Name: Rhaheim Ledbetter
High School: Crest (Boiling Springs, NC)
Status: Verbally committed to Florida
Others in Play: South Carolina
There are always many odd (that is the polite way to say it) reactions when a three-star prospect commits to a program like Florida. Some assume the player will be nothing more than a depth provider due to the fact that there is not another star or two pinned to his rating. To those, I say go back and remember the contributions provided by Brandon James or Dallas Baker or Ray McDonald…you get the point. Star ratings do not measure heart, desire, or motivation. The latest Gators commit – who also happens to be related to a recent Florida great (Brandon Spikes)* – has plenty of all three.
Ledbetter picked the Gators on Friday stating he was more comfortable with the Florida coaching staff than any other he spoke with. He knew it was the place he wanted to be for his college career and a choice he felt confident making. Ledbetter even went as far as to say he is fully committed and will not visit other schools, but there is that lingering rumor out there that may be more fact than some choose to believe. Ledbetter is close friends with teammate and five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard, and much has been said about the two being part of a package deal. With a number of schools pursuing both and still going hard after Bullard – South Carolina among them – we will have to see how this situation plays out.
Hard hitters do two things well. First of all, they love to get crunk. Second, they are successful because they run through the players they hit. How many times have you seen someone lower their shoulder to make a huge hit only to stop dead and have the ball carrier bounce off of the hit and remain on his feet? The difference is that Ledbetter is not done with the hit at impact. It's almost like the follow-through of a golf swing: The hit is not over at contact, but rather when Ledbetter's angular momentum is done with its work. Watching the highlights, you will see Ledbetter run right through receivers and ball carriers. His next instinct is to find the ball. That is a great instinct to have. Ledbetter is determined to finish the play to its complete end.
Unfortunately, hard hitters can get tagged with reputations for being detrimental to the defense because they take too many chances. They blow assignments, some say, because they are trying to blow up a would-be receiver. This has haunted many a talented defensive back in the past. There is one particular defensive back that played nearly every aspect of the safety position perfectly during the Gators' 2006 national championship season. I am, of course, referring to Reggie Nelson. That said, I am not saying Ledbetter is the next Nelson. As I have stated in the past, nobody is the next anyone until they prove it. But there is a commonality. Ledbetter sticks to his assignment. This makes him a lethal hard hitter because he is not giving up the big play to go for the big collision. He is watching the play unfold and then reacting to where the quarterback is looking and, ultimately, throwing the ball. College coaches have to teach that to many of their players. Ledbetter appears to understand it already.
Despite being a three-star prospect according to Rivals, Ledbetter is ranked as the No. 25 safety in the nation. To succeed at the next level, Ledbetter can continue to follow his assignment on plays without becoming too cautious. He needs to play the game to his abilities and talents, while being a smart safety. With the large amount of defensive backfield talent the Gators possess, Ledbetter will come into a situation where he can learn a great deal just from watching for a year or even two. He is a prospect with a great deal of potential, but he has to continue to be motivated to get better. Being pushed by a cousin who was part of two Florida national championship teams and is now earning his keep in the NFL will only help.
* This would also make him a cousin of NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes.