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Florida and Friday Nights: Gators hosting many recruits vs. Vols, Dalvin Cook update

Florida is using its weekend clash with Tennessee as a showcase game for recruiting, with many official (and unofficial) visitors making the trek to Gainesville. But the Gators are probably playing the long game again.

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Stacy Revere

Hopefully, Florida and Friday Nights will be a weekly recruiting post. Hopefully.

Gators welcoming tons of official visitors for Tennessee game

Florida's recruiting trail momentum has stalled a bit since the big Monday in August when South Florida prospects Chris Lammons, Ermon Lane, and Quincy Wilson all committed to the Gators. The Gators' Saturday clash with Tennessee might get the ball rolling again, with dozens of big-time recruits set to take in Florida's SEC opener from The Swamp.

SB Nation's Bud Elliott mentioned a number of prospects set to take in this game earlier this morning, but a fuller list has both more prospects and a couple fewer big names — 247Sports has a sprawling list ($) that has 25 visitors on Florida's radar, and Inside the Gators confirms ($) that Florida will get official visits from four 2014 prospects: Safety Jamal Adams, defensive end Lorenzo Carter, linebacker Clifton Garrett, and tight end Deandre Goolsby. Both sites also confirm that the Louisiana tandem of wide receiver Speedy Noil and defensive lineman Gerald Willis will not be making the trip.

Florida is going to have some bold-face names on campus to help make its case to uncommitted prospects, too: Elite 2014 quarterback Will Grier will be visiting unofficially, as will committed tight end C'yontai Lewis, a former teammate of stud athlete and Alabama commit Bo Scarbrough, who should be making the drive up from IMG Academy in Bradenton on an unofficial visit of his own.

But, as with Friday Night Lights this summer, don't be surprised if this weekend turns out to be more about laying a foundation than getting dominoes to fall. None of the prospects expected in town seems to be on commitment watch, with Adams — who has been rumored to be a Florida lean for some time — pushing back what could have been a late summer decision earlier this year and Carter, Garrett, and Goolsby looking like locks to string out their recruitments until near National Signing Day. The Gators will also be hosting a number of 2015 prospects (Byron Cowart, Jake Fruhmorgen, CeCe Jefferson, Martez Ivey, Jacques Patrick), and those recruits are likely at least nine months from committing, so the future will likely be the focus of Florida's staff's recruiting efforts over the next 48 hours.

Florida doesn't need a bunch of players to watch a beatdown of Tennessee and say yes to Will Muschamp afterward; it just needs to keep building good relationships and staying in long games, and perhaps to convince Carter, Garrett, and Goolsby — from Georgia, Illinois, and Kansas, respectively — to consider returning on later visits. The Gators' recruiting over the past few years has built depth, and earned them the advantage of being able to take their time and pursue their most coveted prospects for as long as it takes, and they're probably going to make full use of that advantage.

Dalvin Cook still Gators' critical crown jewel

One prospect who won't be in town on Saturday is five-star running back Dalvin Cook, whose Miami Central team (which also includes Florida wide receiver commit De'Vante Phillips) plays in New Jersey on Saturday. And Cook officially visited Texas last week ($) after visiting Texas this summer, and is expected to take more official visits this fall.

But Cook, who was part of Joel Anderson's excellent look at the Miami Central-Booker T. Washington showdown and the culture of South Florida football, is considered fairly solid to Florida, even if the Gators will need to keep him for several more months, and spent last Thursday showing out with Will Muschamp in attendance ($), blazing for several long touchdowns.

One connected 247Sports poster from South Florida paints a picture of Cook as solid even in the face of Alabama's advances, and suggests that fellow South Florida commit Ermon Lane — who remains pro-Florida on Twitter — is the more likely of the two Florida commits to flip. Lane may show up in Gainesville for an unofficial visit on Saturday; if he did, it would probably be easier on some fans' frayed nerves than the rest of his recruitment is likely to be.

But with Cook solidly in hand and Lane's 7-on-7 teammates and friends Wilson and Lammons in tow, Florida's position for Lane is certainly better than any other school's.

David Sharpe trending away from Florida?

Massive offensive tackle David Sharpe of Jacksonville is regarded as one of the best offensive line prospects in the class of 2014, and Florida's proximity was thought to give the Gators an edge for him. But despite the blueness of Sharpe's Crystal Ball, he has seemed to be drifting toward Georgia of late, with ESPN's Derek Tyson reporting that Sharpe, who has taken visits to Clemson and Georgia of late, is "unsure" about making it to Gainesville this week and writing ($) that Florida is not Sharpe's leader.

Florida could always use more offensive linemen, as a spate of injuries that has forced the Gators to rely on depth and versatility up front has already shown this fall, and Sharpe, despite being raw, would be a big pickup. The Gators may have an uphill road to travel with him, though.


Andy Hutchins is Alligator Army's managing editor. Follow Alligator Army on Twitter and Facebook.