Muschamp speaks on recruiting, Weis, Brantley

New Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp was a guest of Joe Rose on 560 WQAM in Miami, FL on Thursday and spent time with the former Miami Dolphins tight end discussing a number of topics that fans have been waiting to hear him discuss.

Like Urban Meyer before him, Muschamp was likely informed of the importance of having a presence in the South Florida media as the area is a recruiting hotbed and Rose’s show is arguably the most notable sports talk show in the mornings. He frequently talks about high school football and picked Muschamp’s brain on recruiting in the area.

“There’s a lot of young men that are going to sign out of each state. The key is evaluation and taking the right guy,” he said. “There’s a lot of really good football players in South Florida – tremendous. You take Palm [Beach], Broward and Dade County – there’s phenomenal football players. I’d say probably over 200 kids out of those three counties are going to sign Division I scholarships. [You have to] take the right guy that’s going to do a nice job academically for you, is going to represent your university in a first-class manner and play well on the football field.”

He was also asked to describe any notable differences between the recruiting process in the state of Texas and region of South Florida.

“It’s not different. We have an evaluation process that we’re going to go through with each young man. From on and off the field, different critical factors at each position that we look at that we decide that this is a type player we want to have at the University of Florida,” Muschamp said. “Just like I did when I was defensive coordinator at Texas when I ran the defensive [recruiting] board. We’ve got certain things that we’re looking for at each position. It’s about evaluation. It’s about taking the right guy. Not necessarily taking the best player at that position; he might not be the right fit for your football team or your university. That’s a huge part of what we do as coaches, is evaluating and taking the right players because there are a lot of good football players out there.

“I’m not worried about the guys that don’t sign at Florida, I’m worried about the ones that sign at Florida. We need to do a great job of developing those players. A lot of these young men that go other places, I’m going to see them once a year. So I’m not as worried about them as I am the ones we are going to have on our campus.”

Rose noted that Muschamp must be excited about having current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis as the biggest name on his staff, something the new head coach felt comfortable enough to open up about.
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Florida Gators Press Conference: Will Muschamp announced as head football coach

High-energy and ready to get to work, Will Muschamp was introduced Tuesday evening as the Florida Gators‘ 23rd head football coach. He began his press conference with an obvious clear understanding of the job he has to do and a promise to perform his responsibilities to the best of his ability.

“I am certainly honored and proud to be the head football coach of the University of Florida. It’s a great day certainly for my family and Florida. The expectations at Florida are winning championships. And believe me, I understand that, and I understand what you’ve got to do to be successful in that situation.”

IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING “THE RIGHT FIT”

Athletic director Jeremy Foley explained after head coach Urban Meyer resigned that the man he would hire to replace him would have to be the right fit – not necessarily the most experienced candidate. He expanded on those comments Tuesday.

“The more and more you researched [Muschamp], it was obvious he was the guy we wanted to go after. And we went after him,” Foley said. “It was very, very clear early on that this was the guy that we wanted to bring to Gainesville to lead our football program and build on the wonderful foundation that’s been left here by Urban Meyer.”

Muschamp understands some might be concerned about his lack of head coaching experiences but promises it will not be an issue. “I know there will be criticism about maybe not hiring a guy with head coaching experience. I certainly understand that,” he said. “But I do think, if you look at it, you can really look at all the examples across the board of guys who had no head coaching experience and did an outstanding job because they were the right fit for the right job at the right time.

“I feel like I’m the right fit for Jeremy. [Looks at Foley] I can certainly tell you, you’re not going to regret [hiring me].”

BECOME A BETTER PERSON, THEN BECOME A BETTER FOOTBALL PLAYER

Like Meyer before him, Muschamp plans to put a special emphasis on his players being successful off the field before they step foot on it. This effort begins in the classroom, translates to programs he will create and eventually comes to fruition on the gridiron.

“I want all of our student-athletes to come into our program to be a better person for having been at Florida. And I’m not just talking about from a football standpoint, from a strength standpoint. I’m talking about the off-the-field things,” he said. “Academically is obviously very important to me. We’re going to have programs set for our players that are going to help with leadership development, character development and the mental conditioning it takes to be successful. It’s all about making good choices and good decisions nowadays.

