Florida Gators: Moral Stephens

Florida's two-deep: B-position

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
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Editor’s note: We’re breaking down the Gators’ two-deep depth chart every day for the next two weeks. We’ll cover every position as well as offer a glimpse into the future. You can read the whole series here.

B-POSITION

The starter: Senior tight end Jake McGee

The backup: Senior tight end Tevin Westbrook

The rest: Senior tight end Clay Burton, senior fullback Hunter Joyer, senior fullback Gideon Ajagbe, true freshmen tight ends DeAndre Goolsby and C'yontai Lewis, and true freshman h-back Moral Stephens

[+] EnlargeJake McGee
Lee Coleman/Icon SMITransfer Jake McGee led Virginia last season with 43 receptions for 395 yards.
The lowdown: First, an explanation that in Kurt Roper's spread offense the B-position is a combination of the tight end, h-back and fullback positions. You'll see them on the line, in the backfield, in the slot, split out wide and often in motion. Considering the definite lack of involvement in the passing game from those positions in the previous offense, the Gators were expecting a rough transition for the B-position in 2014. That was until they found a perfect fit in transfer Jake McGee, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound tight end who led Virginia in receiving last season. McGee, now on campus and rooming with Jeff Driskel, looks to be the quarterback's best friend. Driskel hasn't had one of those since 2012, when tight end Jordan Reed led Florida in receiving. If he can adapt quickly, McGee could be a major x-factor in reviving Florida's offense this fall. He hasn't played in Roper's scheme before, but the offensive coordinator recruited him in high school so there is familiarity. With McGee, the Gators won't have to force the ball to any of their other seniors who were rarely asked to do more than block in years past. Florida fullbacks Joyer and Ajagbe, however, showed in spring that they have some potential to contribute in the passing game.

The future: The Gators have had some bad luck in recruiting tight ends. Will Muschamp's second class in 2012 featured two of the nation's top four TE prospects in Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor. But Thompson's career appears over due to a foot injury, and Taylor did little before transferring to Kansas. Muschamp began to restock in the last recruiting cycle with Goolsby, Lewis and Stephens, and Roper believes they are good fits for his scheme. Goolsby is the most advanced after enrolling in January. He has had more time to add bulk and strength to his 6-4, 230-pound frame and got the benefit of a lot of reps in spring practice. Thanks to the presence of McGee, Florida likely will have the luxury of redshirting Lewis and Stephens to allow them time to learn and grow. Roper has said his offense affords a lot of opportunities for tweeners, which is why UF doesn't necessarily have to sign a prototypical tight end moving forward. The 2015 class already has a commit from Camrin Knight, a 6-4, 213-pound prospect with loads of athletic ability, potential to grow and willingness to learn.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For a team that was desperate for playmakers on offense last season, the Florida Gators have growing hopes for 2014.

Enthusiasm has been building since spring football ended, and it's not just because starting quarterback Jeff Driskel is healthy or the young receivers and running backs have another year of experience and maturity.

[+] EnlargeJake McGee
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIJake McGee's 45 catches last season at Virginia were 41 more than Florida's entire tight end corps had.
It's the tight end position, and one player in particular.

Fifth-year senior Jake McGee, the former Virginia standout who announced his transfer to Florida last week, gives the Gators a dynamic threat that defenses will have to account for.

"I'm very excited," head coach Will Muschamp said to a gathering of media on Tuesday in Orlando, Fla. "He's a guy that has tremendous ball skills, very good athlete at 6-5, 245 pounds and runs extremely well. I think he’s a good addition to our team, and he’ll certainly compete well."

The Gators haven't had a pass-catching tight end since 2012, when Jordan Reed led the team with 45 catches for 559 yards and three touchdowns. He was Driskel's safety net and go-to target. Not coincidentally, the Gators had their best season under Muschamp, winning 11 games.

"I think it was a very offensive position when Jordan Reed was here," Muschamp said.

