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UGA-UF: Top 10 recruiting battles

10/24/2012

The Florida-Georgia rivalry doesn't just take place in Jacksonville. The two schools compete all year long on the recruiting trail around the Southeast. Kipp Adams of DawgNation and Derek Tyson of GatorNation take a look at ten of the top battles for blue-chip players, five from each school's perspective.

Georgia

DT Marcus Stroud (Thomasville, Ga./Brooks County): The year was 1996. Florida was coming off six straight wins over the Bulldogs and to make matters worse, the Gators had a verbal commitment from elite Peach State defensive tackle prospect Marcus Stroud. Gators WR Jacquez Green was Stroud’s host during his official visit to Florida, and he felt Stroud was definitely going to be playing for the Gators. Signing day arrived, and what happened then became one of the all-time recruiting surprises of the past two decades, with Stroud switching his commitment to Georgia. Stroud’s Sports Illustrated cover energized a fanbase looking for any glimmer of hope against their rival in Gainesville. The next year, alongside starting quarterback and future offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Stroud helped end the losing streak against Florida in 1997. The No. 13 overall selection in the 2001 NFL Draft, Stroud played in the NFL for more a decade, earning three Pro-Bowl/All-Pro selections in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

DT Jeff Owens (Plantation, Fla/Plantation): The 6-2, 265-pound defensive lineman took official visits to Florida, FSU, Georgia, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech, and ultimately chose the Bulldogs -- although his father wanted him to stay in-state and play for the Gators. Owens went on to start 37 games at Georgia, making 102 tackles, five sacks, 13 tackles for loss, two fumbles forced, two fumbles recovered and three pass breakups.

QB Aaron Murray (Tampa, Fla./Plant): More than 50 schools offered the former Elite 11 ball boy. Georgia offered in mid-January, and Florida, seen by many as the early favorite for the talented signal-caller, offered a month later. The 6-1, 194-pound passer, rated as the No. 3 quarterback, No. 3 prospect, and No. 13 prospect overall in the 2009 class, was a priority target for Gators coach Urban Meyer. Meyer told Murray he had a strong chance at not only winning a national title at Florida, but that he hoped he would win a Heisman for the Gators. In April of his junior year, Murray shocked the Sunshine State by picking the Bulldogs. During his senior season, Murray returned from a broken leg in less than two months to lead Plant to a state championship before enrolling early at Georgia. Now in his third season as a starter, Murray has set several passing records at UGA, including the freshman record for passing yards (3049), the school record for touchdown passes in a season (35), and career touchdown passes (75). His career at Georgia will likely be defined by his performance Saturday.

TE Orson Charles (Tampa, Fla./Plant): The same month that Murray surprised many by choosing UGA over Florida, his teammate sent more shockwaves through the Gators’ football office during a memorable unofficial visit to Gainesville. During his campus tour, Charles accidently bumped the 2006 BCS National Championship trophy off its pedestal, shattering the crystal ball. Florida coaches including Meyer told Charles that he had to be a Gator now. Charles had a monster senior season, racking up 1,400 yards receiving and 21 touchdowns. Because of Plant's run to the state championship, Charles was unable to take his official visits until January. Signing day came and went, but Charles still had one official visit to take, out to USC. Shortly after the California trip, Charles eliminated Florida, which entailed a very difficult phone call to Meyer. Charles announced for Georgia on March 6, 2009, reuniting with Murray in Athens. In three seasons in Athens, Charles started 29 games, making 94 catches for 1370 yards and 10 touchdowns. The All-SEC tight end was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

OT John Theus (Jacksonville, Fla./Bolles): Georgia targeted the 6-6, 295 pound offensive tackle very early, offering Theus as a sophomore. The No. 5 offensive tackle, No. 7 prospect in Florida and No. 28 prospect in the 2012 class, Theus chose the Bulldogs over Florida and Texas, committing at Dawg Night in July 2011, one year after his older brother Nathan Theus committed at the same summer camp in Athens. He is considered by many to be the most talented offensive lineman recruited to Georgia during the Mark Richt era, and has been starting at right tackle all season.

Florida