“There’s a lot of distractions out there. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong when you make a poor choice or decision. There’s nothing more frustrating to me then to see a young man make a poor choice and somebody said, ‘He must be a bad kid.’ He’s not a bad kid. He made a poor choice and decision. So we need to do a great job of conditioning our players to make good choices and decisions.

“You got to get a degree. I’m going to emphasize it. If our kids don’t want to get their degree, they don’t need to be here. If they’re not going to go to class and act the right way, they don’t need to be here. There’s a certain thing that I’m going to refer to as ‘The Florida Way,’ and that’s the way they need to act and that’s the way they need to represent our university.”

STAFF RETENTION AND HIRING COACHES

Muschamp made a concerted effort Wednesday to explain that he was the sole decision-maker and source when it comes to coaching hires and indicated quite clearly that nothing of the sort had been worked out yet – and may not be for quite some time. “The thing you need to trust – a little blind faith on my part – I’m going to make the best decisions for Florida. I’ve got zero timetable on hiring a staff,” he said. “It’s not about doing the easiest thing, it’s not about doing the quickest thing, it’s about making the best decision – and that’s what we need to do for the University of Florida right now. There has been no one offered a job in the coaching right now by the University of Florida to work on our football staff, regardless of what you read. There’s one source in this football program, and that’s me. And there’s one guy hiring coaches, and that’s me. So nobody’s been offered a job. Let me make sure everybody understands that before we walk out of here tonight.”

That being said, Muschamp did announce the retention of one staff member – strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti. “We’ve got to do a great job in our weight room. I’m really excited that Mickey is going to stay on and be a Gator. He’s outstanding; he’s as good a strength coach as there is in the country,” he said. “My first visit was to our weight room to visit with him and make sure he understood that he and I are on the same page with what we want for our athletes. I think he’s phenomenal.”

As for everyone else? They have to wait. “Nothing’s going to be done, in my opinion, right now before the bowl game as far as coaches that are going to be hired, retained, whatever. Right now, I’ve got absolutely no timetable with that,” Muschamp repeated.

“We’re going to work through the bowl game. Urban Meyer is the head football coach through the Outback Bowl. I’m strictly a spectator. I’m going to evaluate the players and make the best decisions for Florida as far as our staff is concerned. There’s some outstanding coaches on this staff and I’m just getting some input from people who are around the country and in talking to Urban.”

“…URBAN MEYER IS GOING TO BE INVOLVED IN THIS PROGRAM”

After Meyer stepped down exactly one week ago, Foley mentioned that he could very well remain a part of the Gators as long as the head coach they hired to replace him was amenable to that concept. Muschamp recounted a conversation he had with Meyer on Saturday – just before he decided to come to Florida – and how it affected him.

“Urban Meyer – what a phenomenal job he’s done. When Jeremy sat with me in my living room on Saturday and we talked about the job at Florida, we continued to talk [and] were having great discussions about everything as far as philosophically, what we believed in the program, what we believed was important,” Muschamp recounted. “As we kept talking, I felt like I needed to talk to Urban Meyer. And I said, ‘Do you mind if I call him?’ He threw the phone at me and said, ‘Here he is right here.’

“The more I talked to him, the more I liked him. And I can tell you this right now: As long as Will Muschamp is the head coach of the University of Florida, Urban Meyer is going to be involved in this program. And I’ve invited him to the weight room, I’ve invited him to the practice field, I’ve invited him to the meetings and whatever he wants to do. He will be a great sounding board for me, number one. And he needs to be involved in this program for our players – because he’s the one that recruited them all, and he’s still helping us in the recruiting class we’ve got going this year. And he’s a great sounding board for me and a part of this great tradition of Florida football. “

Admitting that allowing Meyer so much access to the team may be viewed as either weak or dangerous, Muschamp dismissed anyone else’s opinions of the situation bothering him even the least bit. “The perception can be whatever it is out there. I deal in real world; I deal in reality. I’ve got no ego. My agenda is the players and the University of Florida. And it’s about winning. That’s where the fun is. It’s about winning football games and doing it the right way,” he said.

