Higdon's Inside Access

It's been in the works for a while now and it's long overdue. The first annual "Inside Access" for the class of 2011. I am not going to touch on all that is important at this time but hopefully this will satisfy your recruiting hunger.


Everyone needs to remember recruiting is a marathon and not a sprint. Florida could have taken three different quarterbacks for the class of 2011 prior to the Jeff Driskel announcement. Had the Gators allowed any of those three to go down it clearly could have impacted the guy they wanted all along at that position. The Gators decided to wait for the right player and they landed the player who hands down is the top high school quarterback prospect in America. The 6-4 and 225-pound signal caller from Ovideo (FL) Hagerty has shown incredible arm strength, speed and athletic ability through the roof with a 40-inch vertical. It's important to understand that Florida could have pulled the trigger on numerous prospects to date but they are showing "Extreme Patience" unless it's someone that they have targeted as a must get so to speak.

Rounding out the 2011 class currently is cornerback/athlete Pop Saunders. Saunders checks in at 5-10 and 180-pounds from DeLand (FL). Tight end AC Leonard from Jacksonville (FL) University Christian high school. "AC" tips the scales at 6-3 and 230-pounds and is athletic a tight end that you will find in the 2011 class. Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan from Ashville (NC) Ashville high school is 6-3 and 260-pounds and is extremely athletic with outstanding upside. Pagan recently caught two touchdown passes in team seven on seven drills and can do it all. Lakeland (FL) superstar Javares McRoy while small in stature is huge in ability. The 5-8 175-pound McRoy has 4.35 speed and benches 350-pounds. McRoy gets my vote for the top "small" player in the nation.

Rounding out the group of six is last but not least fullback Hunter Joyer. Checking in at 5-11 and 240-pounds his strength is unmatched in the state with a 495-pound bench press. He is the state champ in the shot. He is the ultimate fullback the Gators have lacked the past few seasons and will give the Gators the flexibility to run multiple variations of offensive sets when appropriate. Running back Mack Brown was very excited to learn of his announcement.

Speaking of the vaunted 2010 class they will be arriving next week and are looking to take no prisoners! It's not just a few players but many players that are coming in to take jobs. Competition breeds success and this class will bring a nasty attitude, desire and work ethic to duplicate what the outgoing seniors were able to accomplish. These players are looking to start their own history at the University of Florida and I would not bet against these guys. Look for big things to come this season from more than just a few of these guys.


This year more than any I can remember I am seeing more of a "We are the University of Florida" attitude. They are in no rush to pull the trigger. I hate to say it but many recruits are under the impression from conversations that I have had either you are on the train or you are stuck at the station. Speaking of attitude, congratulations to Mr. Hunter Joyer. Hunter could have easily gone elsewhere based on not having the Gator offer during these last several months. He showed he was willing to work to get what he wanted and nothing was going to stop him. More and more it seems that if players don't receiver offers immediately they jump ship and aren't willing to put in the time, effort and energy that it may take to land that offer they so desperately want. "Attitude" counts for something on the recruiting trail and those that show it will pay big dividends in the future.

It seems that each recruiting season I find myself saying "Look Out," the Gators will bring in the nation's top class. I know I know Texas has a dream class right now but that's right now. I am going to give you my best Florida Basketball impersonation and simply say Back to Back as the Gators will bring in yet again the top class in the country when National Signing Day arrives in early February. Did I ever tell you guys how good those Ribs were last year, yummy! I will look forward to the same arrangement moving forward, you know who you are. Sorry I could not pass up that opportunity to fire one across the bow.

"Best of the Best"

Let me take this time to rattle off a few names that not only mention the Gators as one of their favorites but mostly have the Gators sitting in that top spot as of June 18th. Let's start with defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. If that' not enough let me throw maybe the top big man in the country at you in James Wilder. I will never say "lock" but I will put both those players in that 90% range. It will take a lot for any team to overcome the Gators for either player. Jernigan and Wilder are not only two of the top players in the state of Florida but the entire country.

