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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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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