Previewing Florida’s 2014 Friday Night Lights

By Adam Silverstein
July 25, 2014

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 host top-tier prospects over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough while coaching up the recruits.

The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 25, so much so that covering every player that plans to step on the field is a near impossibility. Below are a list of 10 players (in no particular order) to keep an eye on either because of their talent or high level of interest in attending Florida.

OT Martez Ivey (Apopka, FL) –
One of the top offensive tackles in the nation, Ivey is down to Florida and Auburn. His trip to Friday Night Lights should help him feel more comfortable with the Gators, but he will not make a decision until he sees how UF plays in 2014 and determines whether the coaching staff recruiting him will be around next year. A big Florida fan, the Gators are ultimately the team to beat for his services but can just as easily beat themselves and send him across the conference to play for the Tigers.

ATH Ray-Ray McCloud (Tampa, FL) –
McCloud has set his commitment announcement for Monday at 6:30 p.m., and his decision to spend the weekend before that choice is made in Gainesville speaks volumes. Florida is the favorite to pick up one of the most talented athletes in the country but is in competition primarily with UCLA and Clemson. He plays running back, wide receiver and cornerback and will likely do so for the Gators, but as is the case with Ivey, will be keeping an eye on how the team performs in 2014 even if he does choose UF.

LB Jeffrey Holland (Jacksonville, FL) –
The best linebacker in the state, Holland and Florida seemed to be a perfect match for a long time, but Auburn has come on strong as of late. In fact, many recruiting analysts believe the Tigers might actually be in the lead for Holland at this time. Playing in the Gators’ favor is the fact that the team can get Holland on campus basically any time they want for unofficial visits. He visited on Wednesday, two days before Friday Night Lights, and will be back Friday as UF hopes to impress its top target at the position.

OL Jalen Merrick (New Smyrna Beach, FL) –
Merrick is ready to pull the trigger and expected to do just for Florida on Friday. Though he carries a three-star rating, his offer list is huge with the likes of Alabama, Florida State, Miami and South Carolina all pining for his services. Offensive line coach Mike Summers has played a big role in swaying Merrick toward the Gators, and an early offer from UF likely gave the program the edge in landing this underrated lineman.

RB Dexter Williams (Orlando, FL) –
Currently committed to Miami, Williams has considered flipping to Florida, and a trip to visit the Gators may be enough to get him grab hold of the cord in preparation of letting it rip. Williams plans to take all five of his official visits, meaning he could say or leave the Hurricanes at any time. UF will likely tell Williams that they want him to be a pure running back and have other plans for McCloud in hopes of getting both in the fold for 2015.

OL Isaiah Prince (Greenbelt, MD) –
One of the top offensive linemen on Florida’s recruiting board, Prince is an out-of-state prospect making a concerted effort to take his first visit to Gainesville. He is highly-coveted and does not appear anywhere near a decision at this time. Prince told Rivals that Friday Night Lights is the only camp he is going to visit. He made a tour of the South this week with trips to Alabama on Wednesday and Auburn on Thursday.

DE Bryan Cowart (Seffner, FL) –
The consensus top-ranked player in the nation, Cowart is a local product who claimed earlier this month that Oregon and Florida are leaders with the Ducks currently edging the Gators. UF has no choice but to put a full-court press on Cowart as it hopes to keep one of the most talented prospects to come out of the state in years at home. Florida will not only have to fend off Oregon for Cowart’s services but also Alabama, Clemson and USC. There is a long way to go before Cowart ultimately makes his decision, but the Gators want him to be the team’s next great Buck linebacker.

WR George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, FL) –
Florida has been all over Campbell since the beginning of his recruitment but faces heavy competition from in-state rival Florida State as well as Clemson and LSU. Like some of his classmates, Campbell wants to see how the Gators perform in 2014 before making a decision and will likely wait until January to choose his college. Florida needs to get him on campus as often as possible before then and having Campbell at Friday Night Lights around a number of other top prospects will certainly do the trick for the summer.

WR Ryan Davis (St. Petersburg, FL) –
In Gainesville just one week ago for an unofficial visit, Davis will be back to look at the Gators again on Friday. UF is looking at Davis as a perfect slot receiver for offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s spread attack, and the program is doing everything it can to lock up a commitment from him sooner than later. He has already decided that Florida will get an official visit when the time comes.

DT Kendrick Norton (Jacksonville, FL) –
Visiting Florida on Wednesday with Holland, his teammate at Trinity Christian Academy, Norton is the top defensive tackle target on the Gators’ board. He was previously committed to Florida State but is now considering UF, Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee with a decision not likely to come until January. The Gators have offered Norton the chance to play defensive line while other schools hope to transition him to the offensive side of the ball, something which could certainly work in Florida’s favor.

Other prospects from the 2015 recruiting cycle who will be in attendance: three-star OL Brandon Sandifer (Warner Robins, GA), three-star LB Reggie Walker (Ponchatoula, LA), four-star OL Matthew Burrell, Jr. (Woodbridge, VA), five-star RB Jacques Patrick (Orlando, FL), four-star LB Tevon Coney (Palm Beach Gardens, FL), four-star RB T.J. Simmons (Lakeland, FL).

Prospects already committed to the Gators that will be in attendance include: three-star OL Tyler Jordan (Jacksonville, FL), three-star ATH Jalen Julius (Orlando, FL), three-star TE Camrin Knight (Tallahassee, FL), 2016 DB Chauncey Gardner (Cocoa, FL).

Check out Florida’s updated recruiting classes by clicking here.

Special thanks to recruiting analyst Blake Alderman and recruiting analyst Andrew Spivey for contributing to this post.

Photo Credit: Aaron Daye/The Gainesville Sun


  1. ECFIVESTER says:

    No Ce Ce Jefferson?

  2. Dave Massey says:

    The theme here seems to be that a lot of recruits are waiting to see how Florida plays and whether WM sticks around. That is why I have not been too concerned with the number of commitments Florida has so far. This season is going to go a long way in determining the success of the program over the next five years. A bad season could devastate the program, and a good season can relaunch the championship caliber team that is expected here.

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