COACHING PHILOSOPHIES

“We’re going to be a pro-style attack offensively and defensively,” Muschamp made clear from the start. “As far as special teams is concerned, I feel like our players will be exposed to cutting-edge schemes to make sure that they show their abilities. If they want to play on the next level, they certainly can have those opportunities.”

That being said, Muschamp realizes that defense is his specialty and plans on hiring a knowledgeable offensive coordinator to support him. “I want to hire an experienced play caller. I would like for him to have a background in both college and pro football. I think it’s important that we have some pro-style systems to what we want to do,” he said. “But I think the best coaches out there, they look at their roster and they evaluate who they are at this time. And then they recruit to who they want to be. […] Will there be more pro-style ideas in our offense? There certainly will be. We want to be balanced in what we do, regardless of who we hire. [That] will obviously be a big hire for me, me being a defensive coach. […] Hiring an offensive coordinator is a critical hire for me.”

Defensively, Muschamp has not decided whether or not he will hire a coordinator to call the plays or help him out in the role of an assistant. “There will be components of the 3-4, the 4-3. We like to be a man-pressure team,” he said of the defense. “But the big thing you got to do defensively nowadays, you got to be multiple in what you do. You got to be able to change week-to-week. […] Defense is my strength. I have not decided yet whether or not I will call the defenses or not. That will be decided based on who we hire and who we’re able to bring in.”

Regardless of how the offense and defense are formulated, the team as a whole will have some standard philosophies instilled in it from the get-go. “Our program is going to be based in a family atmosphere with three basic things: trust, respect and communication. Those are all two-way streets; it takes two to do it,” Muschamp said. “As a football team, I want to be known as a blue-collar, overachieving unit. We’re going to recruit good players here, but they need to take the talent they have – what God’s blessed them with – and stretch it to the potential that they’ve got. […] We will be a physically tough football team. And it’s not something you talk about; it’s something you live your life with.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Week 13: Florida Gators at Florida St. Seminoles

Location: Doak Campbell Stadium – Tallahassee, FL [Capacity: 82,300]
Weather Forecast: 65°F, clear skies
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)

TV: ABC/ESPN
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Sirius/XM: 212/198
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS No. 22 FSU SEMINOLES
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Record: 7-4 Record: 8-3
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida State -2; O/U 51

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series with Florida State 33-19-2. The Gators have won six straight games against the Seminoles including going 5-0 under Meyer with a 2-0 mark in Tallahassee. UF has won the last six meetings between the two teams by an average of 21.8 points and the last three by an average of 30 points.
» The Gators are 17-1 in rivalry games under Meyer including nine consecutive wins and a 5-0 mark against the Seminoles.
» UF is tied for the national lead with 17 interceptions on the season. Seven have been returned for more than 30 yards – three for touchdowns.
» Florida is back out of the BCS, Associated Press and USA Today top 25 after returning to the rankings three weeks ago. This season is the first time the Gators have been unranked in all three under Meyer. Florida had been listed in every poll since he took over in 2005 until they lost to Mississippi State three weeks ago.
» The Gators’ offense has seen 15 different players overall score a touchdown this year – including defense and special teams.
» Florida is the only school in the nation that has four players with at least three interceptions. Overall, eight Gators have at least one interception.
» The Seminoles slightly out-rank the Gators in all four major statistical averages; however, their statistics come against what many would consider inferior ACC competition. Florida State is 63rd in passing yards (212.6), 33rd in rushing yards (183.4), 37th in points scored (31.7) and 14th in points against (18.8) compared to Florida being 70th in passing yards (202.8), 49th in rushing yards (161.4), 40th in points for (31.3) and 26th in points against (20.2). The teams have not faced a common opponent this season.
» UF under Meyer is 42-1 when holding an opponent under 16 points, 29-3 when shutting an opponent out in the fourth quarter, 38-3 when holding an opponent to 35 percent or less on third down, 39-2 when giving up two or less big plays (15-yard run/25-yard pass) and 33-3 when the Gators defense scores or creates three turnovers.
» FSU’s Fisher has faced UF 16 times while an assistant at Auburn, LSU and Florida State; Florida is 11-5 in those contests (4-2 vs. Auburn, 4-3 vs. LSU, 3-0 vs. LSU).
» Gators defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, while defensive backs coach at Wake Forest (1991-93), faced the Seminoles three times and won every meeting.
» Florida freshman offensive lineman Chaz Green and Florida State’s Christian Green both attended Tampa Catholic High School. Gators defensive lineman Glen Watson and the Seminoles’ Anthony Porterfield both went to Escambia High School. FSU WR Jared Haggins attended Lakeland High School with a number of UF’s seniors.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

