Three-star WR Kalif Jackson commits to Florida

The Florida Gators ever-changing 2015 recruiting class added a member on Tuesday when three-star wide receiver Kalif Jackson (Neptune Beach, FL), a Friday Night Lights attendee, made his commitment official.

Jackson (6-foot-4, 195 pounds) received a scholarship offer from the Gators on Tuesday and accepted it almost immediately. He chose Florida over a previously-stated top five of Duke, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Rutgers and Vanderbilt.

“Just received an offer from the University of Florida … Moral of the story is hardwork pays,” Jackson tweeted at 12:04 p.m. Just over seven hours later, he added: “I also just committed to the University of Florida.”

“[He] has all of the physical tools in the world to be a solid contributor as a big bodied receiver,” wrote Mike Singer of FlaVarsity.com on June 24 ($). “Jackson made several jaw-dropping catches on the field at the IMG [7v7 National Championship] tournament.”

Jackson also has the frame to play tight end, though he would need to gain some weight to be a better fit for the position.

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FOUR BITS: Rainey, Hill, ESPN 300, Demps

1 » Just a couple days after voicing his belief in the talent and potential of former Florida Gators running back Chris Rainey, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was forced to waive the player for non-football reasons. “You can see the athleticism, the burst, the speed,” he said Saturday. “He puts a foot in the ground and gets north and south.” Pagano is expected to address the situation after training camp on Monday, though it is doubtful that he will detail what specific conduct rule that Rainey violated. It will be the second time in as many offseasons that Rainey will be released by a team for non-football reasons. Just one year ago, Rainey was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers after an arrest for domestic violence, a charge that was later dropped and expunged from his record. The Steelers also had concerns about Rainey’s off-field activity including a gambling habit that affected him during his rookie season.

2 » Updating an item from Friday, former Gators safety Will Hill spoke with the media about being signed by the Baltimore Ravens, claiming once again that “everything is behind me” in terms of his marijuana use. “[I was] just being irresponsible,” he said, according to the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson. “Yeah, I feel like I’ve learned. I’m ready to play football. [The Ravens] talked to the [New York] Giants and they had nothing but good words to say about me.” Apparently Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome sat down with Hill and was assured that the player’s drug use – which has been an issue since he started playing at Florida – is now in the back window. “It was just getting comfortable with each other and letting him know that the things that happened before won’t be happening here,” Hill added. Though he will be able to practice with the team and play in preseason games, Hill will not be activated for the 2014 regular season until Oct. 13 as he must first serve a six-game suspension, his third for drug use (second for a substance of abuse) since being signed by the Giants three years ago.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Rainey, Hill, ESPN 300, Demps

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Florida sees four players decommit in 10 days

Four times in the last 10 days, a 2015 prospect previously committed to the Florida Gators has changed course and taken back his verbal pledge.

On Monday, less than 24 hours after three-star athlete Jalen Julius (Orlando, FL) reopened his recruitment, Florida learned that its second-highest rated pledge, four-star cornerback Marcus Lewis (Washington, D.C.) has decided to decommit as well.

“I am officially announcing my decommitment from the University of Florida. I am grateful for the opportunity the university granted me,” Lewis wrote on his Twitter account.

According to InsidetheGators.com‘s Blake Alderman and many other recruiting analysts, Lewis’s decommitment was a “long time coming.” He visited Michigan over the weekend and is expected to eventually make a pledge to continue his career there.

Rated by Rivals as the No. 84 overall player in the nation, Lewis committed to the Gators back on April 17. He cited Florida’s ability to put defensive backs in the NFL and the program’s recent addition of freshman cornerback Jalen Tabor, also a Washington, D.C. product, as big reasons for his decision.

Julius pulled his trigger on Sunday. The Gators were recruiting him as a cornerback, though as he mentioned on Twitter back on July 15: “I want to play [wide receiver] at the next level I feel like I would be a dominant player at that position.”

Three days prior to his decommitment, on Thursday, Julius tweeted that he could not wait to arrive in Gainesville, Florida, to participate in the annual Friday Night Lights camp.

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Live alligator in tow, four-star OT George Brown commits to Florida Gators

Updated on Saturday at 5:45 p.m.

If you’re already going to make a statement and commit to the Florida Gators out of the state of Ohio, doing so with a live alligator by your side is absolutely a good idea.

That is exactly what four-star offensive tackle George Brown, Jr. (Cincinnati, OH) did on Friday when he became the ninth member of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class by committing to the program during a ceremony at his high school.

“I definitely got a big reaction,” Brown told OnlyGators.com on Saturday. “A lot of people got in touch with me after the ceremony staying stuff like, ‘You made my mom cry.’ One guy on Twitter tweeted me a picture of his son and said, ‘Since you committed, this is how my son feels,’ and it was a picture of his son doing a Gator Chomp.

“Now people that are thinking about committing to the Gators pretty soon are going to try to one-up me and get a bigger gator.”