Same can be said and should be said about Jeff Driskel and Jeoffrey Pagan. Try this one on for size as numerous top shelf linebackers proclaim the Gators at or near the top at this time. Stephone Anthony, Kent Turene, Ryan Shazier, Curtis Grant, Dexter Staley, Lateek Townsend, AJ Johnson and Lamar Dawson. It's very easy to see the dilemma albeit a good one the Gator coaches are in at this time. It's the "Best of the Best" for new defensive coordinator Coach Austin and linebackers coach DJ Durkin. Speaking of Lamar Dawson, the 6-3 and 235-pound middle linebacker from Danville (KY) Boyle County high school has been very impressed with Florida. He went as far to say he could see himself living in Gainesville for the next four years. I won't go as far to say the Gators are the team to beat as that honor still goes to Kentucky, yes I said it Kentucky. As a Gator fan all you can do is hope they visit and see how it all unfolds. It will be very interesting to see the dynamics moving forward for Mr. Dawson.

A.J. Johnson gets the least amount of hype vs. the other linebackers on the board but make no mistake about it he is equally impressive and could find himself at defensive end when he reaches the collegiate level.

Two players that have has much hype as anyone on the board both check in at the wide receiver position, Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin. I have been a bit skeptical on both to this point in time. However, things could not be going any better for either player. I spoke with one source who told me tonight Watkins will not end up at Miami. I am of the belief that the Canes should not be counted out for his services but It does appear things could be swinging the Gators direction. Same can be said for the 6-6 wide out from Belle Glade (FL) Glades Central high school Kelvin Benjamin. It's always a good sign anytime a prospect visits Gainesville and the following day wants to call not only head coach Urban Meyer but the position coach as well, Coach Azzanni.

Safety Malcolm Mitchell and Wayne Lyons are both saying and doing the right things with regards to Florida.

In the case of Lyons I would watch how the Rashad Green and Bobby Hart situation play out. It's no secret that Green was all FSU and Bobby Hart is in the same boat. They are working and will continue to try and sway Lyons out of going to Florida. Lyons has very strong ties to the University with his Mother and his sister currently a student. As good as things appear to be going with Mitchell I would caution all Gator fans on the safe side of error at this time based on the history of Valdosta being not so kind to the Gator program over the past several years.

One player that I was not sold on was defensive back Marcus Roberson. Roberson, a 6-0 175-pound shut down corner from Ft. Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas has more than impressed everywhere he has been. Boy did I miss the boat on Roberson who could play a number of positions at the next level but is being looked at as a corner for the Gators. He told me upon return from his camp experience in Gainesville the Gators are the team to beat. Maybe it's just me but for the most part it seems the Gators have bad luck landing the top players from St. Thomas. Last year was kind as they landed cornerback Cody Riggs but more times it seems the Gators are left holding the bag for St. Thomas players, maybe this year will be different for the talented Roberson.


Many players over the past few years have waivered. In some cases (Marsalis Teague) it has not worked out in favor for Florida and in others it has (Andre Debose.) In the case of Debose he was taking last minute visits, namely one to Florida State but stuck with the Gators. I never truly believed the Noles were any sort of serious threat for Debose at that time. This year we have heard committed players AC Leonard and Jeoffrey Pagan talk about potential visits in the future, more so with Pagan. He has come out and said on numerous occasions that he is 60% committed to Florida at this time. In some cases it's been mentioned as low as 40-50%.

Sometimes kids get caught up in a thousand different things listening to this person and that person all the while what's inside never changes. In the case of Jeoffrey Pagan I can tell you that one superstar (Uncommitted) is recruiting the heck out of him to remain a Gator. On the flip side, another committed player to another school quarterback Christian Lemay is working overtime to recruit Pagan to Georgia and away from the Gators. It will be a moot point and Pagan will honor his original commitment to Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators at the end of the day. One piece of information that I am not at liberty to divulge at this time will cement the above statement and it will all be clear soon enough.

Many are wondering where the offensive linemen are coming from in 2011, and you are not alone. Two players that you may or you may not want to keep an eye on are Trip Thurman and Tommy Jordan. The 6-5 Thurman made another visit to Florida last week and was very impressive and now only need to get mom on campus to get that one wrapped up. If he doesn't visit then it could get dicey down the stretch. Thurman is in the 6-5 and 290-pound range. Even if he were not to end up in the Orange and Blue I will go out on a limb and tell you he will not end up in Knoxville despite his father growing up in Knoxville and his mother graduating from Tennessee. The 6-5 300-pound Tommy Jordan from Ridgefield (Conn.) has flown a bit under the radar but the picture could clear up when he visits for Friday Night Lights in July.

