2016 DB Chauncey Gardner flips to Florida

Though there are eight months left in the 2015 recruiting cycle, the Florida Gators proved Saturday night they also have their eyes set on the distant future, reeling in a commitment from 2016 cornerback Chauncey Gardner II (Cocoa, FL).

Previously committed to the Miami Hurricanes, Gardner flipped his pledge on Saturday by making an announcement on his Twitter account.

“I Would Like To Thank Miami For All The Opportunities They Presented To Me But I’m Taking My Talents To Gainesville #Chomp #GoGators,” he wrote.

Projected as a four-star prospect, Gardner (5-foot-11, 190 lbs.) spent Saturday taking part in a football camp at Florida. It only took him moments after receiving a scholarship offer from the coaching staff to change his allegiance, though there are still 20 months to go before he has to sign his National Letter of Intent.

Rivals.com analyst Woody Womack recently evaluated Gardner as he took part in youth football camps in March (Orlando) and April (Sugar Hill, Georgia).

“[Gardner is] very physical in coverage but does so in a way that wouldn’t draw a penalty flag. It’s clear he loves to hit – something that’s not allowed in a camp setting – but even with the limitations, him he still excelled,” Womack wrote in March.

He came away with a similar evaluation one month later: “He’s fiercely competitive, sometimes to his detriment, but once he learns to hone his emotions he has a chance to be a special prospect.”

Gardner is the third player committed to the Gators for 2016, joining two other cornerbacks in Tre Jackson (Baton Rouge, LA) and Tyler Byrd (Naples, FL).

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WR Phillips becomes Gators’ first 2015 commit

Though the Florida Gators have already made a great start on their 2016 recruiting class with a pair of talented prospects in the fold, head coach Will Muschamp had not yet secured a 2015 player when his program’s annual recruiting showcase, Friday Night Lights, began on Friday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

That was no longer the case by the time the night was over as wide receiver Da’Vante Phillips (Miami, FL) decided make a verbal commitment to the Gators.

Phillips (6-foot-1, 189-pounds) had long been considering committing to Florida and received plenty of help along the way from a current pledge. His Miami Central High School teammate, 2014 four-star running back Dalvin Cook (Miami, FL), has been in his ear constantly trying to convince Phillips to join him in college.

“[Cook] has always told me that he wants me to be a Gator, but he knew it was my decision,” Phillips told InsidetheGators.com‘s Blake Alderman ($). “He never pressured me. He would talk to me about Florida everyday. I am with him most of the time and he always talked about them.”

Cook, ranked 24th in the nation by Rivals, is the Gators’ highest ranked commitment.

Phillips, who chose Florida over offers from Alabama, Florida State, Miami and Tennessee (among others), will likely be rated as a four-star prospect when Rivals‘ first 2015 rankings are officially released. ESPN already has him ranked as a four-star prospect and the No. 11 overall player in the class of 2015 (No. 1 pass catcher).

It is the third-straight recruiting cycle that the Gators’ first commitment has been from a wide receiver. Four-star Ryeshene Bronson (Fort Myers, FL) joined Florida’s 2014 recruiting class on June 14, 2012, but parted ways with UF on May 21. On June 20, the Gators locked up Tyler Byrd (Naples, FL) as the first member of their 2016 class.

Phillips is Florida’s fourth pledge in the last three days.

2014 three-star offensive/defensive tackle Dontae Angus (Philadelphia, PA) committed Wednesday night, 2014 defensive end Justus Reed (Clearwater, FL) made his intentions known on Thursday, and cornerback Tre Jackson became the second member of UF’s 2016 class earlier on Friday.

Check out the Gators’ updated 2014-16 recruiting classes by clicking here.

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2016 CB Tre Jackson, a Florida legacy, commits

Though the weekend of Friday Night Lights is always a big one for prospects in the current recruiting cycle, the Florida Gators are certainly not opposed to looking ahead to the future as the program decided to accept a commitment on Friday from 2016 cornerback Tre Jackson (Baton Rouge, LA).

The son of former Gators wide receiver Jack Jackson, who registered 143 catches for 2,266 yards with 29 touchdowns (including an NCAA-high 15 in 1994) during his three-year career at Florida, Tre Jackson becomes the latest legacy to decide that he will follow in his father’s footsteps and choose UF as his collegiate home.