Last year, it was just plain offensive.

It won't be hard for Florida to improve on the production it got out of the tight end position last season -- a total of four catches.

Florida returns seniors Tevin Westbrook (three catches in 2013) and Clay Burton (one catch), who have been used primarily as blockers. The Gators also are building depth at the position with three true freshmen. DeAndre Goolsby enrolled in January and made a good first impression in the spring, while C'yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens are due to arrive in June.

With McGee on board, however, the freshmen won't need to be rushed into early playing time.

The focus throughout the spring was for the tight ends to learn the no-huddle spread offense brought from Duke by new coordinator Kurt Roper. His B position uses the tight ends and fullbacks in a variety of roles and disguises -- from motioning and blocking out of the backfield to inline blocking, lining up in the slot, or splitting out wide.

In every one of those wrinkles, Roper expects his players to be pass-catching threats.

"It's going to be an important position," he said during spring, "and it's going to be a playmaking position for us, so we're counting on them. ...

"I think I've seen growth. Those guys haven't done a whole lot of [receiving]. I think they enjoy doing it. I think they enjoy being part of the pass game. Because of that they go out and work hard and get better at it."

It's a work very much in progress. Now with McGee, suddenly the Gators have a more polished, vastly more experienced puzzle piece. He comes to UF with plenty of accolades.

McGee was Virginia's leading receiver last season with 43 catches for 395 yards and two touchdowns despite a lingering shoulder injury. With his speed and athleticism, the Florida coaching staff is also excited about what he brings on special teams.

McGee was drawn to Florida by Muschamp who recruited him in high school, and Roper, who led Duke's offense against Virginia while McGee took note.

"Their offense, being on the other side, was sort of fun to watch," McGee said to Scott Carter of Gatorzone.com, Florida's official athletics website. "They did a lot of cool things and really did a lot with the tight end position that excites me as a player. There’s a lot of versatility with the position to create mismatches and be allowed to do all sorts of different things."

Those feelings of eagerness and optimism are very much mutual, as both parties anticipate a sudden impact. UF coaches know they very well might have recruited a game-changer in McGee, whose graduation from UVA last month enabled him to transfer without having to sit out a year.

"To be able to have a guy that defenses know they have to account for in terms of is he a receiver, is he a tight end, can he create a three-man blocking surface?" Muschamp gushed. "That changes things in the run game. It changes things in protection and how people will attack you. ...

"We feel like he's a very talented player and a great addition for our team."
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Thanks to a new offense, the Florida Gators are expecting some serious improvement this fall. Every player has hopes and dreams of better statistics.

The most realistic chances to double or even triple their production? That's easy.

Tight ends and fullbacks were an afterthought in 2013, used almost exclusively as blockers in UF's pro-style offense. Two tight ends combined for four catches. Two fullbacks had a total of six receptions and three carries.

[+] EnlargeTevin Westbrook
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsTevin Westbrook hopes to be a bigger part of Florida's offense this season.
But rather than file a class-action lawsuit for neglect, the four rising seniors are thrilled to learn an offense that promises much more involvement.

"It's really exciting," tight end Tevin Westbrook said. "It's more of a competition. Every day when you go out you know that you've to play to be able to catch the ball and block, to move from off the ball to a bigger role. It's exciting. We're catching balls and blocking from the backfield, blocking for the quarterback."

With so little to see of the tight ends and fullbacks on last year's game tape, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has had to use the first part of spring practice to evaluate what he's got.

"The thing we're trying to figure out first and foremost is the tight end/H-back in our offense, who we call the 'B,' is who is that?" he said. "Who's the guy that's going to be the best in that situation? So it's a fun battle to watch between all those guys that we're repping at that position.

"I think that that B position, because it's so different from what they were doing in the past is probably the thing that we've got to watch the closest."

The change has been apparent.

