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.”

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

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2016 DB Chauncey Gardner flips to Florida

Though there are eight months left in the 2015 recruiting cycle, the Florida Gators proved Saturday night they also have their eyes set on the distant future, reeling in a commitment from 2016 cornerback Chauncey Gardner II (Cocoa, FL).

Previously committed to the Miami Hurricanes, Gardner flipped his pledge on Saturday by making an announcement on his Twitter account.

“I Would Like To Thank Miami For All The Opportunities They Presented To Me But I’m Taking My Talents To Gainesville #Chomp #GoGators,” he wrote.

Projected as a four-star prospect, Gardner (5-foot-11, 190 lbs.) spent Saturday taking part in a football camp at Florida. It only took him moments after receiving a scholarship offer from the coaching staff to change his allegiance, though there are still 20 months to go before he has to sign his National Letter of Intent.

Rivals.com analyst Woody Womack recently evaluated Gardner as he took part in youth football camps in March (Orlando) and April (Sugar Hill, Georgia).

“[Gardner is] very physical in coverage but does so in a way that wouldn’t draw a penalty flag. It’s clear he loves to hit – something that’s not allowed in a camp setting – but even with the limitations, him he still excelled,” Womack wrote in March.

He came away with a similar evaluation one month later: “He’s fiercely competitive, sometimes to his detriment, but once he learns to hone his emotions he has a chance to be a special prospect.”

Gardner is the third player committed to the Gators for 2016, joining two other cornerbacks in Tre Jackson (Baton Rouge, LA) and Tyler Byrd (Naples, FL).

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2015 QB Sheriron Jones commits to Florida

The Florida Gators are obviously making an effort to bring in talented and athletic dual-threat quarterbacks with its most recent addition, 2015 four-star Sheriron Jones (Moreno Valley, California), committing to the program on Sunday afternoon after spending the weekend attending a camp in Gainesville, Florida.

A versatile athlete from the same high school as former Gators defensive standout Ronald Powell, Jones is the third highly-acclaimed signal caller to make a pledge for Florida in the last two recruiting cycles and first California prospect since Powell in 2010 to decide to play college football at UF.

Five-star freshman Will Grier joined the program for spring practice in January, and four-star incoming freshman Treon Harris is set to arrive on campus in the summer.

Jones (6-foot-2, 189 pounds) was offered by the Gators in the spring and chose UF primarily over Arizona, Colorado and Tennessee. He was recruited by offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and running backs coach Brian White, who is responsible for prospects in the state of California.

Three-star offensive lineman Tyler Jordan (Jacksonville, Florida) also had a heavy hand in Jones’s recruitment; the two have grown close throughout the process.

Jones is the ninth member of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class but just the second four-star prospect to jump into the fold. He is the second-highest rated commitment overall at No. 243 on the Rivals250 behind only four-star defensive back Marcus Lewis (Washington, D.C.) at No. 84 overall.

CommitmentPos.RivalsESPNOverall
» Cleveland, OH | Story
» Height: 6'1" | Weight: 206 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/11/2014
LB36 | 68
» Cincinnati, OH | Story
» Height: 6'6" | Weight: 264 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/25/14
OL172 | NR
» Moreno Valley, CA | Story
» Height: 6'2" | Weight: 189 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 6/8/2014
QB250 | 216
» Lawrenceville, GA | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 219 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 8/1/2014
LBNR | 63
» Jacksonville, FL | Story
» Height: 6'5" | Weight: 270 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 2/22/14
OTNR | 107
» Franklinton, LA | Story
» Height: 5'11" | Weight: 175 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 5/30/14
WRNR | 145
» Atlanta, GA | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 320 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/31/14
O/DLNR | 246
» Warner Robbins, GA | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 332 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 8/13/2014
OLNR
» Tallahassee, FL | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 220 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 2/26/14
TENR
» Dade City, FL | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 285 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 5/29/14
DTNR
» Neptune Beach, FL | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 198 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/29/2014
WRNR

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Gators add commitment in 2015 WR Derrick Dillon

Still in need of playmakers, the Florida Gators added an underrated yet extremely talented prospect on Friday when the program gained a commitment from 2015 athlete Derrick Dillon (Franklinton, Louisiana).