His father, the 1994 SEC Offensive Player of the Year, was also a consensus first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC selection that season. He decided to forgo his senior season of eligibility and was selected in the fourth round of the 1994 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Jack Jackson would only play in the NFL for two seasons before concluding his career in the AFL.

Tre Jackson said in June that UF was the very first school to offer him a scholarship. He committed to head coach Will Muschamp and tight ends coach Derek Lewis, a native of New Orleans, LA, who has done a terrific job reeling in top talent from his home state.

Though the Gators do not yet have a 2015 pledge, Jackson becomes Florida’s second 2016 commitment, joining wide receiver/cornerback Tyler Byrd (Naples, FL), who announced his decision on June 20.

Jackson (5-foot-9, 165-pounds) also plays wide receiver for University Lab High School.

He is UF’s third commitment in as many days following pledges from three-star 2014 lineman Dontae Angus (New Orleans, LA) on Wednesday and three-star defensive end Justus Reed (Clearwater, FL) on Thursday.

Check out the Gators’ updated 2014 and 2016 recruiting classes by clicking here.

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15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a die-hard Florida Gators fan, does the Gator Chomp after hitting a double off St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitcher Randy Choate, a former Florida State player, on Friday night. [Special thanks to OGGOA reader Mitchell M. for sending this in.]

» Sports Illustrated soccer columnist Grant Wahl penned a terrific column on former Florida striker Abby Wambach, who passed Mia Hamm and set a new career international goals record on Thursday.

» A total of 21 Gators (10 former and 11 current) are presently in Des Moines, IA, competing in the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Athletes participating in the event from June 19-23 have the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia from Aug. 10-18.

Omar Craddock and Will Claye became the first two Florida representatives to qualify on Thursday when they finished one-two in the men’s triple jump. Craddock took the American title with a mark of 17.15m/56-4.25, while Claye finished second with a 17.04m/55-11 jump. Also advancing to Moscow was Ugonna Ndu, who participated at the All-Nigeria Athletics Championships, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 13.4 seconds. Numerous other Gators advanced in their respective disciplines, and OGGOA will provide updates as each event finishes.

» Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, still sidelined with a stress fracture in his right fibula, is finally expected to return to the court in just over a week. According to the Washington Post, Beal will likely be cleared by doctors on July 1, three months after his injury was initially diagnosed. The Wizards were originally hoping Beal would be able to participate in the NBA Summer League games, but it is unlikely that the team takes the risk of putting him into action so soon after he returns from injury. It is more likely that Beal will next play meaningful basketball alongside Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons during 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV.

Check out 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!

Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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Gators land first 2016 commit in WR/CB Tyler Byrd

A rising sophomore at Naples High School, 2016 wide receiver/cornerback Tyler Byrd (Naples, FL) committed to the Florida Gators football team on Thursday.

Byrd attended a football camp in Gainesville, FL, last weekend where he received an offer to play for the Gators. According to the Naples News, which has been covering Byrd’s recruitment and first reported his commitment, Florida is his favorite team and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has been recruiting him since the spring.

“Florida definitely was my first choice,” Byrd told the paper. “All the coaches were high-spirited and fired up. They were really excited about what they were doing and that experience just made me want to go there even more.”

The Gators were the first Division I team to offer Byrd a scholarship.

Though Byrd (6-foot, 190-pounds) announced his commitment Thursday morning, he did not speak with Florida head coach Will Muschamp until the afternoon. According to InsidetheGators.com ($), Muschamp accepted Byrd’s pledge during their conversation.

As a freshman during the 2012 season, Byrd registered 451 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns as a receiver. He also served as an occasional running back and kick returner and even participated in track & field as a sprinter and jumper. Byrd will also play on defense for Naples High next year.

It is unknown if he plans to continue participating in track in college.

“He runs like the wind. He’s big. He’s strong. It was a no-brainer for [the Gators],” Bill Kramer, Byrd’s high school coach, said of the burgeoning prospect. “He is a special talent. We knew that before he walked through the door. He knows it, too. God gave him the ability and he wants to maximize it.”

Florida currently has 10 players committed as part of its 2014 recruiting class but has not received a pledge from any members of the Class of 2015. The Gators must keep Byrd’s commitment for just over 32 months as the earliest he can enroll is Jan. 2016.

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