Those four returning players -- Westbrook, tight end Clay Burton and fullbacks Hunter Joyer and Gideon Ajagbe -- have probably seen more targets this spring than all of their previous years combined. And true freshman tight end DeAndre Goolsby has seen as much action as any of the seniors.

Joyer, who has even gotten to show off his hands on intermediate routes, can't hide his smile when talking about the new opportunities available.

"Yeah, everybody's being used and used a lot," he said. "Everyone has a role in it and everyone determines our own roles. So as long as you're doing well, you'll have one."

It's all by design, says Roper. Last year at the reins of a Duke offense that averaged more than 409 yards a game, Roper gave significant roles to two quarterbacks, four running backs and six receivers.

"I think the biggest thing when you put together an offense is you want a defense to have to defend the field and defend all your skill players," Roper said. "Those guys [at the B position] are a big part of our offense. I think they're going to be put in position to make some plays.

"It's been fun to evaluate and we've had some big plays made by those guys. [Last Wednesday], we had two great catches by Gideon and Goolsby. So I think they're starting to get a feel for what we're asking them to do, and I think they're going to be capable of making some of those plays."

That's a huge development for an offense that got almost nothing there last year. Now there's potential and the promise of more to come.

Goolsby, a three-star prospect out of Derby, Kan., committed last November as Florida was in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. He chose the Gators over Ohio State, Oklahoma Arkansas and Kansas State and is now seeing the benefits of UF's new offense.

At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Goolsby still needs work in the weight room, but the education he is getting in spring practice should work wonders in getting on the field this fall.

"He's a really good athlete," head coach Will Muschamp said. "He's a guy that can do some things as far as what we're looking for at that position. He fits it extremely well. … I think he's done a really good job. I'm very pleased where he is. I think it's a little early right now to tell where he will contribute."

Florida also signed two more players in its 2014 class who profile as part of the 'B' team -- tight ends C'yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens, who arrive this summer.

It should make for a robust competition that carries over from spring practice into the fall and maybe even turns into some long-awaited offense.

For the previously invisible tight ends and fullbacks, the new offense means they can dare to dream.

"If we make plays and we come out and block and we catch the ball, they’re going to have to put the tight end into the plays," Westbrook said. "As a unit, it's a chip on our shoulder. We need to step up and make more plays in practice and then there will be more action from the tight end."

UF spring players to watch: D. Goolsby

February, 27, 2014
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With the Class of 2014 recruiting cycle in the rearview mirror, the long college football offseason is well underway. But fear not. Spring football is just around the corner.

We're here to get you ready with a look at the top five Gators to watch when practice gets started on March 19.

This weeklong series continues with a look at a fresh face at an important position that got lost in the 2013 offense's epic struggles.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Goolsby
Jeff Barlis/ESPNWith underwhelming talent returning at tight end, DeAndre Goolsby will have a chance to play right away as a true freshman.
TE DeAndre Goolsby
Freshman
6-foot-4, 240 pounds

Credentials: Goolsby is already on campus as an early enrollee. He was rated a three-star prospect coming out of high school and was the No. 9 tight end/H-back prospect in the nation. On signing day, Florida coach Will Muschamp called Goolsby "a really good athlete at the tight end position" and noted that he's already put on about 15 pounds.

How he fits: He's not an elite talent, but Goolsby has enough burst and athleticism to be a playmaker. He has good hands, can set up defenders in coverage and has enough speed and wiggle to make them miss. "DeAndre Goolsby is a guy we targeted early on," Muschamp said on signing day. "[Tight ends coach] Derek Lewis went out and evaluated him in the last spring evaluation, really liked his movement skills, his growth potential, his toughness, his point of attack and those things. Excited to have him on campus, and [as] a guy [who] can do some different things for you." The biggest reason Goolsby made this list is because he enrolled in January, which gives him much-needed extra time to learn the playbook and work with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. If Goolsby proves to be a quick study who's coachable, he'll earn loads of opportunity.

