Four-star DE Gerald Willis III picks Gators

Two days after losing a four-star running back, the Florida Gators added an equally highly-rated defensive end in Gerald Willis III (New Orleans, LA).

Willis (6-foot-4, 247 pounds), ranked No. 49 overall in the nation by Rivals.com, committed to the Gators at halftime of the 2014 Under Armour All-American Game, choosing Florida over LSU.

He is rated as the fifth-best player at his position nationally and sixth-best prospect from the state of Louisiana.

Willis is the second member of his family to commit to a college other than LSU, despite his mother, April Justin, being a huge fan of the hometown Tigers. His brother, 2013 safety Landon Collins, chose Alabama over LSU to his mother’s displeasure. Justin was seen on ESPN shaking her head and waving her hands at Collins’s decision; she later said in an interview that her son made the wrong choice.

The Gators’ 19th overall commitment, Willis is the fourth defensive lineman to join Florida’s 2014 class. He is UF’s third highest-rated commitment thus far in the cycle.

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2014 RB Dalvin Cook flips from Florida to FSU

A year filled with devastating news for the Florida Gators ended in a similar fashion as the program lost its highest-rated 2014 commitment, four-star running back Dalvin Cook (Miami, FL), to the in-state rival Florida State Seminoles on the final day of 2013.

ESPNU casually broke the news of Cook’s flip with a graphic and simple mention on Tuesday evening during a taped show emanating from practices ahead of the 2014 Under Armour All-American Game.

Though he first made a pledge to continue his career at Florida back on April 6, when he decided to flip his commitment from Clemson, Cook began wavering as the Gators fell apart throughout the season.

Florida finished 4-8 while the team Cook ultimately committed to, Florida State, is 12-0 and playing for a national title next week.

He told Scout.com‘s Amy Campbell that he came to the final decision to play for FSU two months ago. Cook has spent much of that time claiming he was “100 percent” committed to UF. Dozens of pictures of Cook doing the Gator Chomp have found their way on social media over the last few days.

The Gators now only have three commitments participating in the Under Armour All-American Game, set to air live on ESPN at 4 p.m. on Thursday, a number that could decrease in the coming days or weeks.

A pair of four-star Florida pledges – wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, FL) and cornerback J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, FL) – are also wavering in their commitments. Lane has said he plans to attend school with Cook and has an official visit scheduled at FSU, while Jackson is heavily considering Miami.

2015 four-star WR Da’Vante Phillips (Miami, FL), Cook’s teammate at Miami Central High School, decommitted from UF on Dec. 24. He had made a verbal pledge on July 27.

Cook, the 30th ranked player in the Class of 2014, was considered a must-get prospect for the Gators this recruiting cycle. His innate playmaking ability was sorely needed by Florida, which would likely have found a way to get him on the field right away.

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FOUR BITS: Brissett, Johnson, HS All-Americans

1 » Will quarterback Jacoby Brissett be spending his junior season with the Florida Gators? That is one of many unanswered questions lingering in the wake of Florida’s 33-23 loss to Louisville in the 2013 Sugar Bowl on Tuesday. Brissett addressed his future after the game when questioned by the Palm Beach Post. “I haven’t decided yet,” he said. “It depends on how I feel when I get back to Gainesville and have a talk with Coach [Will] Muschamp. You grow relationships for two years with some of these people you’re around every day, and it’s hard to leave them. It depends on how I feel.” With sophomore Jeff Driskel entranced as the Gators’ starter, Brissett would likely be returning in a back-up role. He has yet to use a redshirt season and Driskel is an unlikely candidate to leave as a junior meaning Brissett, should he stay, would run the risk of either never being a full-time starter or doing so for just one year elsewhere if he transferred following the 2013 season. Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels said last week that he has suggested that Brissett leave even though he thinks he will stay for at least one more year.

2 » The Post also caught up with Florida sophomore running back Chris Johnson after the game and asked him how he felt about being ejected from the game after he threw a punch following the team’s onside kick attempt to start the second half. “Bad discipline on my part, but you learn from your mistakes and move on,” he said. “It was frustration. The guy was riding me a little bit. If I could do it differently, I’d walk away from it. It sucks. In my mind, I feel like I cost us the Sugar Bowl.” Johnson’s personal foul was one of two on the play, and the Cardinals started at the Gators’ 19-yard line as a result. One play later, Louisville took a 30-10 lead and all but put the game away.

3 » Seven of Florida’s 2013 commitments will compete in the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game on Friday at 5 p.m. (ESPN). Four-star wide receiver Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL), five-star defensive back Vernon Hargreaves (Tampa, FL), four-star DB Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL), three-star offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (Delray Beach, FL), four-star DB Keanu Neal (Bushnell, FL) and four-star RB Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) will play for the black team, while four-star linebacker Matt Rolin (Ashburn, VA) suit up for the white team. The Gators also have three targets in the game with four-star defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, FL), four-star defensive end DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, FL) and four-star DE Elijah Daniel (Avon, IN) suiting up for the black team. Walker, an early enrollee, is reportedly set to visit UF following the game and may flip from his commitment to Alabama.