A three-star prospect according to Rivals, Dillon (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) is rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN, which lists him as the No. 145 overall player in the nation.

He projects as a dynamic slot wide receiver in college but plays both ways for Pine High School, seeing time at quarterback and in the defensive backfield.

Dillon, who was recruited by Louisiana native and Gators tight ends coach Derek Lewis, chose Florida over a variety of quality offers from schools like Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M and UCLA, among others.

UF offered Dillon on Jan. 9 and saw him pay unofficial visits to the campus in both March and April for the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut.

He is the eighth player to commit to the Gators for 2015, joining three-star Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, Florida) as UF’s second wideout. Florida and three-star WR Deondre Farrier, who gave a pledge to the Gators on Feb. 21, have parted ways.

Dillon’s decision was first reported by InsidetheGators.com‘s Blake Alderman.

CommitmentPos.RivalsESPNOverall
» Cleveland, OH | Story
» Height: 6'1" | Weight: 206 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/11/2014
LB36 | 68
» Cincinnati, OH | Story
» Height: 6'6" | Weight: 264 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/25/14
OL172 | NR
» Moreno Valley, CA | Story
» Height: 6'2" | Weight: 189 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 6/8/2014
QB250 | 216
» Lawrenceville, GA | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 219 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 8/1/2014
LBNR | 63
» Jacksonville, FL | Story
» Height: 6'5" | Weight: 270 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 2/22/14
OTNR | 107
» Franklinton, LA | Story
» Height: 5'11" | Weight: 175 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 5/30/14
WRNR | 145
» Atlanta, GA | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 320 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/31/14
O/DLNR | 246
» Warner Robbins, GA | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 332 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 8/13/2014
OLNR
» Tallahassee, FL | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 220 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 2/26/14
TENR
» Dade City, FL | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 285 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 5/29/14
DTNR
» Neptune Beach, FL | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 198 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/29/2014
WRNR

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DT Andrew Ivie commits to join brother on Gators

The Florida Gators on Thursday added a familiar name to their 2015 recruiting class, receiving a commitment from three-star defensive tackle Andrew Ivie (Dade City, Florida), according to InsidetheGators.com’s Blake Alderman.

Ivie (6-foot-3, 285 pounds) is the younger brother of Gators sophomore defensive lineman Joey Ivie, who like his sibling – a former and future teammate – was a standout player for Pasco High School.

Florida on Feb. 13 was the second program to offer a scholarship to Ivie, who ultimately chose UF over Ole Miss, Wisconsin and opportunities seven other schools.

Raised as a Gators fan from birth, his decision will make his family extremely happy.

Ivie is the first defensive lineman and eighth overall prospect to commit to Florida for 2015. Seven of those pledges are unranked three-star recruits, according to Rivals.com.

CommitmentPos.RivalsESPNOverall
» Cleveland, OH | Story
» Height: 6'1" | Weight: 206 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/11/2014
LB36 | 68
» Cincinnati, OH | Story
» Height: 6'6" | Weight: 264 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/25/14
OL172 | NR
» Moreno Valley, CA | Story
» Height: 6'2" | Weight: 189 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 6/8/2014
QB250 | 216
» Lawrenceville, GA | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 219 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 8/1/2014
LBNR | 63
» Jacksonville, FL | Story
» Height: 6'5" | Weight: 270 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 2/22/14
OTNR | 107
» Franklinton, LA | Story
» Height: 5'11" | Weight: 175 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 5/30/14
WRNR | 145
» Atlanta, GA | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 320 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/31/14
O/DLNR | 246
» Warner Robbins, GA | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 332 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 8/13/2014
OLNR
» Tallahassee, FL | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 220 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 2/26/14
TENR
» Dade City, FL | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 285 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 5/29/14
DTNR
» Neptune Beach, FL | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 198 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/29/2014
WRNR

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