Who he's competing with: After a couple of transfers in recent years, the Gators don't have a lot of talent at the tight end position. In some regards, Goolsby won't have much competition this spring. Florida's three incumbent tight ends -- Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook and Colin Thompson -- just aren't natural pass-catchers. Westbrook had three catches last season to lead all Gators tight ends, Burton had one catch, and Thompson was injured for the second straight season. Goolsby will need a lot of work on his in-line blocking technique, but Florida won't bring in any additional receiving tight ends until signees Moral Stephens and C'yontai Lewis arrive this summer.

What needs to happen this spring: It's not easy for true freshmen to make an immediate impact at offensive skill positions, but Muschamp said it best -- "We need some help at the tight end position. [Goolsby] is a guy that’s going to come in here and certainly get his opportunities." To take advantage of the chance to play early, Goolsby needs to keep it simple and worry about learning the plays, running precise routes and catching everything he can. If he can just distinguish himself as the top pass-catcher among UF tight ends this spring, the Gators would call that a success and move forward with plans to involve Goolsby in the offense this fall.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Four catches.

It doesn't get much worse than the nearly complete absence of production from Florida's tight ends last season. Four catches is practically invisible, although some of the blame can be shared with a passing offense that ranked No. 107 out of 123 FBS teams in 2013.

Just one year prior, the Gators got a fine season from tight end Jordan Reed, who led the team in receiving with 45 catches for 559 yards and three touchdowns. Then the bottom fell out.

"It was a very offensive position when Jordan Reed was here," head coach Will Muschamp said recently. "It was an offensive position last year."

This fall, position coach Derek Lewis goes back to the drawing board to develop the players he has. There is also hope that new coordinator Kurt Roper will devise an offense that will better utilize UF's big targets over the middle of the field.

As we've gone through this week's series of the Gators' top positions with room to improve, it's not difficult to notice the focus has been on every offensive group except for running back. Here then is a look at Florida's tight ends.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Goolsby
Jeff Barlis/ESPNWith very little production returning from Florida's tight ends, incoming freshman DeAndre Goolsby could make an immediate impact.
Battling for No. 1: Just how much emphasis was there on tight ends blocking in 2013? Well, Clay Burton started nine of 12 games and had just one catch in the final game of the season. He's started 15 of his 25 games in an Gator uniform, but with questionable hands and just three career catches, Burton leaves a lot to be desired. The same can be said for Tevin Westbrook, a converted defensive lineman who "led" Florida tight ends in receiving last season with three catches for 30 yards. Burton and Westbrook have good size and can block, but it's possible they've already reached their ceilings in terms of skill. If Roper opens up the offense and involves the tight ends, the best bets for receiving options are likely to come in the form of true freshmen.

Strength in numbers: Part of the problem with tight ends at Florida has been numbers. The Gators had just three on scholarship when Kent Taylor transferred after a lost 2013 season. That third tight end was Colin Thompson, who has hardly seen the field due to nagging foot injuries. Like Taylor, Thompson was one of the top tight end prospects in the nation in the Class of 2012. But even when healthy -- if he can get healthy -- Thompson profiles more as a blocker than a pass-catcher.

New on the scene: The Gators acted decisively in signing three skilled tight ends in their 2014 recruiting class. DeAndre Goolsby, an athletic 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, is already on campus as an early enrollee. That's critical because he needs to gain more weight and upper-body strength, and having Goolsby compete in spring practice could give him the best chance of any tight end on the roster at becoming the pass-catcher Florida has lacked at the position. Like Goolsby, C'yontai Lewis has been working to gain weight and is up to 6-4, 230. Lewis caught the coaching staff's eye in camp last summer when he showed good ball skills and athleticism. The third tight end in the class, Moral Stephens, was a big wide receiver in high school who was offered a scholarship at UF when Taylor's transfer opened a spot on the roster. Stephens, is 6-3, 200, so he will need to add some bulk, but the coaches like his playmaking ability and see him as a tight end and H-back.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp was all smiles on signing day, officially announcing his fourth recruiting class.

