Less than 24 hours after hauling in 17 new recruits on 2012 National Signing Day, the Florida Gators have added a third player to their 2013 recruiting class by securing a verbal commitment Thursday afternoon from linebacker Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL), according to InsidetheGators.com‘s Bryan Holt.
McMillian is listed on ESPNU’s recently released “top 100 prospects of 2013” and is considered by the recruiting service to be a four-star player. He was originally planning on announcing his commitment during the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Game but wanted to make his plans official now instead.
Florida did not host 2012 recruits on the final weekend before the dark period but instead brought a number of extremely talented juniors to campus.
McMillian was one of those juniors and has reportedly decided to make his call for the Gators despite carrying a number of other impressive offers from schools like Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and South Carolina.
For a young kid growing up in certain areas of Shelby, NC, dreams of playing college football – let alone someday in the NFL – can seem entirely impossible.
Throw in the fact that his brother was sentenced in 2003 to life in prison without parole on first-degree murder charges stemming from a drug deal gone wrong in 2001 and many expected Brandon Spikes to go down with the ship.
“There was a lot of negative people who said, you won’t do this, you won’t do that because he didn’t do this, he didn’t do that,” Spikes told USA Today in 2008 about his neighborhood growing up. “You won’t ever get a scholarship, you won’t go to Florida and play as well as you did. My whole career has been about proving people wrong.”
He started on that path during his time in Gainesville, FL with the Florida Gators. Spikes went from five-star recruit and the No. 13 prospect in the nation to a player who looked like he might be underwhelming after the Gators’ defense struggled mightily in 2007.
Months after the season ended, Spikes sat down with then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer, shed some tears, and told him he had no choice but to succeed going forward.
“I let him know this is my life. Without this, I don’t know where I would be. Football has been everything. It was my way out; it was my way here,” he said. “I just told him this is what I do. I wake up in the morning and I breathe, and this is the first thing on my mind.”
Spikes became the defense’s leader that season, the parallel to quarterback Tim Tebow and what he did for the Gators’ offense.
His hit on running back Knowshaun Moreno at the start the 2008 Florida-Georgia game is one of the most famous tackles in school history, and it fueled a 49-10 victory that helped propel the Gators to another win in the 2008 SEC Championship over Alabama and eventually to the 2009 BCS Championship.
Spikes promised when leaving for college that he would make his mother proud. His second national title in three years undoubtedly put a smile on her face, but his decision to stay a fourth year and graduate rather than leave early for the NFL likely made that smile grow exponentially wider.
1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was a guest on NBC‘s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday night/Thursday morning and sat down with the host to talk about the Tebowing phenomenon, Fallon’s parody of Tebow and David Bowie – “Tebowie,” and the charitable work he is doing. Tebow was introduced by The Roots playing “On Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men and concluded his segment by shooting a signed jersey into the crowd with at T-shirt gun.
2 » Speaking of television clips of Tebow, ESPN2‘s First Take has continued to make him a topic of conversation long after Denver’s season ended. This week the show featured singer/songwriter John Legend remixing one of his own tunes to create a song called “Extra-Ordinary Tebow.”
Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp held a press conference after his coaching staff received 23 National Letters of Intent on National Signing Day.
“I’m real pleased with how recruiting went. Any time you get to this day, it’s a combination of a lot of hard work and effort by our staff. I think our staff did an outstanding job. You got to improve your program where you know you need to improve your program. Of the 23 players that joined our program today, 14 are line of scrimmage players – mid-skill and big-skill guys. We saw very easily in our season this year we struggled on both lines of scrimmage consistently being able to run the ball and stop the run. I certainly feel like we’ve addressed our most pressing need on both lines of scrimmage. We’ll develop playmakers and depth on both lines of scrimmage.
“I’m really excited about the guys we’ve got in that group and also eight skill guys, which includes a quarterback. We’d like to sign a quarterback every year. I think that’s important. A kicker, Austin Hardin, a guy that came in and did an outstanding job for us. We’re real pleased about him.
“We’ll know about this class in two or three years. I’ll tell you the same thing I did last year: Football is a developmental game, and you got to develop he players. I’m really excited about Jeff Dillman and Jesse Ackerman and our strength staff, our coaching staff – the job that they do in getting our players in here and doing a nice job with them. We’ll know a lot more about this class in two or three years. At the end of the day, this is a developmental game. We’ll be able to address that. It’s not about winning in February. It’s about winning in the fall and developing your football team and addressing your needs, and I think we’ve done that.”
