Florida Gators recruits and targets to watch on 2012 National Signing Day (and beyond)

Twenty-one members strong, the Florida Gators’ 2012 recruiting class is hoping to expand by a name or two when the vast majority of uncommitted high school football players across the country announce their decisions on National Signing Day. While a handful of others will make their decisions known before or after the date, all but two of Florida’s remaining targets will be involved in ceremonies Wednesday.

Be sure to visit OGGOA’s live coverage of National Signing Day beginning Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. It will feature a live chat and be constantly updated throughout the day with every signed letter of intent (LOI) and new commitment.

Below OGGOA breaks down who the Gators are still waiting to hear from, when they will learn of their decision and some of the latest insights on each player.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs (Olney, MD)
Accolades: Rivals – No. 8 overall (No. 2 WR); ESPNU – No. 13 overall (No. 3 WR)
Leaders: Florida, Ohio State
Contenders: Auburn, Maryland
Skinny: Diggs was favoring the Gators for quite some time until offensive coordinator Charlie Weis left for Kansas. However, when new OC Brent Pease took over, Florida was back in his good graces and stepped up to the top of the pack once again. The Gators desperately need a top wide receiver to fill out their 2012 class and Diggs is the primary target. Though he took a trip to Ohio State last weekend and enjoyed himself, it was his first time looking at the program and meeting head coach Urban Meyer. Diggs has said previously that he wants to play in a pro-style offense, and he has likely developed a much stronger relationship with Florida’s coaching staff.
Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10 (nine days after NSD)

Cornerback Tracy Howard (Miramar, FL)
Accolades: Rivals – No. 13 overall (No. 1 CB); ESPNU – No. 18 overall (No. 1 CB)
Leaders: Florida, Miami
Contenders: Florida State
Skinny: A long-time UF lean, Howard was all but signed, sealed and delivered to the Gators. That is until he took an official visit to Miami last weekend that may very well have flipped his recruitment on its heels. Closer to his home, family and good friends, Miami is an attractive destination for Howard and is believed to be the new leader for his services even though Florida’s coaching staff has been there for him all along. Whether he decides to stick with what he knows the best (the Gators) or stay closer to home is something only his family truly knows at this point.
Announcement: 9:35 a.m. live on ESPNU

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TWO BITS: Hamilton’s commitment, Tebow out

1 » One of two schools vying for the services of five-star defensive end Darius Hamilton (Ramsey, NJ), the Florida Gators were thought to be behind the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in contention for his commitment. The New Jersey boy was expected to stay in-state and play for Rutgers but his thoughts may be in the process of changing when it was reported Thursday morning that the Scarlet Knights’ head coach, Greg Schiano, is on his way to take the same job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hamilton has said that Florida and Rutgers were his final two and planned to make an announcement sometime before National Signing Day on Feb. 1. He was supposed to meet with Schiano on Wednesday, but it is unknown if that visit took place.

Should the Gators miss out on Hamilton and/or five-star athlete Josh Harvey-Clemons (Valdosta, GA), Florida could offer a scholarship to three-star DE Junior Gnonkonde (Lakeland, GA). According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, UF has been calling about the former Georgia Tech commitment but will only have room for him in their class if they miss out on one or both of Hamilton and Harvey-Clemons.

2 » Originally scheduled to participate in the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been forced to withdraw from the event due to the multiple injuries he suffered against the New England Patriots in the second round of the NFL Playoffs. Though Tebow does not need surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, he will not be able to participate in the event from Feb. 9-12. An avid golfer, Tebow was undoubtedly looking forward to the event, and the tournament’s directors were certainly hoping he would be able to play as well.

Extra BIT » No. 5 Florida lacrosse will begin its 2012 campaign with an exhibition match Thursday against England at 6:30 p.m. The Gators are looking to build on consecutive impressive years and hope to win their first national championship in the program’s third season of existence.

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