The Gators signed all 13 of their commits with no drama and added two more for a total of 24. UF moved up one spot to finish at No. 6 in ESPN's class rankings, just missing a third consecutive top five class.

We've already looked at Florida's nine early enrollees in this class. Here's a breakdown of the 15 who were added on Wednesday.

David Sharpe | Scouting report
Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School
Height/Weight: 6-foot-6, 288 pounds Ranking: No. 20 overall, No. 2 offensive tackle
How he fits: After splitting time between football and basketball in high school, Sharpe will focus solely on offensive tackle, where he has tremendous potential. "He's got great feet," Muschamp said. "You can't coach that." Sharpe is a terrific athlete who will play a position of great need at Florida, but there's a good chance he'll redshirt considering how much he still has to learn and grow.

Gerald Willis III | Scouting report
New Orleans/Edna Karr
Height/Weight: 6-3, 275 Ranking: No. 42 overall, No. 2 defensive tackle
How he fits: One of UF's recruiting prizes, Willis will have a chance to play right away because of his mature game and versatility. Like Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley, Willis can play inside or at strong-side end. "He really uses his hands very well," Muschamp said, "better than most high school defensive linemen."

Thomas Holley | Scouting report
Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln
Height/Weight: 6-4, 303 Ranking: No. 51 overall, No. 3 defensive tackle
How he fits: A basketball player for much of his high school career, Holley is a raw talent but one with perfect measurables to be a dominant presence inside. The Florida coaching staff loves the idea of developing an explosive athlete with Holley's size.

J.C. Jackson | Scouting report
Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee
Height/Weight: 6-0, 185 Ranking: No. 79 overall, No. 11 athlete
How he fits: With four upperclassmen gone, there is a lot of opportunity at cornerback. Jackson stuck with the Gators in order to take advantage of it. An explosive athlete with good size, Jackson also has a chance to contribute as a special teams return man.

Treon Harris | Scouting report
Miami/Booker T. Washington
Height/Weight: 5-11, 186 Ranking: No. 163 overall, No. 7 dual-threat quarterback
How he fits: With Kurt Roper bringing the spread and option back into UF's offense, it was imperative that Florida add to its QB depth with an athlete. Harris is that and more. Not the most-polished passer, he sometimes looks like a scatback when plays break down. But his instincts and ability to improvise could put him in the mix to compete for backup minutes this fall.

Moral Stephens | Scouting report
Perry, Fla./Taylor County
Height/Weight: 6-3, 200 Ranking: No. 201 overall, No. 27 wide receiver
How he fits: Much like Jordan Reed and Aaron Hernandez, Stephens has the look of a playmaker at tight end and H-back once he fills out a bit. The coaches were quick to add him to the class after a spot opened up when Kent Taylor transferred.

Khairi Clark| Scouting report
Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade
Height/Weight: 6-2, 329 Ranking: No. 211 overall, No. 16 defensive tackle
How he fits: A bull in the middle, Clark moves very well for his size. He might need a redshirt year to develop his technique, but there's no doubting his potential as a run-stuffing, lane-clogging tackle.

Justus Reed | Scouting report
Clearwater, Fla./Central Catholic
Height/Weight: 6-3, 215 Ranking: No. 285 overall, No. 25 defensive end
How he fits: Muschamp called Reed "a very explosive guy" and a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end who probably needs to redshirt to add about 20 pounds.

Quincy Wilson | Scouting report
Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School
Height/Weight: 6-1, 197 Ranking: No. 292 overall, No. 15 safety
How he fits: With a good blend of size and speed, Wilson could play some cornerback. But Florida typically fields elite athletes there, so Wilson could bring his skills to the safety position, where the Gators have good depth.