» On Florida recruiting so well in the state of North Carolina: “D.J. Durkin, first of all, is our area recruiter for that area. He does a really nice job of recruiting, period. It was a full team effort. […] We honed in on the guys we want and the guys we feel like can come and make a difference in our program, and we go after those guys.”
» On three/four-star defensive end Alex McCalister: “Alex McCalister is a guy that came to our camp, he broad jumped over 10 feet, close to a 40” vertical leap. A guy that is 6’6” and 220 lbs., his best football is ahead of him. That’s a very, very explosive athlete and a guy that hasn’t played a whole lot of football.”
» On flipping five-star DE Dante Fowler: “You recruit through this process and sometimes when you get there on signing day, you’re leaving it up to the young man and his family to make a decision. I think Dante had a good fit here at Florida as far as his position was concerned, his opportunity was concerned. We’re excited to add another good pass rusher to our program.”
Enrolled at UF in January of 2012… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Three-star recruit…Attended Hallandale High School…Rated the No. 24 cornerback in the country by ESPN…Selected as the No. 77 high school player in the state of Florida by Rivals.com…Selected to the AP Class 5A All-State Second Team as a defensive back…Talented defensive back with good size…Led Hallandale to a 6-4 record as a senior…Chose Florida over Miami, North Carolina and USF…Coached by Dameon Jones.
Jessamen Dunker • Offensive Line
6-4 • 320
Boynton Beach, FL • Boynton Beach Community H.S.
Enrolled at UF in January 2012… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Consensus four-star recruit…Selected as the No. 46 recruit in the ESPN 150…Ranked the No. 4 offensive guard in the country by ESPN…Listed as the No. 20 recruit in the state of Florida by Rivals.com…Named a PARADE High School All-American and 2011 Under Armour All-American…Named to the Press-Register’s 120 List…Selected to play in the 2011 FACA All-State Game…Selected to the AP Class 5A All-State First Team…Transferred to Boynton Beach High School as a junior after moving to Florida from Georgia…Did not play football until his junior year of high school…Began playing football as a high school junior…Chose Florida over Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, South Carolina, Baylor, Florida State and Notre Dame…Coached by Rick Swain.
D.J. Humphries • Offensive Line
6-6 • 271
Charlotte, NC • Mallard Creek H.S.
Enrolled at UF in January 2012… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A consensus five-star and top-20 recruit…Rated as the No. 2 prospect by Rivals.com, the No. 7 prospect by ESPN and the No. 11 prospect by Scout.com…The No. 1 recruit out of the state of North Carolina according to Rivals.com…Named a first-team high school All-American by USA Today, ESPN, Rivals.com, MaxPreps and Sports Illustrated…Has started since his freshman season and hasn’t allowed a sack since his freshman season…Led Mallard Creek to a 13-1 record and berth in the NCHSAA Class 4AA State Semifinals…Mallard Creek finished No. 47 in the nation in the final POWERADE FAB 50 rankings…An AP All-State first team selection…Selected to participate in the 2012 U.S. Army All-America Bowl…Coached by Michael Palmieri…Father, D.J., played football at Presbyterian College and in the Arena Football League.
A Florida State Seminoles commitment since Dec. 5, 2010, five-star defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. (St. Petersburg, FL) surprised many during National Signing Day on Wednesday by switching his pledge to the Florida Gators.
Expected to play Buck linebacker for the Gators, a position of high importance in the defensive system of head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Fowler was heavily pursued by Florida throughout the year and visited the school a half-a-dozen times unofficially.
Though he said he remained solid to Florida State following those visits, he admitted that he had some thinking to do after much of the coaching staff met him in his home last week (see picture above). One day later, Fowler again reiterated that he was “100 percent” going to commit to the Seminoles.
At 6’3” and 232 lbs., he is considered the No. 28 overall player in the nation and the third-best at his position according to Rivals. ESPNU ranks Fowler as a four-star recruit, the No. 71 player in the country and 10th-best defensive end.
He is the eighth defensive lineman to join the Gators’ 2012 class but is just the third expected to be in line for a shot at the Buck linebacker position with three-stars Bryan Cox, Jr. (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and Alex McCalister (Clemmons, NC) also vying for a spot on the depth chart.
Fowler becomes the 23rd member of the Gators’ 2012 signing class and is the second player to join the team on this year’s National Signing Day.
After missing out on their first two targets on National Signing Day, the Florida Gators received some good news with back-to-back commitments, the first of which coming from three-star wide receiver Raphael Andrades (Tallahassee, FL).
