LB Hearns makes it four 2013 commits for Florida

The Florida Gators doubled up on 2013 linebackers Thursday, receiving a commitment from James Hearns (Tallahassee, FL) just over an hour after it was announced that Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL) pledged to join the Gators.

Another player who took part in Florida’s Junior Day last weekend, Hearns is the second Lincoln High School player to commit to the Gators in as many days. His teammate and three-star wide receiver Raphael Andrades (Tallahassee, FL) was a surprise addition to Florida’s 2012 signing class on Wednesday.

At 6’3” and 230 lbs., Hearns was one of two Lincoln players – the other being WR Reggie Davis (Tallahassee, FL) – to visit the Gators last weekend. Both took a number of tours and met with the coaching staff, which told Hearns they were fond of his athleticism but wanted to look over his film early in the week after he missed most of the 2011 season due to a knee injury.

“He always liked Florida. He always liked 3-4 teams like Florida and Alabama,” former UF receiver and Lincoln’s offensive coordinator Jacquez Green told OGGOA. “When I took him down to Junior Day Saturday, he got a chance to really see [Will] Muschamp, and he sat with Coach [D.J.] Durkin at the game and got a chance to talk to him.

“It was the one-on-ones, the attention he got and the fact that Florida is down and [he and Andrades] feel they can help get Florida back up to where it used to be.”

Like McMillian who also committed Thursday, Hearns has an impressive offer list with Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Tennessee as some of the standout schools.

Read the rest of this story and watch a highlight tape of Hearns after the break.
Continue Reading » LB Hearns makes it four 2013 commits for Florida

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WR Andrades a surprise commit for Gators

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.

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Top recruits visiting the Gators on Saturday

Southeastern Conference play begins for the No. 16/17 Florida Gators football team on Saturday as they take on the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL but another type of competition also will be going on off the field. Both the football and basketball teams will be hosting some of the top recruits in the country in what stands to be one of the biggest in-season recruiting weekends of the year.

Plenty of Florida’s 2012 commits will be on campus to watch the game, but also hosted are players that the Gators hope to grab verbal commitments from sooner than later.

From a football standpoint, four-star offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty of Pittsburgh, PA (who is said to have Florida as his leader) is the headliner, while four-star defensive end Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, FL) and Gainesville native three-star cornerback Chris Bivins will also be taking in the game even though the latter is committed to South Florida. Bivins does not hold an official UF offer as of press time.

The Gators will also have some 2013 recruits at the game, most notably running backs Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) and Adam Lane (Winter Haven, FL) as well as wide receiver Richard Benjamin (Tampa, FL), safety Leon McQuay (Seffner, FL) and cornerback J.J. Green (Kingsland, GA). If two of those names sound familiar, it is because Kelvin is the son of Fred Taylor and J.J. is the nephew of Jacquez Green.

The weekend may turn out to be even more important for the basketball team, which will have two big-time recruits on campus.

Five-star point guard Kyle Anderson (Jersey City, NJ) is the No. 2 player in the nation according to Rivals and will be on campus for an official visit. Florida desperately wants Anderson and many believe it will come down to a two-horse race between UF and Seton Hall.

Readers of OGGOA have informed us that there are plans to make signs during the football game in hopes that Anderson recognizes them and how badly the fans want him on campus next season. He is planning to commit on his birthday, Sept. 20, and the reptiles are happy to have him take a visit close to that date.

Also stopping by for visit is a top-ranked player at a position the Gators desperately need to fill. Four-star 2012 center Willie Cauley (Olathe, Kansas) stands 7’0” and weighs in at 225 lbs. The No. 6 center and 39th best player in the country per Rivals, Cauley is down to a final five of Florida, Alabama, Kansas State, Kentucky and Oklahoma. He wants to make a decision during the early signing period.

The future of Gators football and basketball could receive a huge boost if some of Saturday’s visits turn into commitments for Florida going forward.

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Recapping Florida’s 2011 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 pull in some recruits over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough as recruits get coached up while getting to know each other.

The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 22, so much so that covering every player that plans to step on the field is a near impossibility. Below is a recap of the 2011 event which includes much of what was learned Friday evening in Gainesville, FL.

» Florida did not receive any commitments at the event, though that is not necessarily a negative. The Gators’ 15-member recruiting class is believed to be slightly larger already with a few silent commits in the fold. Most importantly, Florida’s new coaching staff made a positive impression on those in attendance and may have set themselves up for some big names to give their respective pledges in the near future.

» Five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs (Olney, MD) was the standout performer, hauling in catches, showcasing his athleticism and even performing a few Gator Chomps after scoring a touchdown. The No. 2 wide receiver in the 2012 class, No. 8 overall prospect and No. 1 player in his state, Diggs has 36 offers but has not narrowed his choices down yet. Former high school teammates with Gators redshirt junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins, Diggs stayed in Gainesville overnight and will get more personal time with coaches on Saturday. “It was a big stage out there tonight,” he told The Gainesville Sun. “I didn’t come down here for no reason. I had a feeling about Florida. I just knew it was going to be live, and that’s what I love.”

» Florida’s current commitments and players did what they could to help sway recruits to the Orange & Blue throughout the course of the evening. Most notable among them was sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell, who was in the ear of four-star defensive end Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, GA) all night long. The two reportedly got along great and developed a solid relationship at the event.

» Gators defensive coaches spent a ton of time with four-star defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (Forest City, NC), sticking by his side until he left the field and eventually headed home. Close friends with recent three-star safety commit Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC) and top Florida target four-star DE Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC), Watkins has spoken with the duo about all playing college together. He is also seriously considering South Carolina and Clemson.

» Though he did make it down to Gainesville, five-star Florida State DE commit Dante Fowler, Jr. (St. Petersburg, FL) remains solid to UF’s rival. He has expressed interest in Florida lately even though his father has no desire to see him wearing the Orange & Blue. The Gators are nevertheless pursuing Fowler in hopes of turning him, but he reiterated on Friday that his commitment to FSU is solid as of right now.

» Former Florida players in attendance included running back Fred Taylor, quarterback Chris Leak and wide receivers Jemalle Cornelius and Jacquez Green. Taylor, who visited with his son, 2013 RB prospect Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL), served as a coach at the camp and was excited to finally bring his son to The Swamp. Cornelius and Green visited with players from the high schools they coach at and also had a good time. The younger Taylor showcased good hands and solid agility at the event, but it is unknown if the Gators have presented him with an offer yet.

» Five-star athlete Nelson Agholor (Tampa, FL) was planning to visit but ended up cancelling after he received a phone call from the hosts of the ESPN/Nike Gridiron Kings event in Orlando, FL, who asked him to fill in for a player who dropped out. Agholor, who has yet to narrow down his list which may or may not include Florida depending who you talk to, was just one of a few players who did not make it. Three-star cornerback Chris Bivins (Gainesville, FL) also took part in another event, and four-star cornerback Tracy Howard (Miramar, FL) stopped by for a few hours but left before FNL began. Four-star offensive tackle Avery Young (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) was planning on going but simply could not find a ride. He is believed to be a heavy UF lean.

» Having shortened his list to Florida, Southern California and South Carolina, four-star defensive end Tyriq McCord (Tampa, FL) still has a ways to go in his recruitment (he does not plan to make an official announcement until January). Nevertheless, his time in Gainesville was well spent as he was able to continue developing his relationship with the coaches, who hope to earn his commitment as soon as possible McCord is one of the Gators’ top targets going forward.

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