Ryan Sousa | Scouting report
Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona
Height/Weight: 6-0, 177 Ranking: No. 47 wide receiver
How he fits: Another prospect who benefited from the Roper hire, Sousa flipped from FSU as soon as the Gators offered. He's smart, plays fast and was ultra-productive in the slot and outside. If he can do the same in Roper's offense, he'll get on the field quickly.

Travaris Dorsey | Scouting report
Jacksonville, Fla./Raines
Height/Weight: 6-3, 314 Ranking: No. 26 offensive guard
How he fits: He has the size to play in the trenches right away but could use some time to refine his technique. There's no doubt the physical attributes are there, as Muschamp cited Dorsey's "really good lower body, punch and power" as well as his long reach.

Andrew Mike | Scouting report
Tucson, Ariz./Sabino
Height/Weight: 6-6, 278 Ranking: No. 32 offensive tackle
How he fits: Muschamp admitted Mike was "a guy that we kind of lucked into" after Florida jumped into his recruitment very late and got a commitment the night before signing day. Still, the size, reach and athleticism scream SEC lineman after a redshirt year.

C.J. Worton | Scouting report
Homestead, Fla./South Dade
Height/Weight: 6-1, 171 Ranking: No. 77 wide receiver
How he fits: He's another signee in whom Florida's interest shot up after Roper took the reins of the offense. The coaching staff loves his competitiveness, and as usual, Florida has a tremendous need for playmakers at receiver. Like Sousa, he'll get a chance to work in the slot.

C'yontai Lewis | Scouting report
Tuscaloosa, Ala./Northridge
Height/Weight: 6-4, 230 Ranking: No. 15 tight end/H-back
How he fits: Lewis earned his scholarship last summer when he came to UF's camp and showed off great hands and athleticism. The coaching staff is excited about his potential to grow into the position, as he's already put on at least 20 pounds since then.

Deiondre Porter | Scouting report
Tampa, Fla./Thomas Jefferson
Height/Weight: 6-1, 167 Ranking: No. 50 pocket-passing quarterback
How he fits: Porter will get his first look in the defensive backfield. The coaching staff loves his speed and smarts, so he could stick as a corner or safety. He could also find a home at receiver or even play some quarterback in a pinch.

Grading the Gators' 2014 class

February, 6, 2014
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Signing day is one of those rare times in which every college coach celebrates a win.

And for a Florida program that suffered through seven straight losses to finish a miserable 2013 season, a win is somehow more than a win. It's validation. It's hope.

The Gators put a bow on their fine 2014 recruiting class on Wednesday, and the feeling on campus was like a return to happier times.

Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the Gators' class with a grade for each.

Quarterback
Florida needed to replace two transfers after junior backup Tyler Murphy and freshman Max Staver left, and the Gators did so with aplomb. Will Grier, one of the centerpieces of the class, is a gifted passer with plenty of athleticism to run. Adding Treon Harris gives the Gators a talented athlete who is a proven winner with two state titles as evidence. Harris flipped on signing day from Florida State because he felt Kurt Roper's offense at UF would be a better fit. Now Roper has to get both QBs ready for action.

Running back
Losing one of the top tailbacks in the country, Dalvin Cook, was a big blow. Losing him to Florida State hurts even more. Cook would have been a perfect complement to UF's already-strong backfield. But Florida recovered quickly and flipped ESPN 300 athlete Brandon Powell from Miami. Like Cook, Powell is an early enrollee, which helps. He does a lot of the same things as Cook and likewise see early playing time.

Wide receiver
Again, Florida lost one of the best prospects in the country, Ermon Lane, to FSU, which will sting when the schools square off in their annual grudge match. And again, the Gators recovered with a flip of their own. Ryan Sousa, a four-star prospect, switched from FSU to Florida. The Gators also got a signing-day boost from former FSU commit C.J. Worton. Both project as slot receivers and are good fits for an offense that will feature more spread elements.

