Mixing pomp 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 some of the best high school football players in the country. The Gators often pull in some recruits over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough as recruits get coached up while getting to know each other.
The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 27, so much so that covering every player that plans to step on the field is a near impossibility. Below are a list of 10 players (in no particular order) to keep an eye on either because of their talent or high level of interest in attending Florida.
DB Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL) –
The No. 6 player at his position and ranked No. 54 overall in the 2013 class, Harris is a UF legacy (though that probably will not play much of a role in his decision) and will likely choose either Florida or Texas when all is said and done. The Gators got a big commitment from five-star defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL) on Thursday, so impressing or even adding Harris could go a long way to giving Florida an absolutely dominant secondary in the near future. His father is former safety Mike Harris, who played on the 1996 national championship team.
DE Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL) –
Close friends with Hargreaves (the two actually arrived in Gainesville together on Thursday), Sherit is himself highly rated (No. 94 overall, No. 9 at his position) and could be yet another answer to the Gators pressing needs at Buck linebacker. He has long had Florida in his top 10 list and recently said it is one of four schools (Notre Dame, Stanford, Vanderbilt) he is looking at seriously despite having plenty of other offers (Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, etc.).
DE DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, FL) –
Another extremely talented player out of Jacksonville, Walker has his choice of any school in the country and will likely be picking between UF and Alabama when it comes down to the wire. Though some believe he is leaning towards the Crimson Tide, he has a lot of Gators commitments (including a handful from his hometown) in his ear and a trip to UF is the last visit he’s taking before his ceremony on Aug. 24.
Read up on seven more players attending Friday Night Lights…after the break!
WR Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL) –
Playmaking wide receiver is obviously a major position of need for Florida and Bailey is said to be an official offer away from committing to the Gators. Rivals’ 132nd-best prospect in this recruiting cycle, he is close friends with and was a schoolmate of freshman running back Matt Jones and wants to wear orange and blue. He will have the opportunity to convince head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease that he is deserving of an offer; should he receive one after he performs in The Swamp, UF very well might see a quick commitment.
OL Joe Fennell (Fort Myers, FL) –
A multitalented lineman who can play on both sides of the ball, Fennell (6’5” 320 lbs.) could potentially move to defensive tackle should he wind up playing in Gainesville.
ATH Nadir Barnwell (Piscataway, NJ) –
Another player who can thrive on offense or defense, Barnwell is an intriguing prospect who “is built more like a safety, but he has the speed and agility to be a dynamic wide receiver” (Josh Helmholdt, Rivals). He has yet to narrow his list but already claims offers from Florida, Notre Dame and Michigan, among other high-profile schools. Barnwell is a member of the Rivals250 and is listed as the seventh-best player in New Jersey.
DE Antonio Riles (Lawrenceville, GA) –
Riles may not be a highly-ranked prospect, but he is a solid, can play inside or outside and has a reputation for being stout. His recruitment may come down to a Florida-Georgia battle with Friday’s visit going a long way in his decision-making process.
UPDATE: Riles wound up not being able to attend FNL but called Muschamp and committed on Friday afternoon like he would have if he was in attendance.
DT Kelsey Griffin (Hoschton, GA) –
A heavy Georgia lean, Griffin recently visited Athens, GA for Dawg Night and came away impressed. Ranked No. 138 nationally, he is a player that Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are interested in even if they do not expect to sway him.
CB Brendan Langley (Marietta, GA) –
Florida may not be in Langley’s top five just yet – and the fact that the Gators’ secondary is looking increasingly stacked by the day may not be much of a help – but the supremely talented prospect is visiting UF for FNL and plenty can change under the lights in The Swamp.
LB Keith Kelsey, Jr. (Gainesville, FL) –
Kelsey, the son of former Florida linebacker Keith Kelsey (a four-time letterwinner), does not yet have an offer from UF but would undoubtedly commit to the Gators on the spot should he receive one. In similar fashion to how DE Bryan Cox, Jr. and WR Raphael Andrades were picked up just before 2012 National Signing Day, Kelsey may have to wait for his offer but would pounce if one came through.
Prospects from the 2014 and 2015 recruiting cycles will also be in attendance at FNL. Some names to keep an eye out for include: DT Demarcus Christmas (Bradenton, FL), RB Bo Scarbrough (Tuscaloosa, AL), WR Johnnie Dixon (West Palm Beach, FL), OL Reilly Gibbons (St. Petersburg, FL) and DT Travonte Valentine (Palm Bay, FL).
Special thanks to InsidetheGators.com recruiting analyst Blake Alderman and GatorCountry.com recruiting analyst Andrew Spivey for contributing to this post.
Photo Credit: Aaron Daye/The Gainesville Sun