Stefon Diggs spurns Florida, commits to Maryland

Many believed the Florida Gators failed to close the 2012 recruiting cycle strong by not securing an uncommitted prospect on National Signing Day, but the potential to add a five-star player a position of need remained a strong possibility heading into Friday evening. Unfortunately for Florida, wide receiver Stefon Diggs (Olney, MD) announced that he would not be travelling down to Gainesville, FL to play college football and would instead stay in his home state and play for the Maryland Terrapins next fall.

Having narrowed his choices down to Maryland, Auburn, Florida and Ohio State, Diggs decided to hold off on making his destination known on National Signing Day (Feb. 1) in order to see more campuses and allow himself additional time to consider his options.

He took an official visit to OSU two weeks ago and checked out his hometown school last weekend before sitting down with his friends and family to make a final decision.

The Gators were happy to wait for his answer, knowing that landing a player of Diggs’s caliber at a position of need was of paramount importance, especially seeing as the team had already lost five-star WR Nelson Agholor (Tampa, FL) to USC.

The No. 8 player in the nation and second-best at his position according to Rivals.com, Diggs possesses a great combination of size and speed and would have been the third wide receiver in UF’s 2012 recruiting class.

Florida already has four-star Latroy Pittman (Citra, FL) and three-star Raphael Andrades (Tallahassee, FL) committed for 2012, though the former may be moved to the secondary and the latter is a candidate to redshirt his freshman season.

The Gators, in dire need of a game-breaking pass catcher, chose to focus their efforts on Diggs and Agholor rather than continuing to also press wide receivers like four-stars JUCO transfer Courtney Gardner (Roseville, CA) and Avery Johnson (Pompano Beach, FL) for a commitment. Either could have been a nice addition to Florida’s class, but they are instead headed to Oklahoma and LSU, respectively.

Diggs jumped onto the scene for the Gators during the 2011 Friday Night Lights camp in Gainesville. He impressed Florida’s coaches his fellow participants with his great play, and he immediately became a target for offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

When Weis left the team after the regular season, UF lost ground with Diggs, but new coordinator Brent Pease picked up the slack and promised the recruit that the Gators would continue to run a pro-style offense that would best utilize his talents.

In the end Florida’s pitch was simply not enough to pull him out of his home state, where he will have the opportunity to play good friend four-star running back Wes Brown (Olney, MD) as well as a number of other players he has known throughout his life.

The Gators are close to shutting the doors on recruiting in 2012 with 23 commitments including 14 on defense, eight on offense and one on special teams. Florida, however, is still in play for three-star JUCO offensive lineman Fehoko Fanaika (San Mateo, CA). UF addressed their issues on both lines of scrimmage but failed to land the caliber and number of offensive playmakers they desperately needed heading into next season.

Chomp Away: Do you think the Gators failed to close out the 2012 recruiting cycle properly or was Florida’s inability to secure late commitments simply a string of bad luck? Provide your thoughts and discuss this latest development in the comments section.

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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

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

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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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Previewing Florida’s 2011 Friday Night Lights

Updated at 5:40 p.m.

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 are a list of the top 10 players that share mutual interest in attending Florida as well as list of the top five most talented prospects who will be camping in Gainesville, FL. Neither list is sorted in any particular order.

DE Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, GA) –
The No. 5 player at his position in 2012, Jenkins recently attended Dawg Night but has not narrowed down his list into a top-five yet. He will visit Alabama after taking his trip to Florida and has already spent time with Auburn, Georgia Tech and Tennessee.

DE Tyriq McCord (Tampa, FL) –
Slotted two spots below Jenkins, McCord visited UF with his parents in late June and is now returning one month later. South Carolina and North Carolina are also working hard to eventually win him over and earn his services, but it is believed that his final two are Florida and USC with the Gators out in front.

TE Kent Taylor (Land O’Lakes, FL) –
The top-ranked tight end in the nation according to Rivals, Taylor has a myriad of offers on the table but appears to have narrowed his choices down to Florida and Penn State. His father seems to favor UF, but Taylor grew up as a PSU fan. Other schools in contention for his services include Florida State (where he nearly committed in the spring), Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

Check out the other nine players featured in this post…after the break!

Continue Reading » Previewing Florida’s 2011 Friday Night Lights

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