Tight end
It's been a rough ride at this position since Jordan Reed's departure. There's really nowhere to go but up. The Gators are excited about all three signees. DeAndre Goolsby is already on campus as an early enrollee. Moral Stephens is a playmaker who profiles more as an H-back. And despite being less well-known, C'yontai Lewis caught the coaches' eyes during summer camp as a big target (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) with good hands.

Offensive line
Florida desperately needed help here and got it in the form of six signees. The big prize is Jacksonville, Fla., offensive tackle David Sharpe, the nation's No. 2 offensive tackle prospect. But this group offers plenty more in the way of immediate impact and depth. Guards Drew Sarvary and Nolan Kelleher have the size to contribute this fall and are already on campus. Offensive tackle Kavaris Harkless will also benefit from being an early enrollee. Travaris Dorsey gives UF a rock-solid prospect on the interior line. Big, rangy offensive tackle Andrew Mike was a late addition, flipping from Vanderbilt to UF the night before signing day.

Defensive line
This might be the strength of the class, a group that Florida recruiters might someday pound their chests over. It started with three prospects on whom the coaching staff is extremely high -- DE Taven Bryan, who is on campus now, burly DT Khairi Clark and DE Justus Reed, a quick and explosive athlete. Then Florida added two huge pieces in pulling DL Gerald Willis III out of New Orleans and flipping DT Thomas Holley from Penn State. Both are among the finest D-line talents in this class.

Linebacker
Florida didn't have a serious need after signing a fine class of four linebackers last season. They went after some big names, like Christian Miller (a one-time commit), Raekwon McMillan, Jacob Pugh and Nyles Morgan but didn't settle for lesser talents just to fill space. We'll give this position and incomplete grade.

Defensive back
This could have been a home run had Florida signed Adoree' Jackson. Instead, it was a stand-up triple. The Gators have lost four starters in a backend that typically starts five in the oft-used nickel formation, but Florida has recruited well here for years. The 2014 class was no exception. UF desperately needed a signee who can compete right away as a starting cornerback and got its man in five-star Jalen Tabor. Keeping J.C. Jackson in the class and signing fellow ESPN 300 talents Duke Dawson and Quincy Wilson was huge. Deiondre Porter, a late flip from South Florida, is an intriguing project who played quarterback in high school.

Overall
The Gators met every one of their biggest needs -- a corner who can start, talented depth for the offensive line, a future starting quarterback (or two), fresh blood at tight end, and some explosive playmakers in the slot on offense. Not enough can be said of the job this coaching staff did to finish with the No. 6-ranked class in the nation after a 4-8 season. It speaks volumes about the resilience of the Florida brand name as well as the recruiting ability of Will Muschamp and his coaches.

#AskLoogs: Instant-impact Gators

January, 16, 2014
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



In order to answer this question, we are going to assume everyone currently committed will be signing with the Gators come February. With that being said, wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) is the biggest need position they have right now. He is mentally and physically capable of playing right away and developing throughout the season into a go-to guy. Obviously dual-threat quarterback Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School) will have every opportunity to contribute and compete for the starting job, but it will be an awfully steep learning curve and he will have to battle and beat out Jeff Driskel. The Gators would love for offensive tackle David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence) to be ready, but for all his athleticism, he is also raw and would need to start out on the right side. Hopefully Florida will be past their injuries up front next season and not have a need for Sharpe just yet. Don’t count out the likes of wide receiver Ryan Sousa (Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona) and wide receiver Moral Stephens (Perry, Fla./Taylor County) as options for them, too.

SEC class rankings analysis 

December, 18, 2013
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In a week filled with a flurry of commitments, SEC programs continue to shuffle within the conference rankings and rise in the RecruitingNation Top 40 rankings. Alabama still has a firm grasp on No. 1, while Florida and LSU also made moves. As has been the case in recent weeks, all 14 SEC teams are in the Top 40 nationally.

