With just five days left until National Signing Day and most official visits already taken, it's going to be a relatively quiet weekend for the Florida Gators when it comes to names we already know from the Class of 2014.
But one big name — attached to a big frame — will be in town, with Damian Prince getting the five-star treatment on his final official visit, and a slew of prospects from the Class of 2015 will be in town to take in Gainesville on a "Junior Day." And that might help make this weekend a big success.
Damian Prince taking official visit
Prince, a 247Sports Composite five-star offensive tackle from Bishop McNamara High School in Maryland, stands 6'5" and weighs right around 300 pounds. And he's down to Florida and Maryland, the hometown school.
Big decisions on in close #SEC or #B1G 😩😩😩😩 pray for me...— R.I.P Willie Prince (@HeavyGleesh) January 28, 2014
The conventional wisdom in recruiting is that pulling elite players from the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia metro area — the DMV — is incredibly hard to do when Maryland is decent, and/or has ace recruiter Mike Locksley on staff, especially since the program's recent rise as the flagship Under Armour school. (That's happened thanks to diehard Terrapin grad Kevin Plank, Under Armour's founder and CEO, positioning himself as the school's Phil Knight figure.) Maryland's decent now, coming off a 7-6 year under Randy Edsall, and Locksley, who was influential in persuading stud wide receiver Stefon Diggs to stay at home in a battle against Florida and Ohio State in 2012, is very much on Maryland's staff.
But Prince counts Florida freshman Jalen Tabor as one of his friends, and Tabor resisted even committing to Maryland in his process, instead opting to commit to Arizona and then flip to Florida late. And while Maryland's the hometown school, and is probably still a slight favorite at the moment, Prince taking his final official visit to Florida — he arrived Friday morning — bodes well for the Gators.
Then again, Prince's family is in Maryland, and family is very important to him. The lure of playing in the SEC might not be able to pull Prince away from the people he loves back home.
2015 studs descend on Gainesville
With the 2014 cycle nearly over, Florida's down to maybe 15-20 players it is still recruiting in the Class of 2014. There are obvious uncommitted prospects on that list, like Prince, Adoree' Jackson — more on him in a bit — and C.J. Worton, newly decommitted from Florida State, commits like J.C. Jackson that Florida is trying to keep in the fold, and commits that Florida is still trying to convince to flip, like FSU commits Travis Rudolph and Treon Harris. But there's only so much that can be done in the last week on those players, and so Florida's going to focus plenty of its efforts on making in-roads with top 2015 players.
One way to do that is to bring tons of those players in for a junior day this Saturday.
George Campbell, Jeff Holland, Martez Ivey, Tarvarus McFadden, Adonis Thomas, Torrance Gibson all expected to visit UF this weekend. #Gators— Derek Tyson (@DerekTysonESPN) January 30, 2014
Florida's JR day visitors also include Jacques Patrick, Ray Ray McCloud, Chandler Cox, Tevon Coney and Victor Alexander. #Gators— Derek Tyson (@DerekTysonESPN) January 30, 2014
That's a nice list of visitors, especially given that Campbell, Holland, and Ivey are all arguably top-five players from the Sunshine State for 2015 and will likely earn five-star rankings, and that CeCe Jefferson, another top-five/five-star player who spent last weekend in Gainesville, is likely to be in attendance as well.
There's depth beyond those big names, too: Chandler Cox is the sort of do-everything player Trey Burton was, Jacques Patrick could be the best running back in Florida in 2015, and Torrance Gibson looks like the next big-time quarterback to emerge from South Florida. And though not all of these players will commit to Florida — players who do commit to Florida over the weekend might not enroll at UF, either, given that there's more than a year between now and when most will sign with schools — it's better to have more big-time talent seeing Gainesville than not.
Plus, scheduling a "Junior Day" for Saturday is Florida playing defense really well, as it's done under Will Muschamp throughout his tenure: Players who are on campus in Gainesville on Saturday won't be able to take in Florida State's national championship celebration in Tallahassee.
The mountain comes to Adoree' Jackson
Entering this week, all the buzz on super-athlete Adoree' Jackson of Junípero Serra High School in California was about the four teams left on his list — hometown favorite USC, Florida, UCLA, and Tennessee — and which school would receive his fifth and final official visit. But it looks like Jackson won't be taking that official visit anywhere, and he's either pared down his list to USC, UCLA, Florida, and LSU, or USC, LSU, and Florida, or just USC and Florida, depending on whether you're getting your info from Jackson or one of the many tweets from Rivals reporter Mike Farrell. (The Tennessee fans who are way too wrapped up in recruiting, and in Jackson's recruitment, took his elimination of the Vols really well.)
Final Four For Signing Day #Gators #Tigers #Trojans #Bruins— SWEET PEA (@AdoreeKnows) January 29, 2014
Very surprising Adoree Jackson dropped the #Vols, that means decision is his alone. #Gators and #USC battle?— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) January 29, 2014
I think #USC now by a nose @bryankroy: @rivalsmike mike who you think leads for Adoree? Even if it's by a slim margin #adoreeknows— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) January 31, 2014
#Florida then #LSU, hearing dad wants #LSU, Adoree prefers #USC and #Gators @oakgolfer1: @rivalsmike @bryankroy by a nose over who?— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) January 31, 2014
Jackson's recruitment, though, is still in full swing:
Adoree' Jackson is expecting an in-home visit from LSU's staff. UF sending T-Rob out there as well. (VIP) http://t.co/2wndhn6Xln— Luke Stampini (@LukeStampini) January 31, 2014
Sounds like LSU is making BIG play for Adoree' Jackson. If track is the key to his recruitment, LSU poses much bigger threat to UF than USC.— Dual Threat (@DualThreatCFB) January 31, 2014
And good fortune for the Tigers might help them out a lot. If LSU wants to send track coaches out to Los Angeles to meet with Jackson and his family, it's a lot easier for the Tigers to do so than it is for the Gators: LSU is competing in New Mexico this weekend, while Florida is at Arkansas in the sport's biggest meet of the weekend.
Track is said to be critically important to Jackson, a world-class long jumper and potential Olympian in the jumping events, and both Florida (which produced Christian Taylor and Will Claye, who won three of the six medals awarded between the long jump and triple jump in the 2012 Olympics) and LSU (which boasts reigning NCAA long jump champion Damar Forbes) would seem to be slightly better fits for him on that front than USC is. But USC is the "hometown" school — Jackson's from Illinois, where his parents still reside — and Serra has been a fertile pipeline to USC of late, with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee each opting to go from Serra to SC.
Jackson's recruitment is arguably the most compelling in the country, and it's a guarantee that it'll produce ecstasy or agony for Florida fans, depending on his choice. If Jackson does opt for Florida, his phenomenal speed would help make him a playmaker for the Gators, and pulling a five-star player out of Southern California would feel like a measure of revenge for USC plucking five-star Nelson Agholor out of Florida's backyard. But Jackson ain't getting any slower if he opts for another school, and Gators would have to see him annually if he opts for LSU, or watch him star for the Trojans from afar, much like they have with Agholor.