If you were hoping to see the Gators add another commit or two as a result of Friday Night Lights, you might have been disappointed. But if you were looking for top talent on display, you had to go no further.
Fans tend to think a camp is a failure if a school does not come out of their own with at least a few more names on their commitment list. While that is a nice result, it will not always be the reality. In many cases, just making progress is the best you can hope for; and Florida may have done just that with some of their 2012 targets and some of their 2013 wants.
The talk of FNL both before and after was Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, MD) wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Diggs is not only one of the top receivers in the nation, but also one of the top overall players. He solidified his status at the top of the mountain with a standout performance on Friday night. It is anyone's guess as to where he will land at this point, but the Gators may have made progress with the star Rivals rates as the nation’s No. 8 overall player. Getting a chance to spend time with former Our Lady of Good Counsel standout and current Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins — as well as the Gators coaching staff — may have put the orange and blue back into a good position to land the talented pass-catcher. It could be a while before we find out where Diggs wants to spend his college years, but the Gators will be one of the schools he considers. And if there was any question about his talents – which, uh, nope – you only have to read any report of his performance at FNL. Diggs put together a virtual highlight reel and celebrated one play with a Gator chomp for the crowd.
Also excelling at the event was current FSU commit Dante Fowler. Fowler has added weight during the offseason and it can be seen in the power he is developing. The Lakewood (St. Petersburg, FL) standout even took his turn at defensive back and showed he may be able to play just about anywhere. Perhaps the only thing not to like about Fowler’s appearance at FNL was his confirmation that he is firmly committed to the Seminoles even though he will visit Florida at least one more time. For weeks now, we have heard about a possible switch to Florida. It was mostly rumor, but the Gators coaching staff — and even some of the current commits — were pushing Fowler to make the change. Some of the crazier rumors even had him doing so at FNL. That did not happen, though, and the defensive end stated he was solid to FSU. He does not have to sign for quite some time, obviously, so the door is still open, but for now, Fowler may not be as open to the switch as Florida fans would like to believe.
While many standouts participated, some remained spectators, merely taking it all in. One the Gators may have made a serious move with is Harris County (Hamilton, GA) defensive end Ronald Powell and someone Powell can envision taking over the buck position one day. Powell likes to give Jenkins a hard time by telling him he is not big enough or fast enough to compete at Florida, but both know it is all in good fun and something of a challenge to the recruit. The friendship the two are developing could be great for Florida’s chances with Jenkins.. Jenkins is one the nation’s top defensive linemen and is currently being looked at by virtually every major program, including the entire SEC. He already ranks Florida among his top schools, but his relationship with the coaching staff and one player in particular may push the Gators ahead of all others in the end. Jenkins has become something of a little brother to
When discussing FNL, we would be remiss to not mention 2013 running back Kelvin Taylor. Fred Taylor’s son continues to live up to the hype he has generated over the past few seasons. He proved to be a strong back that could turn into an asset catching balls out of the backfield. Taylor can hit holes hard and accelerate quickly into the second level of defenses. It is hard not to continue to fawn over Taylor as we patiently wait for the time when he has to make a decision. Florida, logicially, is still in the lead for Taylor, but cannot get too comfortable. Taylor’s preference may be to stay in the Sunshine State, which is good for the Gators, but also means FSU and Miami will do their best to convince him he does not need to follow in his father’s orange and blue footsteps.
Although he did not participate in drills, another player we have talked about a lot recently was in attendance. Yulee (Yulee, FL) running back Derrick Henry was present at FNL, and may still have an interest in Florida despite being committed to Georgia. Seeing him in attendance was good for the Gators, but brings up a definite topic for discussion: just how beneficial was FNL for Florida?
As you are already aware, the Gators did not add a commitment during or immediately after the camp. This would not be nearly as worrisome if certain events had not transpired only one week before. At Dawg Night, Georgia's camp, the Friday before FNL, the Bulldogs added not one, not two, not three, but four commitments. One came from Henry – rumored to have the Gators at the top of his list before Dawg Night – and another came from John Theus, a Jacksonville prospect regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive tackles. Two members of the 2013 class also gave their verbals to Georgia that night, quarterback Brice Ramsey and wide receiver Tramel Terry. When looking just hours north to one of your rivals and seeing them pull in four commits during their camp, coming away with nothing can be something of a blow to the stomach.
Gators fans should not worry — that is far from the point of the comparison — but it is something that happened and one has to wonder why. Florida has put together a very good class so far and done so fairly early in the process. There is still plenty of time to close the 2012 class out with a few needs and wants. It would have been nice to come out of FNL with another name or two on the list, but remember those two would not have been any more "committed" than the Georgia four are. Until these athletes enroll early or sign their letters of intent, they really could end up anywhere. Florida has a great shot at both Diggs and Jenkins, will recruit Fowler until the very end, would be perfectly happy taking two running backs in 2013, and is in good standing with plenty of others. Sure, news from FNL could have been more positive, but it is nothing to lose sleep about. For a new coaching staff implementing a new system, this Gators class of 2012, as presently constructed, is nothing to quickly dismiss.