4 » The 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, set to air live on NBC on Saturday at 1 p.m., features four Florida commitments as four-star WR Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, FL), four-star LB Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL), four-star DE Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL) and four-star DB Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL) are members of the East Team. The Gators also have a number of targets in the game including four-star WR Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, GA), who plans to enroll early at the school of his choice on Monday.

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DT Caleb Brantley decommits from Gators

The Florida Gators’ 2013 recruiting class has lost yet another prominent member as four-star defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, FL) publicly announced his decommitment from the program on Wednesday.

Brantley officially became the second member of Florida’s 2013 class on Jan. 28, 2012 when he originally committed to join the program. He has considered decommitting in the past but ultimately decided to remain pledged to the Gators.

He obviously had a change of this week while in St. Petersburg, FL for the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game.

“Just Decommitted from Florida by text message !” he wrote on Twitter. “It is what it is ! I aint even playing I decommitted ! ON GOD !”

Soon after Brantley’s announcement, Florida four-star defensive end commit Joey Ivie (Dade City, FL) reached out to him in an attempt to ease his concerns.

“Call me when you can. Don’t let BS screw up your future man,” he wrote. “Your a Gator, its your dream school like mine. Haters gonna hate.”

Brantley was the Gators’ only defensive tackle commitment for 2013 aside from four-star JUCO transfer Darious Cummings (Scooba, MS). He supposedly grew up a fan of the team as his entire family roots for Florida.

With redshirt senior Omar Hunter graduating and junior Sharrif Floyd likely leaving early for the 2013 NFL Draft, playing time in the middle of the defensive line is up for grabs next season.

Though Brantley has decommitted and said he plans to take visits, recruiting analysts such as Blake Alderman from InsidetheGators.com believe there is a high likelihood that he could recommit to the program within the next month.

Either way, he is the eighth former pledge to decommit from the Gators this recruiting cycle. Three-star offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (Delray Beach, FL) is the only one of those eight to recommit as of press time while Brantley and four-star wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, GA) remain in limbo.

UF now has 24 total pledges including 23 that count as part of the 2013 class.

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FOUR BITS: Freshman All-SEC, Harvin, Siler, UA

1 » Four Florida Gators football players were named to the 2012 Freshman All-SEC Team on Thursday. Left tackle D.J. Humphries was the only player from the offensive side of the ball to be honored, but the Gators cleaned up on the defense with three placements – Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr., defensive end Jonathan Bullard and LB Antonio Morrison. Florida was one of three teams (Alabama, Texas A&M) with four players selected to the Freshman All-SEC Team.

2 » The Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday placed wide receiver Percy Harvin on injured reserve, abruptly ending his season. Harvin had not played since injuring his ankle in Week 9 but up to that point was a candidate for Most Valuable Player consideration. He led Minnesota in receptions in virtually every game he played, racking up 677 yards and three reception touchdowns to go along with a rushing score and return touchdown. Harvin reportedly suffered a grade-three ankle sprain (torn ligament) on Nov. 4 and has been unable to get healthy enough where team doctors would clear him to return to the field. The offseason was a rough one for Harvin, who appeared to get over his career-long migraine issues but was unhappy with how little the Vikings organization was using him on the field, reportedly noting privately that he wanted more touches in order to prove his worth and value. Minnesota and head coach Leslie Frazier heeded his request and used him plenty through the first nine weeks of the season. Harvin will enter the final year of his rookie contract in 2013. He was hoping to sign a new deal in the upcoming offseason though those plans may be on hold as the franchise could wish to wait and see how he performs next year.

3 » Kansas City Chiefs LB Brandon Siler has been relegated to reserve duty all season long. After being signed by the Chiefs prior to the 2011 season, Siler was expected to start for the team but tore his Achilles’ in the preseason and missed the entire year. Kansas City re-signed him to a one-year deal before 2012 got underway with it being known that he would likely be a backup who would see relatively limited action during games. That all changed last week when the player in front of Siler, Jovan Belcher, was involved in a murder-suicide that rocked the team, the NFL and the country as a whole. Siler moved back into the starting lineup in place of Belcher on Sunday. “All I know is there are two families out there, and there’s a little baby girl out there who is going to get my prayers every day for the rest of my life,” he told the The Kansas City Star. “That’s what’s really important to me.” Siler said he handled the situation his “own way” without the assistance of grief counselors but just wishes there was something he could have done. “I went through it a hundred times in my mind, and I couldn’t think of anything,” he said. “There are a lot of what-ifs, it drives you crazy. You have to cope with it and deal with it. It’s real and it happened.”

4 » Six Gators commitments have been named to the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game, which will take place on Jan. 4 and air live on ESPN. All playing for the black team, the Florida pledges that will suit up include four-star wide receiver Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL), four-star running back Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL), five-star defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL), four-star DB Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL), four-star DB Keanu Neal (Bushnell, FL) and four-star defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, FL).

