Monday, February 4, 2013
Florida enters big day with holes filled
By Sharon Katz
Entering National Signing Day, Florida has the top recruiting class in the nation. The Gators have commitments from an FBS-leading 11 ESPN 150 recruits and are in the running for a number of other undecided players.
If Florida remains the top recruiting class after Wednesday, it will be the fourth time in the last eight seasons that Florida has signed a top-two recruiting class.
The previous three times, Florida played in a BCS bowl in the third season after signing its class (when the players were true juniors).
This year, Florida has signed a class with the potential to fill holes.
Florida stocked up on skill position players in its 2013 class with seven ESPN 300 recruits listed as ATH, WR or RB, including the top RB recruit in the nation, Kelvin Taylor.
Last season, the Gators ran on 65 percent of their plays in 2012, the ninth-highest percentage in FBS.
Florida improved its rush offense in 2012 but is losing its top running back, Mike Gillislee, who was Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004. The Gators might look immediately to Taylor to replace Gillislee and his hard-nosed style of running.
When the Gators attempted to pass, they rarely looked downfield. The Gators’ average pass traveled 6.6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, the fewest air yards per pass attempt in the SEC.
Part of Florida’s downfield struggles was a lack of wide receivers to stretch the field. The Gators’ best deep receiver was tight end , who declared for the draft. Reed had just three fewer receptions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer than all of Florida’s wide receivers combined.
To fill this gaping hole, Florida has commitments from three wide receivers ranked in the top 200 of the ESPN 300, including the No. 7 ranked wide receiver, Demarcus Robinson, who has the potential to stretch the field.
In addition to its group of skill position players, Florida has three defensive backs in the ESPN 150, including the No. 3 overall player in the rankings, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. The Gators are losing both of their starting safeties from one of the top secondaries in the nation.
Florida allowed its opponents to complete less than 16 percent of their passes thrown 20 yards or longer downfield and was the only defense that did not allow a touchdown on a pass of this distance.
The Gators’ 2013 recruiting class elicits thoughts of their previous top classes that included players such as Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Chris Rainey, Brandon Spikes, and Carlos Dunlap. Florida fans hope that the Gators can build upon a strong 2012 season and again translate their influx of talent into championships.