Brown (6-foot-6, 264 pounds) is listed as the 13th-best player at his position by Rivals, which also ranks him as the No. 118 overall player in the nation.

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Previewing Florida’s 2014 Friday Night Lights


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 host top-tier prospects over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough while coaching up the recruits.

The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 25, 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.

OT Martez Ivey (Apopka, FL) –
One of the top offensive tackles in the nation, Ivey is down to Florida and Auburn. His trip to Friday Night Lights should help him feel more comfortable with the Gators, but he will not make a decision until he sees how UF plays in 2014 and determines whether the coaching staff recruiting him will be around next year. A big Florida fan, the Gators are ultimately the team to beat for his services but can just as easily beat themselves and send him across the conference to play for the Tigers.

ATH Ray-Ray McCloud (Tampa, FL) –
McCloud has set his commitment announcement for Monday at 6:30 p.m., and his decision to spend the weekend before that choice is made in Gainesville speaks volumes. Florida is the favorite to pick up one of the most talented athletes in the country but is in competition primarily with UCLA and Clemson. He plays running back, wide receiver and cornerback and will likely do so for the Gators, but as is the case with Ivey, will be keeping an eye on how the team performs in 2014 even if he does choose UF.

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TWO BITS: Spikes, Kitchens; Payton decommits

1 » A pair of former Florida Gators linebackers currently playing for the Buffalo BillsBrandon Spikes and Darrin Kitchens – were taken off the field on Monday. According to NFL Network reporter Albert Beer, Spikes’s hip had been bothering him and he retreated to the trainer’s tent shortly after colliding with another player. However, later reports noted that it was not Spikes’s hip that had acted up but rather he was being treated for dehydration. Moments later, Kitchens was carted off the field with what Buffalo News reporter Jay Skurski termed as “an apparent left leg injury” suffered “during special teams work.” Spikes is on an incentive-laden one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Bills, while Kitchens is attempting to make the team after not being selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. Kitchens signed a three-year, $1.53 million contract with Buffalo and is set to earn $420,000 this season.

2 » For the second time in the last three days, the Gators have lost a 2015 commitment. Three-star wide receiver Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, FL) announced Monday on Twitter that he is no longer committed to Florida after originally pledging to join the team on Feb. 24. An underrated prospect who jumped on UF’s offer after he received it while attending Junior Day at the school, Payton is now believed to be heavily leaning towards USC after recently visiting the program. The Gators now have just eight players committed for the 2015 cycle.

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TWO BITS: Haslem re-signs, Williams flips

1 » Former Florida Gators power forward Udonis Haslem re-signed with the Miami Heat on Friday. A three-time NBA Champion who has played his entire 11-year career with his hometown team, Haslem is Miami’s all-time leading rebounder and is the only undrafted player in league history to hold that mark with a franchise. “Udonis Haslem has been a fixture in Miami over the last 11 years,” team president Pat Riley said in a press release. “He’s a team player, an encompassing all-purpose player, that would play just about any position or role in order to win. It’s been such a privilege and honor to have him with the organization, and I’m so happy that he decided to come back.”

Haslem opted out of a $4.62 million player option to return to the Heat, doing so in hopes of providing the team with enough flexibility to re-sign its star players, including LeBron James. Once again leaving money on the table, his new contract is for two years and approximately $5.59 million, according to The Miami Herald‘s Jeff Goodman. As he is set to earn $2.73 million for the 2014-15 season, Haslem has now passed on a total of nearly $16 million in his career in order to remain with Miami.

2 » Seven months after three-star defensive back Deontai Williams (Jacksonville, FL) became the program’s only 2015 commitment, the self-described life-long Gators fan has flipped his pledge to the Georgia Bulldogs. According to 247 Sports’ of Rusty Mansell and Rivals affiliate UGASports.com, Williams is now Georgia’s 15th pledge for the recruiting cycle. Florida is subsequently down to just nine commitments.

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Four-star LB Jerome Baker commits to Florida, becomes Gators’ highest-rated 2015 pledge

Widely considered one of the top two prospects in Ohio and unanimously ranked as one of the 100 best players in the nation for 2015, four-star linebacker Jerome Baker (Cleveland, OH) announced Friday morning that he will continue his career in Gainesville, Florida, playing college football for the Florida Gators.

Baker (6-foot-1, 206 pounds) committed to Florida over Ohio State and Tennessee, spurning his state school in the process. OSU was once considered the heavy favorite for his services.

Credit Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin with building a “very strong bond” with Baker that was simply unable to be matched by his other finalists.

“Coach Durkin did a great job of selling me on what I would do in their defense and that was probably the best tool that he could use. And he showed me what I would do and what position I would be used for,” Baker told InsidetheGators.com’s Blake Alderman ($).

“He showed me how my role as Will linebacker affects the defense and that was great to see. I spent a lot of time with Coach Durkin and him being my position coach, I love talking to him about football and life and everything. He is such a great person to talk to, and I can open up with him and have a conversation about anything.”

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