Florida's 2013 Friday Nights Light camp was a success, but a qualified one, with most of the work done by Florida's staff more likely to pay off down the line. The one commit Florida did reel in over the weekend, though, Miami Central wide receiver Da'Vante Phillips, whose commitment was first reported by Scout's Amy Campbell, is a very, very good one — and the Gators' first for the 2015 class.
There's some harmony on Phillips' measurements — 247Sports, Rivals, and ESPN all have him at 6'1" and either 189 or 190 pounds — and a consensus that he's one of the best receivers in the 2015 class. Phillips is a four-star prospect according to ESPN and 247Sports, and the 247Composite rating likes him even more, giving him a 0.9940 grade and five stars.
Phillips is a game-changer at wide receiver, and the latest in a suddenly long line of prospective game-changers considering or committed to Florida, from 2013 recruits Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood (not to mention the three other wideouts in Florida's freshman class) to 2014 sky-dweller Ermon Lane. There's a chance, maybe a good one, that Florida could put Robinson, Fulwood, Lane, and Phillips on the field in 2015, with Will Grier throwing to them, and though it's really only a chance until it actually happens, that's a sea change from the mediocre to moribund passing attacks the Gators have had lately, and a veritable mine of potential, football's most precious ore, for new Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips to mold and refine.
I also asked SB Nation Recruiting expert Bud Elliott, who's seen Phillips at camps, for his opinion on him:
Phillips has a good blend of strength, speed and hands. He will win battles at the line of scrimmage and will be hard to press. Phillips does not have elite top-end speed, and is not the most agile player, but can get himself open underneath and make big plays. He is a good leaper who can also be an asset in the red zone.
Bud and I also chatted about how Phillips suffers in comparison to fellow 2015 receiver George Campbell, a newly-minted Michigan commit long thought to be leaning toward Florida, because of Campbell's jaw-dropping gifts. It's no knock on Phillips, at all, to say he's not currently in Campbell's class, because Campbell is regarded as the best wide receiver prospect since Dorial Green-Beckham at least, and hasn't even begun his junior year at East Lake High School in Pinellas County.
But it's also more than fair to say that Phillips suffers for that unfair comparison and for his role on a high school that hasn't showcased him yet — and probably shouldn't. Miami Central may sound familiar to you because it's also the school Florida commit Dalvin Cook attends, and Miami Central has had a lot of success riding Cook and Miami commit Joseph Yearby of late, winning a state title in 2012 by beating Gainesville High in the 6A final. Here's a condensed version of that game, which features a ton of Division I talent, including Florida freshman Chris Thompson, Cook, Yearby, Phillips, Gainesville's Raphael Webb and Tony James, and a bunch of other Miami Central seniors.
Phillips' highlight reel isn't shabby, despite that.
And there's film of Phillips making a few excellent separation moves (and making no catches, thanks in part to a pair of bad throws) in one-on-one drills from the Miami Nike Football Training Camp earlier this year.
Phillips is lean, long, and physical, and he looks to have a lanky frame that will take well to Florida's strength and conditioning program. And he's a South Florida kid from the heart of Miami who is already well aware of the gravity of leaving the 305 for the 352: He was party to throwing up an X to Miami's "U" at Friday Night Lights, hours before committing to the Gators.
So, yes, I like Florida's first 2015 commitment. I like him a lot.