The Junior College Impact

Ron Zook's first season as head coach at Florida is not even done yet and he is already making waves in recruiting that will impact next season. The Gators have decided to go the junior college route this season, landing five big time recruits to fill immediate needs for the spring. Why has Florida dipped this deep into the junior college ranks? How do all these players fit in? What can the impact of this class do to better next season's record? I will answer those questions next.

Why the Junior College Route?

Florida needs immediate help and depth especially on the offensive line. To be able to throw the ball down the field, you must be able to protect for three plus seconds. The reason for depth and talent problems on the O-Line stem from the 2000 recruiting class which was ranked number one in the country.  Max Starks, Shannon Snell and Jonathan Colon came from that class.  Colon is a year behind and it showed at times this year because of his entrance problems and subsequently, he lost his job late to Randy Hand.  Still three promising players never worked out - Kevin Deaton out of Merritt Island was a big time center prospect is playing major league baseball,  Earnest Smith is no longer on campus,  and Chad Tidwell never panned out. On the the defensive line Bennie Mills is at Kentucky, Santonio Thomas is at Miami, Kenny Parker has been chronically injured and Bobby Williams who started at defensive line then moved to offense has had his career cut short by injury. Ron Dowdy is another defensive line recruit who is backing up on the offensive line. Ian Scott and Darrell Lee are the only true defensive lineman left at their positions. Florida signed 13 lineman and five are at their recruited positions, four are no longer on campus, two are injured and two are playing a different position than in high school.

How do these five fit in?

Tavares Washington is a tackle who will come in and compete with Randy Hand at right tackle. Hand may end up at left tackle eventually.  Starks will need to have a better spring because he is not a lock to stay in as a starter. Anthony Guerrero could be the starting right guard by mid-spring practice. He along with Maurice Mitchell and others will compete for guard time.  Mike Degory could be a factor here as well. Billy Griffin could compete and provide quality depth at center and guard. David Kenner is a legit tight end who will be a major contributor next season an might start ahead of  Ben Troupe. Eric Holcombe is a big defensive tackle who could line up next to Ian Scott and move across the front in the tackle box. He will be the biggest and most intimidating lineman on campus in the spring. The good side of these five is whoever does not start it will be a two fold benefit. One, the competition will make them better.  Ssecondly, it will provide UF with immediate depth and experience.

What's the impact on next season?

Three offensive lineman with the six returning starter types (Snell, Starks, Degory, Mitchell, Colon/Hand) automatically gives you a two deep that can line up better than this past season. Factor in Lance Butler, Ron Dowdy and Ryan Carter and you now have the depth and quality to run the no huddle-fast break offense and substitute when needed. I think this is the most significant signing position in Ron Zook recruiting class. It will force the returners to toe the line and compete while motivating those who have bright futures. I think it adds five points per game to the offense. Kenner and Holcombe will provide quality guys who can help bolster UF's run game and run defense.

Florida will not look to make a living via the JUCO route but with scholarship limits at 85 for almost 10 years now you sometimes have to dip into that stream of thinking when you have players leave early and you miss on a couple of guys.  Bryant Mckinnie, Jeremy Shockey, Javon Walker, Lance Mitchell, Jerome McDougle and Brad Banks are quite a few good junior college players who have worked out great for other college programs.

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