FLORIDA
» Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley…who had thrown 156 consecutive passes without an interception dating back to 2009, now has an 8-8 TD/INT ratio this season after throwing an interception last week. He has completed 188-of-304 passes (61.8 percent) for 1,968 yards and has a passer rating of 119.6.
» Freshman QB Trey Burton and redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed…both of whom will spell Brantley at quarterback in Florida’s new three-QB system. Burton set a school record and SEC freshman record by scoring six touchdowns in a single game against Kentucky. He has 12 scores on the season, has played five positions and is second on the team in rushing (64 carries for 316 yards). Reed got his first meaningful snaps behind center two weeks, going 16-of-29 for 180 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. He also ran 40 times for 186 yards with five more scores.
» Junior running back Jeff Demps…who is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and still leads the Gators in rushing (487 yards) after missing two full games and being limited in six others. He was Florida’s leading rusher in its first five games of the season.
» Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey..who returned to action for the first time in over a month against Georgia and has 34 carries for 227 yards (along with 18 receptions for 173 yards) and five touchdowns this year.
» Redshirt freshman WR/kick returner Andre Debose…who set a school single-season record with his second kickoff return touchdown two weeks ago. With an 88-yard return against LSU and a 99-yard return against South Carolina, he is the only freshman nationally with two in 2010 and one of only two players nationally with two in 2010. He is one of the reasons why the Gators rank No. 5 nationally and No. 1 in the SEC in kickoff returns with a 26.4 average.
» Sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr.…who is quickly becoming one of Florida’s most important pass catchers. He was the team’s leading receiver against Mississippi State and caught three passes for 46 yards against Georgia and another three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt the following week.
» Senior punter Chas Henry…who is the end-all be-all of Florida’s kicking game now that he has taken over for junior Caleb Sturgis (back) as the team’s field goal kicker. Henry had missed five-straight field goal attempts (one negated by penalty) before nailing back-to-back kicks in the fourth quarter and overtime a month ago.
» Florida’s secondary…which has intercepted 13 balls this season. Starters senior safety Ahmad Black (three), junior CB Janrois Jenkins (three), redshirt sophomore CB Jeremy Brown (three), and junior S Will Hill (three) have accounted for all but one of the unit’s picks.
» Black…who has led Florida in tackles seven times this season: vs. South Carolina (career-high 16), LSU (13), Georgia (12), Miami (10), Mississippi State (10), USF (8) and Vanderbilt (4). He is tops on the team overall with 96 tackles, including nine for loss.

FLORIDA STATE
» QB Christian Ponder…who leads his team in offense having passed for 1,817 yards and 17 touchdowns to go along with eight interceptions. He has also rushed 88 times for 159 yards and four scores. Ponder did not play in last year’s game due to injury.
» WR Bert Reed…who is Ponder’s top pass catcher hauling in 50 balls for 514 yards and two touchdowns this season.
» RBs Chris Thompson and Jermaine Thomas…who have combined for 1,128 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
» LB Nigel Bradham and DE Brandon Jenkins…who lead the Seminoles, respectively, with team bests in tackles (80) and sacks (10).

