duncan, S.C. at James F. Byrnes High School. He is a dynamic wide out with tremendous speed. His ability to make plays after the catch makes him a hot prospect. He also shows good burst and gets separation from defenders.
Most Gator fans know the name Logan Heastie by now. The 6-2, 190-pound wide receiver has gone on record as saying that the Gators are one of his top teams and have been for a long time. His brother told me at Friday Night Lights last year that if the staff would have let him commit then he would of. One thing that might present a problem for the Great Bridge High School star from Chesapeake, Va. would be the recruitment of childhood friend - 6-0, 190-pound quarterback Tahj Boyd. Boyd, from Phoebus High School in Hampton, Va. could end up at Boston College and if that happens and it could make things difficult for Heastie.
Teammates Greg Reid and Gerald Demps from Lowndes, Ga. both received recent offers from Florida State. Reid told me today that it doesn't change things with Florida. Demps would love to get a Florida offer; currently he has offers from Auburn and Florida State.
John Michael Davis was in attendance for the Florida/Florida State game last year and loved everything there is to love about the Gators. Davis recently transferred to Tesoro High School in Las Flores, Cali. He took a visit to meet with the Southern Cal coaching staff yesterday and loved everything about it. Davis is one of the strongest linebackers in the nation, power cleaning 330 and squatting 510 with his backside touching his calves when he does it. He measured in just under 6-2 and 230-pounds and is a perfect Sam linebacker. He has yet to see his first offer but Southern Cal is very close to extending him one. Davis looks like he will enroll early at his school of choice.
Tomorrow, we'll finish out our list of 21 players to look at for from the class of 2009.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Jason Higdon
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