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FOUR BITS: Tebow fulfills a wish, signed book special offer, Vogelbach gone?, Tucker back

1 » Former Florida Gators now Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is one of a handful of athletes who recently participated in ESPN’s collaboration with the Make-A-Wish Foundation titled My Wish. These segments, which will air on SportsCenter, feature athletes fulfilling the wishes of ill children by meeting them, hanging out and sometimes participating in an activity. Tebow’s segment, in which he meets up with 16-year-old Adam Hubbs (“who suffers from a rare immunodeficiency disorder known as MonoMac”) will air on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Below is a preview of Tebow’s segment:

2 » Speaking of Tebow, HarperCollins, the publishers of his memoir Through My Eyes, got in touch with OGGOA to make you all aware that there is currently a contest being run in which 10 lucky fans can enter to win a limited edition signed copy of Tebow’s book. All you have to do is click here and enter your e-mail address! Head over and let us know if you are one of the lucky winners. Contest concludes July 20.

3 » According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs are making a push to pluck first baseman Daniel Vogelbach from the Gators. A second-round pick by Chicago in the 2011 MLB Draft, Vogelbach has already signed with Florida to play college baseball next year should he not work out a professional contract. However, the Tribune reports that the team’s scouting director “normally likes ultra-athletic players, but he fell in love with the 5-foot-11, 240-pounder’s big-time power and was impressed that he dropped about 40 pounds from his junior to senior year.” The Cubs may end up paying Vogelbach nearly $1 million more than recommended for a player drafted at his position in the second round.

4 » Former Gators six-time All-American and four-time Southeastern Conference track champion Erin Tucker (1994-99) has been hired by the University of Florida as an assistant under head coach Mike Holloway. “It’s kind of surreal,” Tucker said in a school release. “When I was at Florida in 1994 it was definitely not the team that it is now. During my time working with athletes at other schools I have seen the program grow and I’d like to think that I had a little something to do with that as an athlete in terms of the ideas that we left when we were done running and helped set the foundation. It is like a dream come true, but I’m hesitant to say that because I know that ‘once a Gator, always a Gator’ and I’ve never not been a Gator. It feels really good to come home again and do what I love.”

Extra BIT » Four members of Florida’s impressive 2011 softball recruiting class will be participating in the Under Armour All-American Game this weekend in Orlando, FL. Pitchers Alyssa Bache and Lauren Haeger will be joined by third baseman Bailey Castro and infielder Jessica Damico as four of 30 players invited to the game.

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Gorman commits to Gators at Under Armour game

After a difficult season and a head coaching change, the Florida Gators and their fans have been hearing some negative recruiting news for the last few weeks. The same was not true Wednesday during the 2011 Under Armour All-American Game as four-star safety Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL) committed to the Gators late in the first quarter.

Gorman, the No. 8 safety (No. 85 overall recruit) according to ESPNU and No. 10 safety (No. 174 overall) according to Rivals, chose Florida over Ohio State and Miami and was one of five Gators commitments who played in the game.

Also participating were five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) and four-stars tight end A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL), athlete/S De’Ante Saunders (DeLand, FL) and wide receiver Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL).

Driskel accounted for one of the highlights of the night when he avoided a pass rush and took off for a 63-yard touchdown run. He finished with a team-high 80 yards on the ground and had a potential 70-yard touchdown pass dropped at the end of the first half. Leonard was instrumental in Driskel’s explosive run by coming up with a huge block on the play; the duo celebrated with Gator Chomps after the score.

The first official commitment under new head coach Will Muschamp, Gorman becomes Florida’s 16th recruit for their growing 2011 class.

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FOUR BITS: Temple, Gorman, Hounshell, Mularkey

1 » New Temple Owls head coach Steve Addazio has made his first hire, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. Addazio has tabbed Florida Gators offensive assistant Justin Frye as his offensive line coach. Frye played under Addazio at Indiana and joined Florida’s staff in 2009.

2 » Four-star safety recruit Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL) plans to announce his commitment on Wednesday at the 2011 Under Armour All-American Game and is expected to choose between the Gators and Ohio State Buckeyes. Florida – which desperately needs safety help in the 2011 class – is considered by recruiting analysts to be the favorite to land Gorman. He is ranked as the No. 8 safety (No. 85 overall recruit) by ESPNU and No. 10 safety (No. 174 overall) by Rivals. OGGOA will update you on Gorman’s decision tomorrow.

Current UF commits also participating include five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) and four-stars tight end A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL), athlete/S De’Ante Saunders (DeLand, FL) and wide receiver Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL).

3 » One Florida commitment who will not be enrolling early next week as originally planned is three-star offensive lineman Chase Hounshell (Kirkland, OH). Hounshell, who remains committed to the Gators, said he will not be graduating early from high school and will instead take his time making his final decision. “I just don’t want to rush the most important decision of my life,” he told the Lake County News-Herald. “I was supposed to be moving down Wednesday, but it looks like I’ll be going back to school.” The only other school Hounshell is considering as of press time is Notre Dame.

4 » Former Florida tight end Mike Mularkey, currently the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, will be interviewing for the head coaching jobs with both the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns at some point this week. Mularkey has served as a position coach and coordinator most of his post-playing career but was head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2004-05.

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