Florida Gators: William Green
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida is one of only five SEC programs to make the top 25 in ESPN’s team recruiting rankings in each of the past five seasons.
In fact, the Gators finished in the top five in four of those five years. But somehow that hasn’t translated to consistent on-field success.
Florida lost just two games combined in 2008 and 2009, but very few of the members of those signing classes contributed significantly -- which shows how good UF’s roster was in those two seasons. Since then, however, the Gators are a combined 15-11, and while some of those highly touted signees have turned into very good players, UF has slipped from its spot among the national elite.
But things are looking brighter entering 2012. The core of this year’s team is comprised of members of the 2009 and 2010 classes, and several members of the 2011 class appear to be ready to become significant contributors or are on the verge of being elite players.
Here’s a look at those signing classes (see chart below):
Wenger, like all draft picks and undrafted free agents, will participate in a mini-camp held within 15 days of the NFL Draft. Wenger started 11 games in 2011 in his only season at Florida (he missed two games with an ankle injury). He transferred to UF from Notre Dame after the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility because of two concussions he suffered early in the 2010 season.
Former UF quarterback John Brantley (Baltimore Ravens), receiver Deonte Thompson (Ravens) and defensive end William Green (Cleveland Browns) also will participate in mini-camps, as will draft picks Jaye Howard (Seattle, fourth round) and Chris Rainey (Pittsburgh, fifth round).
The 6-foot-3, 219-pound Brantley signed a free-agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night, about an hour after the NFL draft concluded.
Brantley finished his UF career with 4,750 yards passing and 30 touchdowns with 18 interceptions. He threw for 2,044 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions this past season. He is the fourth quarterback the Ravens have under contract, joining starter Joe Flacco and backups Tyrod Taylor and Curtis Painter.
Brantley will at least have one familiar face with him in Baltimore. Receiver Deonte Thompson also signed a free-agent contract with the Ravens. Thompson finished his UF career with 101 catches for 1,446 yards and nine touchdowns. Baltimore already has eight receivers under contract and drafted Miami's Tommy Streeter in the sixth round.
In addition, defensive end William Green signed with the Cleveland Browns, where he will join former UF standout Joe Haden. Haden was the Browns' first-round draft pick (No. 7 overall) in 2010.
Defensive back Moses Jenkins and offensive lineman Dan Wenger are the other players who wrapped up their careers in 2011. They have not signed free-agent deals.
Quarterback John Brantley, running back Chris Rainey, defensive tackle Jaye Howard, and receiver Deonte Thompson worked out in front of NFL scouts from 24 teams and one head coach -- Jacksonville's Mike Mularkey -- on Tuesday morning at Florida Field. None of those players are projected any higher than mid- to late-round selections, which would snap the school's five-year streak of having at least one player taken in the first round.
Contrast that with the talented group of former UF players who watched the workouts. There were four first-round picks -- Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, Travis Taylor, and Percy Harvin -- and four others who were taken in the seventh round or higher: Terry Jackson (fifth), Riley Cooper (fifth) and Kerwin Bell (seventh). Mularkey was a ninth-round pick.
"We need more guys out there in position to be drafted," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "That's pretty evident as you go through our last two pro days.
"We need to do a better job recruiting. We need to do a better job evaluating. We need to do a better job of developing our players and coaching. Bottom line."
Rainey ran a 4.38 in the 40 0n Tuesday. His biggest goal was to prove to the scouts that he can catch the ball out of the backfield. As to where the 5-foot-9, 180-pound athlete fits on the next level, he said he's basically a smaller Harvin clone. He can play receiver or running back, return kicks and punts, and play on kick or punt block units.
"My goal is to confuse the scouts and they do the rest [in figuring out where he should play]," said Rainey, who finished his career with 3,948 all-purpose yards and 21 touchdowns. "If you’re going to be a playmaker on the field, that’s all that matters."
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida football team had its annual banquet last weekend and numerous awards were handed out. Some were chosen by the coaches and some by the players. Here's a recap of the winners from the school's website:
COACHES' CHOICE AWARDS
President’s Academic Award: Caleb Sturgis
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jesse Schmitt
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: William Green
Chris Patrick Courage Award: John Brantley
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Tim Clark
Most Valuable Defensive Scout Team Award: Mike McNeely
Most Valuable Special Team Scout Team Award: Hygens Succes and Solomon Schoonover
PLAYERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Jeff Demps
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Defense: Dominique Easley
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Matt Patchan
Greg See Tenacity Award Defense: Dominique Easley
Most Valuable Special Teams Player: Caleb Sturgis
Most Valuable Offensive Player: Chris Rainey
Most Valuable Defensive Player: Jon Bostic and Matt Elam
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): John Brantley
Ray Graves Award (Team MVP): Chris Rainey
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Lerentee McCray and John Brantley
Team Captains (5): John Brantley, Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, William Green and Jaye Howard