Will Muschamp on Florida’s 2011 recruiting class

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp held a press conference after his coaching staff received 18 National Letters of Intent on National Signing Day. The following are some key thoughts Muschamp divulged.

Opening statement: “Real pleased with the 18 signees for today. The Gators got better today. [I’m] excited about bringing these young men into our program in a short period of time. Recruiting is all about developing relationships and trust, and it’s tough to do that in a short period of time. Recruiting has changed so much over the years. You’re starting to recruit guys when you see guys coming their sophomore, junior seasons. You start recruiting. You’re building that relationship for a year, two and three years. And to come in – in the short term – we did a nice job of securing the class we had, which we had to re recruit all of those guys because of all of the changes, the mass changes with the staff. And our staff did a nice job of securing those guys. Just really pleased with what we had, and Urban [Meyer] and his staff did a great job with those guys that were already committed to the university. And then coming back and supplementing some other guys to our football team.”

On evaluating the 2011 class: “We’ll know about this entire class in two or three years, and I’m going to say the same thing next year. In two or three years, we’ll know about what kind of class this was. Not today. Today’s not the day to judge anything we do, and you can put that in your tape recorder because I’m going to say the same thing next year. Football’s a developmental game. We have an outstanding strength staff and an outstanding coaching staff. It’s our job, when we get these young men on campus, is to develop them on and off the field to be good football players and good citizens and good students of the University of Florida. And that’s what we plan on doing.”

On only signing 18 players: “We have a smaller senior class for next season. So I didn’t feel like at the end of the process, to make an emotional decision in offering guys that I didn’t think could play at, on or off the field, a championship level at the University of Florida. And I’d rather have held those scholarships to the next season to give our staff a whole year to evaluate and recruit. We could have signed 25 initials, and I held it at 18 there with some other possibilities. But excited about that, our signing class coming in. [...]

“I was more interested in the quality of player and the character of the player that we’re going to sign at Florida as opposed to going out and signing a class of 25 and regretting three or four or five of those guys. That’s not what we were going to do. We were not going to make an emotional decision to go out and make an emotional decision and sign guys just to sign guys. That’s not the purpose of what we’re going to do. We got a small senior class, and we’re going to take those scholarships to next season when we’re going to sign a full class.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say about his class…after the break!
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Florida Gators 2011 National Signing Day notes

Courtesy of the University of Florida‘s University Athletic Association:

EARLY ENROLLEE BIOS

Mike Blakely • Running back
5-9 • 205
Bradenton • Manatee H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect rated the No. 6 running back in the nation and the No. 10 overall prospect in the state of Florida and No. 40 in the country according to Rivals.com… Also rated No. 74 in the ESPNU 150 class… Finished his junior season with 1,400 yards rushing and 227 yards on kick and punt returns with a total of 23 touchdowns… Added another 1,000-yard season as a senior, with 19 touchdowns on the ground… Was a first-team all-state running back in 2009… Participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2011… Chose Florida over Auburn, Clemson, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and USC… Coached by Joe Kinnan.

Clay Burton • Defensive Line
6-4 • 245
Venice • Venice H.S.
Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A three-star prospect rated the No. 35 linebacker according to Rivals.com… Ranked the No. 19 weakside defensive end in the country by Rivals.com… Finished his junior season with 80 tackles and 13 sacks… Participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl… Chose Florida over LSU, Mississippi, Tennessee, Notre Dame and West Virginia among others… Coached by John Peacock.

Kyle Christy • Punter
6-1 • 185
Brownsburg, Ind. • Brownsburg H.S.
Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A three-star prospect rated the No. 2 punter nationally according to Scout.com… Completed 31 of 37 extra points and five of eight field goals with a long of 45 yards his junior year… Participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in 2010… Named AP Indiana 5A All-State Honorable Mention… Chose Florida over LSU… Coached by Brett Comer.

Jeff Driskel • Quarterback
6-4 • 238
Oviedo • Hagerty H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year… Gatorade Florida Player of the Year… Rated the No. 1 quarterback nationally according to Scout.com and Rivals.com… Threw for a career 4,844 passing yards and 36 touchdowns and helped lead the Huskies to their first winning season in their fourth year as a varsity program… Had 1,819 yards and 15 touchdowns passing, 1,333 rushing yards with 20 touchdowns and caught two touchdown passes his senior year… Threw for 1,427 yards with 11 touchdowns and ran for 170 yards with five touchdowns his junior year… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game in 2011… Chose Florida over Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Mississippi and Clemson, among others… Coached by Nate Gierke.

