- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- There is very little middle ground when it comes to evaluating Florida’s 2009 17-member signing class.
Eight became starters, seven turned into busts and two others are role players -- including one who has driven two separate coaching staffs crazy. Seven of those starters have done so for multiple seasons.
That’s not a bad ratio. Most coaches would be ecstatic if 50 percent of every signing class developed into starters, even if it also meant half weren’t going to make much impact, if any, on the program.
Of course, it’s impossible to know that on signing day. It’s only several years later that a coach can found out how good of a job he did.
"You judge a recruiting class after it’s been on your campus for two or three years," Florida coach Will Muschamp has previously said. "Everybody wants to judge it in February and rank them and say this class is great. That’s ridiculous to be able to rank a class in February when these guys haven’t even stepped on campus yet and been through a spring practice and been in fall camp.
"I’ve been around a lot of guys who were two-stars who ended up playing in the NFL for a really long time. They were really good players. And I’ve been around some five-stars who couldn’t play."
Here’s a look back at the 2009 class:
Then-coach Urban Meyer signed eight players who started at least one season: LB Jelani Jenkins, RB Mike Gillislee, LB Jon Bostic, TE Jordan Reed, S Josh Evans, C Jonotthan Harrison, G Jon Halapio and OT Xavier Nixon. All but Gillislee started multiple seasons, and five (Bostic, Reed, Jenkins, Gillislee and Nixon) earned All-SEC honors at least once in their careers.
The most productive player in that group is Bostic, who has started every game the past two seasons and finished his career with 237 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and five interceptions. He was the unquestioned leader of the defense the past two seasons.
Jenkins had an injury-riddled 2012 but still finished his career with 182 tackles, six sacks and three interceptions. He redshirted in 2009 and decided to bypass his final season for the NFL. Evans played the best football of his career in 2012, leading the Gators with 83 tackles and finishing his career with 154 tackles and five interceptions.
Reed signed as a quarterback, redshirted in 2009, rotated with John Brantley and Trey Burton in 2010, and was converted to tight end in 2011. Despite having never played the position before, Reed caught 79 passes for 945 yards and six touchdowns. Reed also threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 328 yards and five touchdowns.
Gillislee was stuck behind Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey for three seasons, but finally got his chance to start in 2012 and flourished in the pro-style offense. Gillislee rushed for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns to become UF’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.
Halapio has started 28 consecutive games (33 overall), and Harrison has started 27 consecutive games (27 overall), and both are scheduled to start at right guard and center, respectively, again in 2013. Nixon started 33 games in his career, including the last five of his freshman season.
Meyer compared WR Andre Debose to Percy Harvin, but Debose hasn’t come anywhere close to being half the player Harvin was at Florida. Debose has made his biggest impact as a kick returner (he already holds the school record with four kickoff returns for touchdowns) but attitude, work ethic and consistency issues have kept him from seeing much time on offense.
It’s a shame because Debose probably has the most athletic ability of any receiver on the roster and could be the playmaker the Gators have been desperately seeking for the past three seasons. He has one more season remaining, and the hope is that he’ll finally figure things out and become someone the coaching staff can trust.
OL Kyle Koehne has worked at center, guard and tackle throughout his career and has started four games, but is mainly an injury fill-in. His versatility makes him valuable, although he might find himself a more permanent home in 2013 with the additions of several incoming players.
DT Gary Brown turned into one of the biggest busts in school history. Brown, who was ESPN’s No. 2 defensive tackle and the No. 23 overall player, was dismissed from the team after his arrest for allegedly striking two women at an off-campus party.
Two other signees (LB/S Dee Finley, TE Desmond Parks) eventually transferred. Finley, ESPN’s No. 2 safety, failed to qualify in 2008 and spent a year at a prep school before enrolling in 2009. He never played much and left in the middle of the 2011 season after compiling a 12 tackles in 19 games.
Parks never played in a game in two seasons before transferring.
OL Nick Alajajian, WR Stephen Alli, DE Kedric Johnson and DT Edwin Herbert have played in a combined 94 games in their careers. Only Alli (three catches for 17 yards) and Johnson (nine tackles) have compiled any stats. Alajajian, who was converted to defensive tackle, never started a game. Alajajian and Johnson missed the 2012 season with injuries.