MIAMI--The Florida squad is absolutely loaded at the skill positions for this weeks CaliFlorida Bowl, but it is the Florida defense that has ruled the day so far. Even though it may have only been during practice scrimmages, the Florida offense has had a very difficult time moving the ball at all on this stingy Florida defense. From the line all the way back to the defensive backs the Florida defense has been dominant.
"I think this is the most athletic and talented defense that we have ever had for this game," said Dave Wilson, head coach of the Florida squad. "The defensive line has especially looked good, I feel really good about where we are at with them right now. Guys like Letroy Guion, Ricky Jean-Francois, Jeff Owens, Kendrick Stewart, Vladimir Richard and Neefy Moffett have been solid for us all week long so far."
While the big men have been the talk of the Florida team this week, they are not the only ones impressing the coach. The entire defense has caught Wilson's eye, after all, he didn't just give them such lofty praise for nothing.
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"We have tall, rangy linbackers that are just very athletic," Wilson said. "They just move so well side to side and have great instincts. This state always has great defensive backs and great skill players and it always will. Last year's bunch was really special and up to that point may have been our best set ever, but this bunch is right there with them."
While the defense has done extremely well, the offense usually needs an extra practice or two before it comes together and today's second practice may have been that point. Wilson thinks that the Florida offense will have plenty of opportunities to score on Sunday.
"All of our wide receivers have done extremely well," Wilson said. "Boy I tell you that Richard Gordon has looked really good at tight end. You just don't see many guys with the combination of size and speed he has. I thought that Harrison Beck had a pretty good day today and our running backs, Kalvin Bailey, Conredge Collins and Antone Smith all did really well today as well. We just have a lot of good skill kids out here and they are all really top shelf people."
Recruiting a hot topic among players
Virtually every player on the Florida team has a Division I scholarship offer with the exception of a handful. Therefore it is not much of a surprise that many players on the Florida team have taken the opportunity to talk to other prospects about recruiting and listen to their opinions. With a nice mix of committed and uncommitted prospects playing in the game it certainly has led to some interesting conversations.
"We've all been talking about recruiting this week it seems like," said Demetrice Morley. "A lot of guys have come up to me and asked me about Tennessee or they will tell me about their school. It's been pretty interesting to talk to all of these different guys because there are a lot of different schools that are represented out here. I have just kind of tried to stay out of it and let all of these guys make up their own minds."
While Morley is taking a more laid back approach about the recruiting talk this week, Georgia commitment Mike Moore is taking every chance he can get to sell his Bulldogs to his fellow teammates.
"I have been talking to a lot of people about Georgia and telling them about what a great school it is," Moore said. "I have been talking to Jeff Owens a lot this week, he already has his mind made up and I just hope it's Georgia. I have been trying to talk to Richard Gordon this week too and I think he wants to take an official visit now. The coaches didn't ask me to do any of this and I don't feel like I have to, but I love my school and I really believe in it and I want to win a national championship. The state of Florida has the best athletes in the country, so I know the more of these Florida boys we can get, it will only help things."
One prospect this week that may be hearing the recruiting pitches more than anyone is five star and top ranked wide receiver Fred Rouse, who has narrowed down his list to five schools. He doesn't mind all of the attention though and enjoys sharing opinions with fellow teammates.
"I am hearing it from a lot of different guys," Rouse said. "These guys are coming up and talking to me about their school and telling me what it has to offer. It's really fun to listen to all of those guys and hear their feedback on all of these different schools. It gives you a different perspective and shows you what their recruitment was like. This week has already been fun so far and I am really looking forward to the rest of the week. Hopefully we can show those west coast guys that we can play down here in the South, either way it should be a lot of fun."
Lots of commitments looking around?
This is the time of year when many players are making their decisions and others are second guessing a decision that they made earlier in the recruiting process. Add to the fact that recruits are currently in a dead period where they have no contact with the coaches that they committed to and interesting things tend to happen.
"As of right now I am committed to Florida, but I am looking around right now," said Gerald Williams. "After the coaching changes and all I just felt like it was best to open things back up. Florida is still a great school and I like what I know about the new coaches, but schools like Tennessee and NC State have made a strong impression on me and I am going to give them a look."
Williams comments were echoed almost word for word by another Florida commitment, defensive end Vladimir Richard, who is actually close friends with Williams and the two plan to possibly attend the same school. At this point it looks like Tennessee is making a strong push for both players.
"Miami is still where I am planning to go, but I'm still looking at Florida State, Florida, Auburn and Tennessee," said Canes commitment Randy Phillips. "Florida State was right there with Miami for a while, but they got a commitment from Dorian Munroe who plays the same position as me and right now I am all about early playing time."
Florida State commitment Dorian Munroe states that he is still planning on taking official visits and leaves the door open and Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland defensive back Avery Atkins a Florida commitment is looking around at Miami, Florida State and Auburn as well. Jeff Owens, will announce his decision on Sunday, but says regardless of who he chooses will take an official visit to Miami on January 21 and Florida State on January 28.
Quick, fast and in a hurry
Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln wide receiver Fred Rouse has tried not to tip his hand to a leader at all in the recruiting process and while most of the players from the Florida squad think Rouse is going to stay at home and become a Nole, Rouse had some interesting things to say about Texas in an interview today. He continually commented on the Horns and his relationship with Ryan Perrilloux.
Miami (Fla.) Killian center Ian Bustillo was a late addition to the roster on Wednesday. A couple of players turned down invitations to play in the game at the last minute and Bustillo, who has yet to grab his first major offer, will have a chance to show college coaches what he can do.
The Tennessee Volunteers could pull several big time prospects out of the Miami area this year. They have already locked up Demetrice Morley and rumors this week have Gerald Williams and Vladimir Richard pulling a late switch and heading to Knoxville as well.
Carol City safety Kenneth Phillips is not participating in this week's game, due to the fact that he has elected to play in the Army All-American game and that is the only all star game he wants to play in, is also reportedly very serious about the Tennessee Volunteers according to several members of the Florida squad that know him well, including his teammate Ricky Jean-Francois.
Norland tight end Richard Gordon seems to be the talk of the week. While everyone was expecting big things from the big headliners like Fred Rouse, Antone Smith and others Gordon has been simply amazing so far. Everyone seems to comment about the rarity of his size/speed combination.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are well represented this week with three commitments on the Florida team and one on the California team. Since California will not be arriving until Friday, we've not taken a peek at Prince Hall yet. Offensive lineman Michael Johnson is a huge kid that moves really well and could be the surprise of the Tide's class. The buzz of the second day's practice after struggling on the first day was Tide commitment Clarence Ward. The 6-foot 175-pound corner brought his "A" game and more than held his own against the likes of Fred Rouse and O.J. Murdock.