Wrapping up Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp

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
Continue Reading » Wrapping up Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp

DE Pagan solidifies commitment to Gators

Though the Florida Gators received two commitments before Friday Night Lights even began, the fallout from the event has not been as immediate as many fans might have expected. Perhaps the biggest news coming out of the camp is the solidification of the commitment of four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, NC), who was previously wavering with his decision to wear the Orange and Blue in 2011.

Pagan first committed to the Gators in April but, as soon as May, softened his commitment strength to around 75 percent. Just three weeks ago, he told the Asheville Citizen-Times that he was “about 50 percent on Florida,” saying he would probably not announce officially until his high school season began on Aug. 27.

Some even believed that Florida’s acquisition of five-star defensive end/linebacker Chris Martin via transfer from California would irk Pagan due to the added competition, even though Martin is expected to compete mostly at linebacker.

Instead, according to two recruiting services, Pagan solidified his commitment on Friday after his mom got a chance to visit, tour and approve of the University of Florida.

He is currently one of the highest-rated Gators coming in for 2011, only second behind five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL). Pagan is ranked No. 19 overall by ESPNU and No. 25 by Rivals.

OGGOA RELATED: CB recruit Louchiez Purifoy picks Florida, too
OGGOA RELATED: Four-star lineman Trip Thurman picks Florida

Photo Credit: Asheville Citizen-Times

CB recruit Louchiez Purifoy picks Florida, too

Just hours after gaining a commitment from a four-star offensive lineman, the Florida Gators were informed by cornerback Louchiez Purifoy (Pensacola, FL) that he too will be playing football in Gainesville, FL, next season.

Purifoy, who also had offers from Alabama and Auburn (among others), blew the coaching staff away with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the Gators’ camp in June. After returning home, he immediately received an offer from head coach Urban Meyer.

A Florida fan his entire life, Purifoy told Rivals, who first reported his commitment, that Meyer’s offer was a “dream come true.” he also said he “considered committing [on the spot in March] but didn’t.”

“I was talking to my mom and my sisters and some other people that have an influence around me and they like (Florida),” Purifoy told The Gainesville Sun. “My mom loves it, and they want me to get a good education and they think I can get it there. It’s also where I can play and get a better chance to get to the next level so I can take care of my family — mom and my sister.”

OGGOA RELATED: DE Pagan solidifies commitment to Gators
OGGOA RELATED: Four-star lineman Trip Thurman picks Florida

Gators center Kenny Kadji granted a transfer

Florida Gators sophomore center Kenny Kadji has requested and received a transfer from the University of Florida and will be released from his scholarship.

“After re-evaluating his situation, Kenny and I had the opportunity to sit down and talk about his future,” head coach Billy Donovan said in a statement. “Kenny has made a decision that it’s in his best interest to start new somewhere else. He’s still recovering from back surgery and working hard to get himself healthy. I wish him the best in his future.”

Kadji, who was given a medical redshirt from the NCAA after only logging 45 total minutes of game time in 2009-10 before ending his season due to a nagging back injury, will have redshirt sophomore status next season if he chooses to remain in college but will also have to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules.

He had back surgery in February to repair a bulging disk, a procedure similar to what former Florida forward Adrian Moss had done in 2005. Reports were that Kadji had healed nicely from the surgery; he was expected to back-up redshirt junior center Vernon Macklin next season, a job that will probably now be filled by four-star incoming freshman forward Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL).

In March, the Orlando Sentinel caught up with Kadji’s AAU coach Matt Ramker, who said that he was “happy at UF” and was “looking forward to next season.”

Now, he has changed his tune.

“I want to thank my coaches and teammates for my two years at the University of Florida,” Kadji said. “While I’m sad that my time here at Florida is ending, UF will always be special to me. I have goals that I hope to reach and only a short window of my life to make those things happen.”

Four-star lineman Trip Thurman picks Florida

Four-star offensive lineman Trip Thurman (Dover, DE) committed to the Florida Gators on Friday, as first reported by Scout.com.

In Gainesville, FL, to participate in the Gators’ annual Friday Night Lights camp, Thurman informed the coaching staff of his decision, something believed to be in the process of happening for quite some time.

Rivals has him ranked as the top player in the state of Delaware and 11th best offensive lineman, while ESPNU only gives him three stars.

OGGOA RELATED: DE Pagan solidifies commitment to Gators
OGGOA RELATED: CB recruit Louchiez Purifoy picks Florida, too

QB commit Jeff Driskel shines at Elite 11 camp

What a week it has been for Florida Gators five-star quarterback commitment Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL). Named Most Valuable Player of the Elite 11 QB Camp, Driskel dominated the proceedings from start-to-finish, showing off a strong arm, impressive accuracy, enviable mechanics and college-level decision-making.

Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s recruiting director, said that Driskel resembles Washington QB Jake Locker. ESPN’s Corey Long added, “Driskel is a massive young man at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, his release is on point and his passes have tremendous heat on them.”

