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Thursday, November 29, 2012
Harris pushes UF class to No. 1

By Derek Tyson

ORLANDO, Fla. -- With the addition of ESPN 150 safety Marcell Harris, Florida has moved to the No. 1 spot in the latest class rankings.

The Trojans had held on to the top spot for a while -- with 16 of their 17 commits in the ESPN 300, and 11 in the ESPN 150. But Harris becoming Florida’s 10th ESPN 150 prospect and the 16th four-star recruit in UF's 22-player class was enough to overtake USC for the No. 1 ranking.

"We have been saying for weeks that Florida was a very close second to USC, and adding ESPN 150 S Marcell Harris finally pushed the Gators past the Trojans and into the No. 1 spot in the class rankings," said ESPN national recruiting analyst Craig Haubert. "Florida’s class features the No. 3 overall prospect in five-star CB Vernon Hargreaves III, and coupled with RB Kelvin Taylor, who is No. 15 in the ESPN 150, the Gators have two players who are the best in the nation at their position.

"USC has excellent quality throughout its class with all 17 commits ranked as four star prospects and 16 of them ranked in the ESPN 300, including 11 in the ESPN 150. But Florida, with 17 of its 22 commits ranked as four-star or higher, including 14 ESPN 300 prospects and 10 who sit in the ESPN 150, is just as strong and with more space available (keep in mind the NCAA sanctions on USC) is a little deeper. Now it’s USC’s turn to be a close second to Florida. The Trojans have a spot available and with the right pick up down the line could still challenge the Gators for the top spot, but right now, Florida’s class is No. 1."

The commitment also gives the Gators arguably the best group of defensive backs in the class of 2013.

Harris joins other ESPN 150 members Vernon Hargreaves III (No. 3 overall, top-rated corner), Keanu Neal (63) and Nick Washington (135) as Florida defensive back commits. And at 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, Harris already has the size and the athletic ability to compete for early playing time next season.

The Gators will lose senior safety Josh Evans to graduation, and junior Matt Elam could potentially enter the NFL draft after a phenomenal 2012 season. Florida will return Marcus Maye, Jabari Gorman, Valdez Showers and Rhaheim Ledbetter at safety, but none of the four has done much in his young Florida career. Jaylen Watkins and Brian Poole have spent time at corner and safety, and it's unclear where either player will end up next season.

Safety De’Ante “Pop” Saunders also returns next season but is seemingly in Florida coach Will Muschamp's doghouse, so Harris should get every opportunity to earn a starting position early in his career.

By bringing in Washington, Neal and Harris, some might think Florida will have a logjam at the safety position, but that is not the case. All three have different attributes that the Florida coaching staff like.

Washington is an athletic safety and could play corner on the next level. Neal is a big physical safety, similar to Elam, and will likely be used around the line of scrimmage. Harris has a blend of athleticism and physicality that the Florida coaching staff likes.

With Florida now having commitments from three of the top 11 safeties in the country, they are likely done recruiting the position this year.