INJURIES

» Active: Senior C Mike Pouncey (lightheadedness)
» Probable: Junior RB Jeff Demps (foot), junior CB Janoris Jenkins (concussion), redshirt sophomore CB Jeremy Brown (hamstring), redshirt senior LB A.J. Jones (hamstring), sophomore LB Dee Finley (fractured collarbone)
» Questionable: Redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose (ankle)
» Inactives: Redshirt sophomore LT Matt Patchan (broken wrist), junior K Caleb Sturgis (back), freshmen RB Mack Brown, WRs Quinton Dunbar and Chris Dunkley (hamstrings)

Read OGGOA’s Florida Gators at Florida State Seminoles preview after the jump!
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FOUR BITS: Heimerdinger, Brantley, Driskel, FSU

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receivers coach and current Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was diagnosed with cancer recently, leaving the team facility on Wednesday to undergo his first round of chemotherapy. Only 58 years old, Heimerdinger has already had an exemplary NFL career and will attempt to continue doing his job during treatment. He has decided to call plays from the sidelines for Tennessee’s game on Sunday and wishes to do so the remainder of the season as long as his health allows him to. Heimerdinger, a college roommate of Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, was first a Florida graduate assistant in 1980. He returned to the school to coach wide receivers from 1983-87, spending his first year under Shanahan (the offensive coordinator at the time) and his tenure under head coaches Charley Pell and Galen Hall. OGGOA sends our thoughts and prayers out to the Heimerdinger family; we hope he has a speedy and full recovery.

2 » Gators fans come in all ages, sexes, shapes and sizes, but it was a 10-month-old having recently undergone surgery for a heart murmur that received a special visit from redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley. Named after the signal caller, Brantley Bowen had a seven-hour surgery to correct his heart problem just days after Florida lost to South Carolina. He is now resting comfortably and expected to make a full recovery. With both parents huge Gators fans, Brantley spent an hour-and-a-half with the family and even brought a long a gift basket including toys and autographs that his father has prepared for the occasion. “It makes me more proud that I did name my son after him,” Brantley Bowden’s mother Maegan McGalliard told the Orlando Sentinel. “It kind of makes me proud to be a Gator.”

3 » Five/four-star Florida quarterback commit Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) has almost arrived in Gainesville, FL. In just over a month, Driskel will enroll early at the University of Florida and begin his mission to become the Gators’ signal caller of the future. While some have been so impressed with Driskel’s high school performances that they already want him to supplant Brantley or any other quarterback on the team, the high school senior is taking the hype in stride and just trying to do the best he can with the opportunities he’s provided. Nevertheless, his high school head coach Nate Gierke told The Gainesville Sun that Driskel is truly something special. “He’s an unbelievable football player. He’s the best high school player I’ve ever seen,” Gierke said. “What he’s done for our team this year, it’s just remarkable. He’s got that innate talent to make things happen. He’s done that for four years for me.”

4 » When talking about Saturday’s game against the Florida State Seminoles, considering which team “needs the win more” is basically irrelevant with any regard to predicting a winner. With that being said, The Florida Times-Union covered both sides of the argument, addressing why both schools could really use a victory this weekend. A win for Florida, according to Michael DiRocco, would extend their streak over FSU to seven games, help the team get a better bowl game, quiet critics and assist in recruiting. Garry Smits, on the other hand, believes a victory for Florida State will end their difficult losing streak, earn them a state championship, get head coach Jimbo Fisher off on the right foot and send-off a senior class – that has been through a lot – the right way.

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Montana, Fisher, Whitson

1 » Reports coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp have former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin back with the team – though he is, of course, being kept out of action. After spending the night in the hospital, Harvin was seen on the practice field Friday morning exchanging pleasantries with players and coaches before heading inside the facility. All word from inside camp is that he is feeling much better and on the road to recovery from his severe migraine attack Thursday.

