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Analysts are less than enamored with Gators recruits. Many big names turn away at the last minute.
By JOANNE KORTH
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2001
GAINESVILLE -- Okay, Gators fans, tell the truth.
Which group of players are you talking more about today, those who accepted football scholarships from Florida or those who turned UF down?
Spurned at the last minute by several prized prep players, Florida signed an undersized class of 17 Wednesday, the first day recruits could sign binding letters of intent.
Analysts rank the class anywhere from 25th to 35th nationally and in the middle of the pack in the Southeastern Conference, quite a drop from last season's top-rated class.
"A year ago we stood up here with ideas that we had the consensus No. 1 class in the country, and if everyone remembers correctly, we didn't put much stock in it then," UF recruiting coordinator Jim Collins said. "And we're not going to put much stock in where we are ranked right now."
Still, coaches cannot be happy that three players who rejected Florida in the final stages chose Florida State and Tennessee. Two others reneged on oral commitments to sign with Georgia and LSU. All four schools are on UF's schedule the next two seasons.
Defensive back Jerome Carter of Lake City and running back Eric Shelton of Lexington, Ky., chose Florida State. Receiver Montrell Jones of Louisville, Ky., chose Tennessee.
Receiver Fred Gibson of Waycross, Ga., and defensive tackle Torran Williams of Dodge City (Kan.) Community College recanted on oral commitments. Gibson signed with Georgia, Williams with LSU.
Add to the list Tampa Gaither running back Lydell Ross, who chose Ohio State after committing to Notre Dame and flirting with Florida during the recruiting process, and the Gators struck out on all the top tailbacks.
Why did that happen?
Mostly because the Gators do not need immediate help. After signing the nation's top-rated class a year ago, including five Parade All-Americans, Florida won the SEC title with underclassmen in most of the starring roles.
The only Parade All-American to sign Wednesday, quarterback Ingle Martin of Nashville, Tenn., will redshirt in 2001 and could end up playing safety.
"I hope our fans are not too disappointed that we have a team that probably will be picked to win the SEC again this year," coach Steve Spurrier said. "We think these players will fill in very well."
Florida met its most pressing need by signing six offensive linemen. Jonathan Colon, Mike Degory, Jonathan Marvin and Maurice Mitchell were high school All-Americans. Colon signed with the Gators last year but did not enroll after his entrance exam score was questioned. Mitchell signed with Alabama in 2000 but never enrolled.
On defense, tackle Bryan Savelio, a junior college All-American at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, is expected to fill the vacancy left by junior Gerard Warren, who declared for early entry into the NFL draft. Savelio had 87 tackles, including 24 for loss, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries last season. He enrolled at UF in January and will participate in spring practice.
Spurrier said paperwork from an 18th recruit is expected soon.
(Name, pos., ht., wt., high school/college)
Eraste Autin -- FB -- 6-2 -- 250 -- Lafayette (La.) St. Thomas More
Dallas Baker -- WR -- 6-3 -- 185 -- New Smyrna Beach
Vernell Brown -- CB -- 5-8 -- 160 -- Gainesville
Wesley Bryant -- OL -- 6-3 -- 285 -- Charlotte (N.C.) Vance
Lance Butler -- OT -- 6-7 -- 300 -- Lexington (N.C.) West Davidson
DeShawn Carter -- DB -- 6-1 -- 203 -- Hammond (La.) Ponchatoula
Jonathan Colon -- OL -- 6-7 -- 280 -- Miami Central/Bridgton Acad.
Mike Degory -- OL -- 6-6 -- 320 -- Palm Bay
Jarvis Herring -- Back -- 5-11 -- 280 -- Live Oak Suwannee
Larry Kendrick -- Back -- 5-11 -- 210 -- Haines City
Ingle Martin -- QB -- 6-3 -- 210 -- Nashville Mont. Bell Acad.
Jonathan Marvin -- OL -- 6-4 -- 295 -- H'ville (N.C.) West Henderson
Todd McCullough -- LB -- 6-4 -- 215 -- Jax Bolles
Sylvester McGrew- DT -- 6-3 -- 260 -- New Orleans St. Augustine
Maurice Mitchell- OL -- 6-7 -- 320 -- Fork Union (Va.) Military Acad.
Bryan Savelio -- DT -- 6-4 -- 295 -- Mesa (Ariz.) C.C.
Antoine Sharp -- Back -- 6-2 -- 200 -- Jax Bolles