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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Top Florida recruit misses

By Michael DiRocco

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In little more than a week, recruits across the country will sign national letters of intent, beginning what they hope will be college careers that culminate with their selection in the first round of the NFL draft.

It’s an amazing time for recruits. They are courted and wooed by some of the nation’s top coaches. Championships and All-American honors are promised. Stardom is just seven months away.

For some of those recruits, however, their athletic careers peak the day they sign. For whatever reason -- off-the-field issues, injuries, lack of drive, attitude problems, lack of talent -- they don’t make it. Sometimes they don’t even make it to the field. They’re labeled as busts.

GatorNation went back to 2006, which is when ESPN began tracking signing classes, and found the five biggest:

1. Gary BrownBrown was ESPN’s No. 2 defensive tackle and the No. 23 overall player in 2009 after compiling more than 40 sacks during his junior and senior seasons at Quincy (Fla.) West Gadsden. Brown, who also was an Under Armour All-American, never played a down for the Gators.

He redshirted in 2009 and consistently broke team rules throughout the season and got in coach Urban Meyer’s doghouse. What sealed his fate, though, was an incident on Feb. 14, 2010. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound Brown was arrested and charged with striking two women at an off-campus party. Meyer dismissed Brown from the program several days later, saying that Brown had a history of not meeting the school’s expectations for student-athletes. He did not elaborate on what other issues Brown had.

Brown eventually agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement on the battery case. He transferred to East Mississippi Community College and made 69 tackles in his only season there (2010).
Jonathan Dowling
Jonathan Dowling was the No. 1 safety in the country in 2010 but only played in two games for Florida.
2. Jonathan DowlingPractically everyone in the nation wanted Dowling, who was ranked No. 10 in the ESPN 150 and was the top-ranked safety in 2010. The 6-3, 180-pound Dowling was one of four five-star recruits the Gators signed, but he only appeared in two games as a freshman.

Dowling clashed with his position coach, Chuck Heater, and skipped several practices. He became such a problem that Meyer dismissed him from the program in November for violating team rules.

Dowling eventually landed at Western Kentucky. He sat out the 2011 season but started 11 games (one at receiver) for the Hilltoppers this past season. He made 68 tackles, intercepted six passes and broke up seven others.

3. John BrownThe 6-2, 285-pound Brown was one of seven players from Lakeland (Fla.) that the Gators signed in 2007 and he was considered the best of the bunch. He was No 35 in ESPN’s 150 and was ranked the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle.

Brown never played in a game at Florida. He received a medical redshirt as a freshman in 2007 because of knee and back injuries. He dressed for the 2008 season opener but underwent wrist surgery on Sept. 16 and missed the rest of the season. Brown also struggled to remain academically eligible and eventually left UF after the 2008 season.

Brown spent 2009 at Northeast Mississippi Junior College and was supposed to enroll at Tennessee in 2010 but failed to qualify.

4. Dee FinleyFinley was one the headliners of UF’s 2008 class, but the 6-2, 206-pound safety failed to qualify and spent the ’08 season at Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y. He signed with UF again in 2009 and had an up-and-down career.

Finley played mainly special teams and was eventually moved to linebacker. He played in 10 games in 2009 and four games in 2010 but missed the final seven games of the 2010 season with a broken collarbone.

Finley played in the first two games of the 2011 season but was suspended for the Tennessee game after his arrest for driving with a suspended license and misdemeanor resisting arrest without violence. Finley played in three more games before abruptly announcing he was going to leave the team at the end of the semester.

He finished his UF career with 12 tackles in 19 games. Finley said he was going to transfer to North Alabama but changed his mind after Terry Bowden resigned to become the head coach at Akron. Finley instead ended up at Division II Tuskegee.

5. John BrantleyThere was a lot of drama surrounding Brantley’s recruitment in 2007. Brantley’s father played quarterback at Florida and his uncle was a linebacker for the Gators, but instead of following in their footsteps, Brantley originally committed to Texas. That didn’t sit well with Florida fans, especially since he was ESPN’s No. 4 quarterback and No. 25 in ESPN’s 150.

Eventually, though, Meyer was able to convince Brantley to reconsider. He redshirted in 2007, saw spot duty behind Tim Tebow in 2008 and 2009, and became the starter in 2010. That’s when things went bad.

Brantley, saddled with a below-average offensive line and group of receivers, struggled in Meyer’s spread offense. He threw just nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in his first season as a starter, which made him the first player to lead the Gators in passing and throw more interceptions than touchdowns since Kyle Morris in 1988.

He was supposed to flourish under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis in 2011, but that never happened, either. He was hampered by injuries (ankle, concussion) and finished with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions as the Gators posted their worst record (7-6) since going 6-6 in 1987.