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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
GAINESVILLE - All indications Wednesday morning were that Florida would have the best recruiting class in the nation, but Urban Meyer couldn't relax.
"It's awful until you get that signature," he said. "For a coach, this is the worst day. You have some control over game day. You have no control over what's going on in those high schools and those living rooms."
He needn't have worried. About 90 minutes before his scheduled news conference, the Gators received a letter from the nation's No. 13 wide receiver, Deonte Thompson, capping a second straight stellar recruiting class.
"In regards to the class, we are very pleased," Meyer said. "The guy that kind of knocked it over the edge right at the end was Deonte Thompson. We got him out of South Florida, which is a tough place to get guys. So I am very pleased with our recruiting class."
The 2007 class includes eight Parade All-Americans, seven players from Lakeland High School and a late coup: safety Jerimy Finch of Indianapolis, the 37th-rated prospect in the nation. Meyer discovered him on a recruiting Web site and after talking with Finch and several of his coaches, the UF coach offered him a scholarship without ever having a home visit. UF also made big inroads into South Florida.
Gatorade national player of the year John Brantley signed his letter of intent at noon on live television from his hometown of Ocala.
"I'm going to go in expecting to compete," said the quarterback, who originally orally committed to Texas. "If I have to redshirt, I have no problem with that. But I'm hoping to compete. You never know. I'm just hoping to have a great career."
Brantley joins Cameron Newton and Bryan Waggener, who have already enrolled. With sophomore Tim Tebow, that gives the Gators four quarterbacks.
"We'll redshirt one of those quarterbacks, maybe two," Meyer said. "This spring will be critical for the ones that are here already."
With the loss of several key members of its front seven and starting safeties Reggie Lewis and Reggie Nelson, defense was a critical need.
"The area we did well is defensive line; quarterback and defensive line are outstanding," Meyer said. "I think we have three premier offensive linemen. The area in which we suffered a bit is corner. I'd say corner is our biggest area that maybe we didn't get."
Meyer's biggest pitch was the one he used when he landed many of the stars of last year's recruiting class: the potential to play right away. Fourteen true freshmen played on the Gators' national championship team, and Meyer said that's a philosophy he plans to stick with.
Last season, all 26 of Florida's recruits qualified academically. Meyer said "a couple of guys" still have work to do in the classroom. Among them is Armwood's Torrey Davis, who said Wednesday he has not received a qualifying test score and will be taking the ACT this weekend. He said his GPA is strong enough to qualify.
NOTABLE: Sophomore linebacker Jon Demps and redshirt freshman defensive end Darryl Gresham have left the team. Early enrollee Bo Williams has had shoulder surgery and will be out for four months.
Times staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report. Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.