Mammoth offensive linemen Zach Debell stands 6-8 and 275-pounds from Tarpon Springs (FL) and was impressive during camp. He could be one to keep an eye on moving forward depending on how things shake out with Kiaro Holts and Ryan Kelly. Holts recently visited Florida and Kelly is scheduled to attend in the coming weeks.

It has been reported that quarterback Jerrard Randall from Hollywood (FL) Chaminade Prep received his Florida offer. While this is true it was not at the position he was hoping for as the Gators extended an offer to the 6-0 180-pound athlete but as a wide receiver only. Randall will have a tough decision to make, quarterback in Oregon or wide receiver in Florida? I guess it depends on how badly he wants a shot as a signal caller at the next level.

"Driskell Effect"

I don't necessarily mean "Driskel Effect" as in him burning up the phones recruiting the nation's top player or do I? That remains to be seen at this time but what I do mean is I for one never thought he would bypass the friendly confines of the Swamp to play for either Auburn. I am going to apply the same principals to running back Mike Blakely. I do not see Blakely by passing the Swamp to play at Clemson or in this case once again Auburn. Some have said or implied that Blakely is a silent commitment at this time to both Auburn and Florida. I for one can tell you he is not a silent commitment for the University of Florida. Auburn on the other hand I do not know but it should not matter at the end of the day unless something drastic changes.

"Is this the Year"

Each recruiting season the anticipation builds and builds and builds as Friday Night Lights approaches ever so fast. The talk usually starts with, Is this the Year? Meaning will this be the year the flood gates open as recruit after recruit decides to make his intentions known to wear the Orange & Blue. I have heard of a few that could potentially end the speculation next month. The dam could certainly open up this year in the Swamp and I have a feeling it will. I have not felt this way in years past but there is something in the air so to speak as numerous top recruits continue to talk of a midsummer announcement. Could it be a big coincidence? What's that Bob? You guarantee the Gators land at least three at this year's Friday Night Lights? Not sure I would go that far but I know how you love to deliver to the people! Now we are even for your chat stunt. :)

"Chasing Number One"

Texas has put together a great recruiting class to date (June) but great recruiting classes are not measured and finalized at the end of June. Yes, they have thrown down the gauntlet announcing to the college football world "Catch me if you Can." I would caution Texas because when you ask for something you need to be careful as you just might get it. When the University of Florida recruiting class is finalized in the month of February I think you will be hard pressed to find a more balanced and highly ranked class. Just some food for thought.

"Mystery Recruit"

I know Bill, trust me I know sir you hate the dreaded Mystery Recruit. Trust me I don't like it any more than you do Sir. The fact is not only Florida but any power house program will recruit numerous top tier players from coast to coast all the while not so much as a hint will be made public about the potential prospect. Take today for example, USC players are jumping ship left and right and why wouldn't some of them be interested in playing for a team like the Florida Gators. Sometimes it doesn't make sense and in this particular case it won't make sense for the Gators but this is one example of the kinds of things that go on all the time with big time recruiting powers and clearly that's what Florida is.

Take wide receiver Javares McRoy for example, Bob had that one pegged oh about two months prior to going down. Kudos to you for that one sir. It pains me to say this (Bill) but I have a "feeling" that something big is going down at some point for the Gators this year with regards to recruiting. I am not throwing this out so you guys can all rush and send Bob a thousand PM's but you can if you want. I truly think this will be the year and as a matter of fact for you Bill I promise! It's very hard to have a true Mystery Recruit in this day and age of the internet. There is not one player in America for the most part that I can tell you about that you have not heard of.

How much you know about said recruit is another story all together but I can almost promise you will know who he is. I have always said the Gator recruiting fan is more knowledgeable than any other college football fan in the world. That my friends is a fact. It is very hard to pull one over on the Florida recruiting junkie, heck even the casual Florida recruiting fan (Kappy) knows more than the average fan.

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