Trending up: Florida and LSU both made moves up in the conference and national rankings in the past week. The Gators picked up No. 18 overall David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) and No. 206 Moral Stephens (Perry, Fla./Taylor County High), while LSU scored big out of state with No. 37 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Il./Plainfield South High). The Gators jumped up to No. 5 in the SEC, and No. 8 nationally. LSU moved up to No. 6 in the conference and has more big fish remaining on its board than any other SEC team. When looking into the future of which programs could trend up the most as national signing day draws near, LSU has the highest probability followed by Florida and Auburn.

SEC recruiting storylines: Dec. 12 

December, 12, 2013
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Another wild week of recruiting in the SEC is in the rearview mirror. Today, the Florida Gators take center stage with all eyes on Alabama heading into the weekend of official visits before the dead period begins Dec. 16.

Gators nab one of the nation's best

No. 18 David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) seemed to be a Florida lean for more than a year. After trips to Georgia twice during the season and official visits to Tennessee and Florida in November, the 6-foot-6, 288-pound four-star offensive tackle made it official Thursday, committing to the Gators.

Sharpe becomes the 17th commitment for head coach Will Muschamp and his staff, including the 10th ESPN 300 prospect to select the Gators.

Speaking of Florida, the final decision of No. 20-ranked Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central) likely will come following the Rockets' state title game this weekend. Florida is fighting Florida State and Miami to keep the explosive playmaker.

Make it two for Thursday


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Scouts' take: Gators add to receiver mix 

December, 12, 2013
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Florida doubled up Thursday. Following a pledge from the nation’s No. 2 offensive tackle, David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School), the Gators secured a commitment from ESPN 300 wide receiver Moral Stephens (Perry, Fla./Taylor County).

Here’s how the scouts see him fitting with the Gators:


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Gators land another ESPN 300 player

December, 12, 2013
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Florida had a big recruiting day on Thursday. ESPN 300 offensive tackle David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence) committed to the Gators on Thursday morning, and another ESPN 300 prospect, wide receiver Moral Stephens (Perry, Fla./Taylor County) received a phone call from Florida head coach Will Muschamp.

Muschamp called to offer a scholarship to Stephens, the No. 206 player in the ESPN 300. He jumped on the offer and committed to the Gators.

Stephens held offers from Arkansas, Clemson, Georgia, Kentucky and several other schools.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound athlete could play receiver or tight end, but according to his father, Moral Stephens Sr., the Gators are recruiting him to play H-back and do multiple things in the Florida offense.

Another Florida receiver commit, Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead), has appeared to be wavering on his pledge to the Gators, which could have influenced Florida’s decision to offer the four-star Stephens.

The Gators also recently added wide receiver Ryan Sousa (Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona), who flipped his commitment from Florida State to the Gators.

With Sharpe and Stephens in the fold, the Gators have 18 commitments, including 11 ranked in the ESPN 300.

SEC 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013
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With signing day still several months away, schools will add and in some cases lose committed prospects. Here is a look at the best and worst case scenario for each SEC school.


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Critical positions in SEC recruiting 

September, 3, 2013
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Each year college coaches prioritize their recruiting needs. Whether it's offensive or defensive linemen or skilled positions, there always seems to be an area that needs more attention than others. Here's a closer look at the most important position for each SEC team in recruiting this year.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

September, 2, 2013
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With football season now in full swing, there was plenty of recruiting news over the weekend. From top high school performances to a five-star prospect ready to announce his decision, here is the latest news around the SEC.

Biggest commitment: There was only one commitment in the SEC over the weekend. Defensive lineman Braxton Hoyett (Pelham, Ala./Pelham) verbally committed to Mississippi State on Friday. Hoyett also had offers from Miami and UAB. The 6-foot-3, 274-pounder announced his decision via Twitter:

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Alabama's offense gets more good news, Arizona State turns back to Taylor Kelly and Florida coach Will Muschamp gets a vote of confidence -- sort of. It's all ahead in your College Football Minute.
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