2 » Earlier this week, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana was a guest on The Matt Minkus Show. He discussed a number of topics but, most importantly to OGGOA readers, gave an endorsement of Denver Broncos rookie QB Tim Tebow. “I think he’s going to be fine. I think one of the things that people forget – they’re so worried and concerned about changing his motion. I’m not as concerned about changing his motion as just him learning footwork. I think that’s the most difficult part for him,” Montana said. “Today, they spent more time in the shotgun than taking snaps anyway. When you look at where he played – in the SEC – he’s not a D-III player playing against teams that are obscure and players who might be obscure. [He’s] playing against pretty good teams week-in and week-out. I think he’s definitely got the ability to have a successful career. You saw him the other night – made a couple great throws. He’s physical and he’s tough and he’s going to put in the work that’s necessary for him to get better. And I think that’s probably the biggest key.”

3 » New Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher, who has failed to beat Florida in his last three years as the team’s offensive coordinator, has decided to begin referring to the Gators as “that little team down the road” rather than their proper name. Cute decision, even if it is a pretty weak response to Florida head coach Urban Meyer only calling FSU the “school out west.” Also notable is that Fisher’s statement is blatantly incorrect. The University of Florida enrolls over 10,000 more students (50,691 vs. 40,225) and is more than five times the size (2,000 acres vs. 395.15 acres) of Florida State University. Oh, and by the way, UF has outscored FSU by 90 points (127-37) in Fisher’s three games with the team. OGGOA‘s universal mantra? Win – then talk.

4 » The following was written for OGGOA by Darren Heitner of SportsAgentBlog.com

The much talked about and debated NCAA “no-agent” rule could end up hurting an incoming Florida baseball player who is recognized as one of the best pitching prospects in the country. Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, recently decided that he would not sign with the San Diego Padres and would instead play at least three years for the Gators. Unfortunately, his student-athlete status may be at risk after a couple of articles mentioned that his advisor might have been negotiating directly with the Padres. The no-agent rule specifically states that a player may not have his advisor speak directly to a team on his behalf or even be in the presence of the team when the player is negotiating his deal. There is no word yet as to whether the NCAA is investigating this matter.

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FOUR BITS: Dwyer HS, FSU, California, Bailey

1 » The Florida Gators‘ two commitments from Dwyer High School, five-star safety Matt Elam and four-star tight end Gerald Christian, got a visit from recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales on Tuesday, who also took time to meet with their teammate and three-star cornerback Robert Clark. [OGGOA Exclusive:] It is expected that Meyer will pay a visit to Dwyer in the coming days and offer Clark a scholarship (if he has not been offered one already), especially after learning that both Lane and Monte Kiffin of the Tennessee Volunteers attended Dwyer practice on Tuesday pushing hard for Clark in hopes that he could sway Elam.

2 » Over the last few days, Florida has lost out on two of the top 2010 recruits in the country to the Florida State Seminoles. First, it was four-star linebacker Jeff Luc (Port St. Lucie, FL) who liked the transition from Bobby Bowden to head coach Jimbo Fisher. According to reports Wednesday morning, five-star cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale, FL) has also committed to FSU. Joyner, considered the No. 1 overall CB recruit in the country, and Luc were both highly regarded prospects by Gators, though neither were strong leans to Florida.

3 » Four-star wide receiver Kenny Stills (Carlsbad, CA) has narrowed his list to two schools: the Gators and the Oklahoma Sooners. Stills, who will announce on Dec. 18, said the Miami Hurricanes still have a shot but not a great one. The Gators have already pulled one recruit from California for 2010, four-star CB Joshua Shaw (Palmdale, CA), and many believe that head coach Urban Meyer is looking for the trifecta with Stills and five-star defensive end Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA).

4 » Florida is the early leader for Sterling Bailey (Gainesville, GA), a 2011 defensive end who is expected to be rated a four-star prior to his senior year of high school. “I could say [the Gators are out in front],” Bailey told JC Shurburtt of ESPN. “It was a surprising offer at first because they were not sending me much in the mail. My coach called me up and told me that Florida had offered. At first, I didn’t believe him. Then, I called and got on the phone with Urban Meyer. He told me that they were glad to offer me a scholarship and that when they saw me on film, it was a no-brainer.”

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