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Florida Gators football recruiting: Five big-time targets as National Signing Day nears

Florida's got its sights set on five major recruits with a week left before National Signing Day.

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Martez Ivey, OT, Apopka High

Why he's important: Ivey is the best player at his position — the vital offensive tackle spot, and more than likely the even more crucial left tackle role — in the country, and has grown up as a Florida fan.

Even though he's "not the instant-impact type" in the eyes of Bud Elliott, "If an offensive line coach were to design the ideal left tackle in a lab, the result would look a lot like" Ivey, according to Wescott Eberts.

Regardless of his readiness, Ivey would be a massive shot in the arm for Florida's line, which will have talented tackles David Sharpe and Rod Johnson as likely starters in 2015, but doesn't have a single player with a snap of collegiate experience behind them.

Florida's chances: Very good. Ivey's been a Florida-Auburn battle forever, and a Florida lean for longer, and while Auburn has apparently eroded most of Florida's previous leads for other big-time prospects, Ivey has consistently been projected to join the Gators, even of late, and the long-time commitment of close friend Chandler Cox to Auburn hasn't seemed to have a significant effect on Ivey.

CeCe Jefferson, DE/edge rusher, Baker County High

Why he's important: Jefferson's been a long-time Florida lean, and is the best fit of available prospects for a role like the one Dante Fowler, Jr. played for the Gators over the last two years, if new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins keeps most of the scheme that Will Muschamp's Florida teams ran in the short-term.

And with Fowler departing to become a likely top-15 NFL Draft pick, Florida could use one of those rushers: It's not clear that Alex McCalister is going to be able to play as an every-down player at the position.

Jefferson's also an in-state kid who's been to Florida countless times over the last year and change, even having a surgery at UF's Shands hospital after an injury prematurely ended his senior season. It would be a painful loss for him to escape to an out-of-state school.

Florida's chances: Decent, but trending downward. Jefferson was visited by Florida coaches on Monday, and visited Florida on Tuesday, but he spent his last two weekends on official visits at Auburn and Mississippi, and has lauded the Rebels a fair bit of late.

Byron Cowart, DT/DE, (Seffner) Armwood High

Why he's important: Cowart might just be the best player in this class, with his extraordinary combination of power and speed as a scheme-versatile defensive lineman.

Florida's chances: Good, but possibly fading. While Cowart hails from purported Florida pipeline Armwood, he's not quite as much of a lock to become a Gator as past charges of venerated Armwood coach Sean Callahan — father of Florida defensive backs coach Kirk — have been, and is a Florida-Auburn battle at the moment, partly because of his strong bond with Muschamp. But if proximity to his mother ends up being a key, Cowart could very well stay in state and land at Florida.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Boynton Beach High

Why he's important: Florida's been through various scenarios with two big-time quarterbacks in the same class before: Reeling in Chris Leak helped mitigate the pain of Brock Berlin leaving after losing out to Rex Grossman, but John Brantley and Cam Newton ended up failing to succeed in succeeding Tim Tebow for various reasons, and the lack of a competent succession plan for Brantley forced Florida to try to build depth behind him with a Jeff Driskel-Jacoby Brissett quarterback derby that produced no winners, then left Florida with only Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg to replace Driskel in 2013 after Brissett's transfer.

And now, with no one behind Treon Harris and Will Grier, the Gators need another quarterback to turn to if the eventual loser of the coming Harris-Grier competition decides to leave Gainesville. Jackson may be Florida's backup plan after Florida State commitment Deondre Francois visited Gainesville last weekend, then publicly affirmed his FSU commitment, but he's a fine player in his own right, gifted with a cannon of an arm and good speed as a runner, but raw enough to need at least a year of good coaching before being ready to play as a college quarterback.

Jackson's also the guy that did this:


Florida's chances: Good, but not great. Jackson committed to Louisville in August, and while an official visit to Florida this weekend might change his mind, there's confidence on the Louisville side ($) in keeping him a Cardinal.

Jordan Scarlett, RB, St. Thomas Aquinas

Why he's important: Florida's got what appears to be a solid running back tandem in Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane, but both players lack elite burst, and the lack of a player like that — in the role that Dalvin Cook could have played, before he flipped his commitment from Florida to Florida State — hamstrung a Florida offense that produced just 18 rushes of 20 or more yards in 2014, and just one of more than 50 yards.

Scarlett has take-it-to-the-house jets (warning: song will either annoy you or be stuck in your head for the rest of the day):

Florida's chances: Passable. Scarlett visited Florida with family in tow this weekend, and appeared to enjoy himself...

...but the Miami commit also visited Miami on Tuesday, and has a weekend visit to Florida State coming up. It's a three-team race to secure Scarlett, and it's unclear which Sunshine State power has the inside track.