A.C. Leonard • Tight End
6-3 ● 245
Jacksonville ● University Christian H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect and No. 5 tight end nationally according to Rivals.com… Member of the ESPNU 150 class and Rivals100 class… Averaged 20 yards-per-catch as a tight end… On defense, he recorded 21 sacks and 60 tackles with 10 for a loss… Also had two blocked punts, one blocked extra point, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game… Chose Florida over Alabama, Miami, Nebraska, UCF and FIU… Coached by Heath Nivens.

Javares McRoy • Wide Receiver
5-8 ● 170
Lakeland ● Lakeland H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect according to Scout.com… First-team All-State wide receiver for 5A classification in his junior year… Averaged 20 yards-per-catch… Listed as the No. 28 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com… In his sophomore year, he posted a 10.65 100-meter time at the FHSAA 4A Regional Track meet… Chose Florida over Auburn, California, Florida State, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas Tech… Coached by Bill Castle.

De’Ante “Pop” Saunders • Defensive Back
5-8 ● 173
DeLand ● DeLand H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Rated a three-star prospect according to Scout.com and Rivals.com… In 2010, the 6A Florida Athletic Coaches Association Player of the Year for Seminole and Volusia counties… In his junior year, ran for 1,634 yards and 23 touchdowns… As a kick returner, had 580 yards and three touchdowns and led the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball to 6A state title game in his junior year… First-team All-State defensive back for 6A classification and named All-Central Florida Defensive Player of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel in 2009… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game in 2011… Chose Florida over South Carolina, Mississippi, Clemson, Cincinnati, USF and FIU… Coached by Kevin Pettis.

SIGNEE BIOS (After the break…)
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LB Stewart becomes Florida’s 16th commitment

It became apparent earlier in the week, when it was reported the Florida Gators were making a late push for his commitment, that four-star linebacker Graham Stewart (Middleton, CT) may ditch the maroon and gold of the Boston College Eagles for the orange and blue. That is exactly what happened Friday as Stewart decided to decommit from Boston College and become the 16th member of Florida’s 2011 signing class.

“Yeah, I did verbally commit tonight,” Stewart told the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Hays on Friday. “It was always my dream school, but with the coaching change, that had deterred me a bit. But just the overall energy of the place and, of course, it being Florida, it just seemed to be the best place for me to become a better student and a better athlete.”

Head coach Will Muschamp visited Stewart in his home Friday and quickly earned the player’s commitment. OGGOA reported Thursday, via The Hartford Courant, that Stewart was heavily considering a switch.

“It’s a hard situation but also a good one,” Stewart told the paper. “I took two unofficial visits to Florida this summer. I have an offer from them. It’s a great honor that they believe you can play for them.”

Considered the top recruit in the state of Connecticut by Rivals, Stewart is ranked as the service’s No. 16 linebacker in the country. ESPNU lists him as a three-star player and their No. 53 overall linebacker.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Westbrook, Stewart, Shands

1 » Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey was found to have a broken bone in his left ankle in addition to a high ankle sprain and is unlikely to play in Super Bowl XLV, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Though the Steelers refuse to completely rule out his participation in the game, chances are Pouncey will be watching from the sidelines along with fellow former Gator left tackle Max Starks, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this season with a neck injury. In the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Pouncey had started each of Pittsburgh’s 18 games this season.

2 » While Florida awaits commitments or denials from a number of top recruits, head coach Will Muschamp is making the rounds and getting in the ears of plenty of other players. Muschamp was in South Florida on Thursday meeting with three-star defensive end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL), who plans to make a decision Monday, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Westbrook is also considering South Florida, Connecticut, North Carolina and Purdue but will be in Gainesville, FL for an official visit this weekend.

3 » The Hartford Courant is reporting that the Gators are also after four-star linebacker Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT), a current Boston College commitment. Apparently “Florida has made a late push” for Stewart, and Muschamp is expected to fly up for an in-home visit on Friday. “It’s a hard situation but also a good situation,” Stewart told the paper Thursday. “I took two unofficial visits to Florida this summer. I have an offer from them. It’s a great honor that they believe you can play for them.”

4 » What did Gators redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus do after arriving back in Gainesville following a double-overtime victory against the Georgia Bulldogs? They headed over to Shands Children’s Hospital and visited 19-year-old cancer patient Victor Wheeler, who is constantly undergoing chemotherapy for a recurring form of cancer known as rhabdomyoscarcoma. For more pictures of their visit, check out this Facebook link.

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