With offers from Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Stanford and Vanderbilt on the table, Andrades was not sure what his future would hold. In fact, he wanted to play for Florida so bad that he was considering walking on to the team.
Things became clearer when Gators head coach Will Muschamp called him on Tuesday evening and extended an official offer for him to join the program. His position coach at Lincoln High School (and former Florida WR) Jacquez Green explained to OGGOA on Wednesday how the situation unfolded.
“It was a maybe-type thing for a while, but he wanted to go to Florida,” Green said. “He even told me he would walk on at Florida because he knew he had something to bring to the school anyway. He turned down a lot of other offers out there. He just waited it out and was willing to go into signing day to see what would happen with [Nelson] Agholor.
“He was thinking about walking on and he was dead serious. He was like, ‘I want to play for Florida.’”
At 6’0” and 190 lbs., Andrades has a frame large enough to add additional size and strength. With a 40-yard-dash speed somewhere in the 4.5-4.7-second range, he can also improve his speed. Green believes those improvements will be easy for him to make because he already has the most important trait of a wide receiver.
“The way he catches the ball is something that can’t be taught. A lot of receivers just can’t catch. That’s one of his biggest strengths – just catching the football,” he explained. “He was a solid route runner in high school. He can get a little faster but he will get faster because now he only has to worry about football. I know he will get faster.
“His strength is overall size and the way he catches the football, and he understands the game. He’s a real smart guy. He understands route concepts. He understands why one receiver has to clear out in order to get another receiver open. Things like that are things guys in the pros understand, and he’s just in high school right now.”
Green said Andrades’s hand-eye coordination “is so high because of his baseball background;” he plays outfielder and was a highly-recruited baseball prospect.
Though he is a former player with the Gators, Green added that he did not have any influence on his Andrades’s decision-making process. In fact, he suggested he attend another institution before learning of Florida’s official offer on Tuesday.
“Ralph is a smart guy. He knows about football. He knows about teams and coaches. He’s very smart,” he said. “I never really had an influence on him. I let guys go wherever they want to. Actually during the recruiting process, I told him that I thought Arkansas was a good school for him. I don’t try to push them one way or another, I just try to help them make the best decision.”
The No. 99-ranked pass catcher by Rivals.com, Andrades is also considered a three-star recruit by ESPNU. He is Florida’s second wide receiver commitment of the 2012 cycle, joining four-star LaTroy Pittman (Citra, FL), and the Gators’ 22nd overall recruit.
Twenty-one members strong, the Florida Gators’ 2012 recruiting class is hoping to expand by a name or two when the vast majority of uncommitted high school football players across the country announce their decisions on National Signing Day. While a handful of others will make their decisions known before or after the date, all but two of Florida’s remaining targets will be involved in ceremonies Wednesday.
Be sure to visit OGGOA’s live coverage of National Signing Day beginning Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. It will feature a live chat and be constantly updated throughout the day with every signed letter of intent (LOI) and new commitment.
Below OGGOA breaks down who the Gators are still waiting to hear from, when they will learn of their decision and some of the latest insights on each player.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs (Olney, MD) Accolades:Rivals – No. 8 overall (No. 2 WR); ESPNU – No. 13 overall (No. 3 WR) Leaders: Florida, Ohio State Contenders: Auburn, Maryland Skinny: Diggs was favoring the Gators for quite some time until offensive coordinator Charlie Weis left for Kansas. However, when new OC Brent Pease took over, Florida was back in his good graces and stepped up to the top of the pack once again. The Gators desperately need a top wide receiver to fill out their 2012 class and Diggs is the primary target. Though he took a trip to Ohio State last weekend and enjoyed himself, it was his first time looking at the program and meeting head coach Urban Meyer. Diggs has said previously that he wants to play in a pro-style offense, and he has likely developed a much stronger relationship with Florida’s coaching staff. Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10 (nine days after NSD)
Cornerback Tracy Howard (Miramar, FL) Accolades:Rivals – No. 13 overall (No. 1 CB); ESPNU – No. 18 overall (No. 1 CB) Leaders: Florida, Miami Contenders: Florida State Skinny: A long-time UF lean, Howard was all but signed, sealed and delivered to the Gators. That is until he took an official visit to Miami last weekend that may very well have flipped his recruitment on its heels. Closer to his home, family and good friends, Miami is an attractive destination for Howard and is believed to be the new leader for his services even though Florida’s coaching staff has been there for him all along. Whether he decides to stick with what he knows the best (the Gators) or stay closer to home is something only his family truly knows at this point. Announcement: 9:35 a.m. live on ESPNU
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