Gators trying to turn some top talent

When Florida plays host to Miami on Saturday, look for a few big-time committed players to be on hand for unofficial visits.
Miami Palmetto running back Jaamal Berry might have committed to Ohio State a few days ago, but sources say that his pledge to the Buckeyes is anything but solid. Berry, the No. 6 running back in the country, will be taking an unofficial visit to Gainesville this weekend, and word has it that his final decision likely won't be made for a while.
Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia five-star tailback Trent Richardson also is expected on an unofficial visit, although Richardson – a soft commitment to Alabama– hasn't followed through on his plans to attend events at other places. It will be interesting to see if Richardson actually makes the trip, as the Gators are pushing hard to land at least one marquee back in this class.
Yet another top-rated running back already committed is expected, too. Cross City (Fla.) Dixie County star Rodney Scott, a soft Auburn commitment, doesn't have an offer from the Gators but could have one following his visit. Cross City is about 45 minutes west of Gainesville.
Wide receivers Jamal Patterson and Rantavious Wooten also are expected to attend. Patterson, a four-star prospect from McDonough (Ga.) Henry County, committed to Stanford last week; Wooten, a four-star prospect from Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central, committed to LSU last Friday. Patterson is the less likely of the two to change his mind, as Wooten's commitment to LSU was a bit unexpected. As I wrote last week, the LSU staff wasn't even sure if it wanted to take Wooten with Sanford (Fla.) Seminole wide receiver Andre Debose still out there. It's unclear if LSU will continue to press for Debose with the nation's No. 1 wide receiver, Bastrop (La.) High's Rueben Randle, clearly the program's top target and Wooten and Kenny Bell already committed. Florida offered Wooten recently and certainly can't be counted out of this battle.
Two others who could make the trip are defensive end Ed Stinson from Homestead (Fla.) South Dade and defensive tackle Curtis Porter from Charlotte (N.C.) Victory Christian. Stinson has committed to Florida State, but as I mentioned a few weeks ago, he plans to take at least one other official visit, perhaps to LSU, and possibly other official or unofficial trips. And Porter, who has committed to Miami, was high on Florida's board before his decision and could make the trip with his good friend, Gastonia (N.C.) Ashbrook wide receiver Jheranie Boyd.
Finally, Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic quarterback Rob Henry, a Purdue commitment, is expected although he doesn't have a Florida offer. The Gators likely are looking at Henry as an option only if four-star quarterback Jordan Reed doesn't qualify. Reed committed to the Gators in early August.
Under Urban Meyer, the Gators have become known for turning committed players, so expect at least one or two of the above to be playing their college ball in Gainesville. This weekend will be the start of that process – unless Hurricane Hanna gets in the way.
Word has it that Virginia Tech may have helped itself in the race for Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military quarterback Kevin Newsome because of the decision to pull the redshirt off Tyrod Taylor.
Had Taylor redshirted, it would have kept him closer to Newsome in class (Taylor would have been a redshirt sophomore, with three years left, next fall). In addition, it would have enhanced Frank Beamer's reputation of redshirting quarterbacks; Newsome wants to play right away.
Sources say that before Beamer's decision this week to play Taylor this season, Newsome was focusing on Tennessee, Boston College, Penn State and North Carolina, among others.
Michigan is out of the picture with Newsome because of a recent commitment from Tate Forcier, and UNC reportedly wants Newsome as an athlete, something Newsome and his family are against. With Virginia Tech now more of an option, the Hokies, Penn State and BC could become the major players here.
Did Texas coach Mack Brown make a mistake by saying he would take only one quarterback and one running back in the class of 2009? It's hard to complain about Garrett Gilbert and Chris Whaley as a 1-2 punch at quarterback and running back, respectively, but Gilbert is recovering from a torn labrum, which is a concern for any position, especially quarterback, and Whaley could end up outgrowing the tailback position.
With one and maybe two scholarships left, Texas can't jump in the race for running back Christine Michael or quarterback Russell Shepard as easily as fans would hope. The Longhorns' biggest positional need is at defensive tackle, and they are in good shape with Jamarkus McFarland. According to sources, the only other committable offers out there from Texas are to cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama, defensive end Devon Kennard from Arizona and linebacker Jarvis Jones from Georgia, all serious long shots. Cornerback Gabe Lynn could get a written offer if he decides to take an official visit to Texas.
But it looks as if Texas is hamstrung a bit at quarterback and running back for this year, and the Longhorns have to hope they can reel in 2010 tailback phenom Lache Seastrunk.
• Auburn appears to be in the driver's seat for Rivals250 guard Johnnie Farms. Farms, from Perry (Ga.) High, would like to take all five official visits, but word has it he's almost sold on the Tigers after taking in Auburn's final scrimmage in August. Look for him to take a few officials, but it's doubtful he takes all five. Bottom line: If he signs with someone other than Auburn, it would be a surprise.
• Four-star cornerback Branden Smith from Atlanta Washington has a ton of schools listed and says he is wide open. But sources say that's not really the case. While Alabama and Florida are in this battle, it looks as if Georgia, Clemson and LSU are the front-runners. Look for most of his official visits to occur in December and January.
• Last week I mentioned that Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard defensive end Jason Ankrah wanted to commit to Penn State but that the Nittany Lions might have other fish to fry. As of this writing, Ankrah still hasn't talked with Penn State assistant Larry Johnson, and if PSU balks on taking his commitment, Michigan and Tennessee will get official visits and be the teams to beat. Ankrah has talked to coaches Rich Rodriguez of Michigan and Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee, but hasn't talked with Joe Paterno, another potential indication that Penn State has other defensive ends higher on its board.
• Little Rock (Ark.) Pulaski Academy wide receiver Neal Barlow is committed to Kansas, but he took an unofficial visit to Arkansas last weekend. Another Arkansas visitor, Lafayette (La.) Carencro wide receiver Ricky Johnson, is set to commit to the Hogs and should do so this week, sources said. Johnson would have committed during his visit, but he had to leave early because of the evacuation process in his hometown in preparation for Hurricane Gustav.
• Five-star safety Craig Loston took an unofficial visit to Texas A&M this past weekend. Loston still is committed to Clemson but will take visits to LSU, Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M. The chance he remains a commitment to Tommy Bowden and his staff become slimmer and slimmer each week.
• Round Rock (Texas) Stony Point athlete Glasco Martin is a soft commitment to Baylor, but Arizona and Purdue still are recruiting him heavily and promising him a shot at running back. Martin (6-1/196) is playing running back this season; Baylor is recruiting him as a wide receiver.
• Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor linebacker Mike Privott committed to Louisville in May, but sources say he's having second thoughts and wants to visit West Virginia (offer), Clemson (no offer) and Tennessee (no offer).