He even drew comparisons to some NFL legends – including Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning – as he shredded the competition over the course of four days.

“You always have to try to be at your best and you have to want to be the best and I came out here to play football,” Driskel told Rivals. “I wasn’t here to go to Disneyland even though that ended up being fun. You have to have that focused attitude and I had it throughout the week.”

If you think Denver Broncos rookie QB Tim Tebow and Gators incoming starter redshirt junior John Brantley were highly praised coming out of high school, Driskel’s hype is already reaching that level. He makes all of the required throws and showed during 7-on-7 drills that he can read the field with the best of them.

Even though Driskel is a pro-style quarterback, he is deceptively athletic and runs a 4.52 40-yard-dash. He won’t carry the ball much, but the threat of his speed in head coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense should keep defenses honest if he is able to prove that he can use it.

Driskel is considered the top-rated QB of the 2011 recruiting class by both ESPNU and Rivals. Nationally, he is ranked No. 13 overall by the former and No. 31 by the latter.

Photo Credit: ESPN

Saints bring DE Bobby McCray back for 2010

Former Florida Gators defensive end Bobby McCray was released by the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints exactly one month ago. After agreeing to a reduced contract on Thursday, he will return to Who Dat Nation with a one-year, $1.5 million deal including an additional $1 million in achievable incentives.

McCray, who was the Saints’ third end but started a quarter of his games during his two-year run with New Orleans, made a number of impact plays as a starter during their playoff run last season.

The Saints acquired fellow former Gators defensive end Alex Brown via free agency in the offseason and expect him to start on the left side. McCray, who worked with the first team defense during mini camp, will still see plenty of playing time next season.

He was due a $1.25 million roster bonus and was probably released by New Orleans in order to avoid that payment. The team did not attempt to renegotiate as McCray’s 2010-11 base salary was set at $2 million. Should he hit all of incentives, the Saints will only save $0.75 million with his new contract.

McCray, who made headlines for during the season for his vicious hits on quarterbacks Kurt Warner (Arizona) and Brett Favre (Minnesota), complied 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three defended passes and a forced fumble in his previous two years in New Orleans.

Photo Credit: Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune

New Orleans Saints DE Alex Brown: “The Florida Gators will never change for me.”

With eight years of professional football under his belt, former Florida Gators defensive end Alex Brown is moving on from the Chicago Bears to the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. In a brand new city with an upbeat and positive mindset, Brown landed in Louisiana on Wednesday to start preparing for training camp. The first thing he did after touching down? Provide OGGOA with an exclusive half-hour interview covering everything from his recruitment and time with the Gators to the Bears’ Super Bowl run and why grits are his favorite thing about the city of New Orleans, LA (so far).

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Growing up in a small town, was it difficult to get noticed by the University of Florida and make an impression on head coach Steve Spurrier?
ALEX BROWN: “Yeah, it was. I just wanted to go and play football – that’s all I did. I was nervous because I didn’t know if people would see me. My dad was really good just staying on me about it. ‘If you go play, if you’re good enough, they’ll find you.’ That was his big thing. All I did was go play – and they found me.”

AS: What made you decide to attend Florida rather than going to Georgia or another school? Were you always a Gators fan?
AB: “I actually was not a Florida fan at all. I really wasn’t even going to take a visit to Florida. University of Miami – that year – my last visit I was going to take was going to be to the University of Miami. And I was going to choose between Miami, Florida State, North Carolina and Auburn. There was a kid that got killed at Miami – I want to say it was like on a Monday or Tuesday – and I was supposed to go on a visit that coming weekend. And my mom was like, ‘No way, you can’t go. You can’t do it.’ I was like, ‘Alright, I guess I will not take another visit.’ I talked to [Buffalo Bills linebacker] Andra Davis, who I’ve known since like fifth grade, and he had just taken his visit to Florida and that was the celebration of the National Championship – that was that week. He had a great time. So I talked to him and he said he was going to Florida. He’s like, ‘Just take your visit there, you’re not going to go to Miami, so take your visit to Florida.’ Early in the week, I called coach [Jimmy Ray] Stephens, he was the offensive line coach at the time and the guy that recruited me. He said, ‘OK.’ I was in Gainesville for a day. [Atlanta Falcons LB] Mike Peterson was my host and, by the time I left, they could have left me there. I was going for sure. As soon as I got back, I started calling all the other coaches and letting them know that this is what I want. It wasn’t too far from home but far enough away, I guess. And they were good. I played linebacker, and they had [former DE] Jevon Kearse, Mike Peterson and [former LB] Johnny Rutledge – and I thought I fit right in. It was a great match for me and took me all of a day-and-a-half to figure that out.

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Alex Brown…after the break!
Continue Reading » New Orleans Saints DE Alex Brown: “The Florida Gators will never change for me.”

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