Mixing pop and circumstance with football drills and relationship building, the Florida Gators use their annual Friday Night Lights camp at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as both a recruiting tool and means of evaluating almost 100 of the best high school football players in the country.
The Gators often pull in some recruits over the FNL weekend, as they did this year, but also find diamonds in the rough as recruits get coached up while listening to hip-hop and getting to know each other.
The Swamp was once again filled with top young talent on July 23, so much so that covering every player that stepped on the field is a near impossibility. Check out six of the more notable visitors (as well as one who interestingly did not show up) and find out where their heads are at…after the break…
CB NICK WAISOME [ – Groveland, FL]
As expected, Waisome impressed coaches and those in attendance with his combination of speed and technical proficiency. He continues to be a strong Florida lean and will likely commit sooner than later as long as another program does not get in his ear and force him to worry about the number of secondary players the Gators have been acquiring. That being said, there is no evidence that competition is an issue for him.
ATH JAMES WILDER, JR. [ – Tampa, FL]
Conspicuous by his absence, Wilder, Jr. decided to visit Florida State rather than attend Florida’s camp. Another strong Gators lean, it was believed that he would drive back down to catch the tail end of the camp but that would not end up being the case. Though his FSU visit reportedly went well and put them in the running for his services, it would likely take some serious convincing to have him not playing in Gainesville, FL, next season. Wilder, Jr. has made it clear that he intends to visit Georgia Tech, and his high school coach has noted that he and two of his teammates will be making their official commitments during the first week in August.
RB MIKE BLAKELY [ – Bradenton, FL]
His leader has flip-flopped a lot throughout the process, but after impressing Florida coaches on Friday, Blakely said the Gators were firmly holding his top spot. “If they run the ball and win games, I’m here,” Blakely told reporters after the camp. Should Florida gain Wilder, Jr.’s commitment, Blakely will be the only other running back the team takes.
TE NICK O’LEARY [ – West Palm Beach, FL]
The top tight end in the 2011 class, O’Leary is a prime target for the Gators. Unfortunately, they are third on his current list behind Miami (his likely destination) and Florida State. Things can certainly change, but if O’Leary ended up picking Florida he would be fighting for playing time once again with his former teammate at Dwyer High School, Gerald Christian.
CB/ATH CHARLES JACKSON [ – Klein, TX]
Jackson told reporters on Friday that he is looking to make his commitment known and may do so as soon as Saturday evening. With Florida and Oklahoma as his leaders, Jackson’s visit to FNL may have had its intended affect. He unofficial visit planned for Saturday with his family may result in an official decision.
LB A.J. JOHNSON [ – Gainesville, GA]
The speed and strength of his opponents on the other side of the ball shocked him at first, but after adjusting and putting more effort forward, Johnson had a nice showing at FNL. He already had the Gators as one of his three favorites but told Rivals that Florida now leads for his services as of press time.
Special thanks to The Gainesville Sun and Rivals for a few of details in the above report.
Photo Credit: Aaron Daye/The Gainesville Sun