Joker pays a visit to Rudolph

The search for play makers on offense continues for the Florida Gator football staff even if there isn't an offensive coordinator to help. Florida is also trying to entrench itself into south Florida and has done a great job so far this year in the 2014 class. Receiver Travis Rudolph is both a big play maker and from south Florida, the Gators are still hard after the speedy wide out.

Florida receiver coach Joker Phillips saw the Florida receivers get off to a pretty good start this season before injuries struck in a big way and the offense as a whole went south. The three main contributors on offense seemed to really step up their game from a year ago with Phillips being in his first year on the job.

If there was a point of emphasis with the receivers it was the lack of production from the entire group. The fact is, the Gators need more play makers on offense and that isn't news for anyone.

One of the best players in the entire state of Florida for the 2014 class is Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman star Travis Rudolph. Rudolph was awarded the top player in the Palm Beach County when introduced as the winner of the Lou Groza Award last week. Phillips was in attendance and made sure that Rudolph knew it.

"He was there at an awards dinner," Cardinal Newman head coach Steve Walsh told Monday. "Travis won the Lou Groza Award and Joker was able to hang around a little bit, see Travis, and show some support."

The Gators are one of four teams or so that are on the list of Rudolph.

"He just came back from Alabama," Walsh said of Rudolph. "Saban was down here last week and he just visited (Alabama) this weekend. That always leaves a powerful punch in your mind. I think Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Florida are all in there. He finished up this week and will have some time to really think about it."

Florida held the top spot for Rudolph for a while but a season that went wrong has left his impressions of the Gators a little empty according to his coach. Still, there are reasons Walsh can see Rudolph liking the Gators.

"I think Florida is in there," Walsh said. "I don't know to what extent. I think coming out of the summer they were almost a leading favorite. I think their play this year hurt them a little bit.

"I think as a player you can look at the opportunity that when they lost a lot of games and with injuries, but maybe it is a place he can go and get on the field quickly. I think there is good and bad in all of that."

Coach Phillips spent some time with Walsh and Rudolph and the gator assistant shared a little about the position the staff feels they are in.

"They know they have to be more dynamic on the field offensively," Walsh said. "They feel like the defense is solid and they have some play makers there. They know the offense has to do their part."

Walsh said there is a big reason for all of these premiere programs to be after his star player. And the kid's full high school resume says it all.

"He's obviously very dynamic," Walsh said of his star. "He was our star player for four years. He came in as a 14 year old freshman and scored 17 touchdowns and nothing went to his head. He worked extremely hard and in that off-season he matured and physically developed and became one of our strongest players on the team."

Walsh believes that Rudolph is a kid that physically is ready to show up on campus in college and compete right away.

"In high school the standard measurements for four core lifts which would be bench, squat, power clean and dead lift," he started. "If you have a kid that can lift a total of 1200 pounds, that is a pretty strong high school player. Travis is over 1600 pounds in those four lifts. He is an incredibly strong young man.

"We have always taught that base line from where he is at from his strength and development is going to set him apart from most 18 and 19 year old freshmen that show up at college. Physically he will be able to play."

Walsh also likes the mental stability of his best player and believes that his maturity is another huge thing that will help him get on the field.

"Emotionally, he is very humble and grounded," Walsh said. "His mom and dad have done a great job with him. He will be able to handle the ups and downs. He's not a kid that thinks he is going to step in and immediately be a super star. It rarely works this way and has been told to him by me.

"After February 4th, the romance is over. It has never stopped, but at that time you are the low man on the totem pole and aren't a factor until you can help them win games. It isn't that they don't like you, but they are there to win games and you have to do your job and put yourself in position to win football games. It is the nature of what college sports is all about."

Not really a vocal leader, Walsh says that Rudolph will be the leader of the pack in terms of setting examples both on and off the field.

"He's not a rah-rah guy," the coach said. "He's a pretty soft spoken guy. By example though, for four years in a row he never missed a single work out. He is a leader by example and there won't be a single guy that works harder or prepare harder than Travis. He stays after practice and catches the football in dills. That is just who he is. He's a grinder. There is no question in my mind that he will maintain that attitude."

So when does his team leader plan on announcing? It could come in just a few weeks.

"He hopes to make an announcement at the Under Armour game on January 2, but if he isn't ready, he won't do it," Walsh said.

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