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Thursday, January 2, 2014
Scout's take: Gators add versatile DL

By Craig Haubert

Gerald Willis III surprised many when he chose Florida over LSU. It’s a huge get for the Gators after losing some momentum following a tough 2013 season.

How will he fit with the Gators? Let’s break it down:

What he brings: Willis can offer some versatility to a defensive line. Listed as defensive tackle, he could very well play defensive end or be a swing guy along the front. He possesses good initial quickness and can be disruptive and, at this stage, is more of an up-the-field, one-gap penetrator. He can play with some nastiness and can hold his ground one-on-one against the run but needs to be more consistent with his pad level and hand usage. As a pass-rusher, he can do a good job of attacking half the man and flashes the ability to transition from speed to power.

How he fits: The ESPN 300 defensive lineman could be a good fit for the Gators up front. With his size and the ability to add more good mass to his frame, Willis could fit the end or tackle position with the ability to swing if needed, like current Gators DL Jonathan Bullard. He’ll need to keep developing and be more consistent with his technique, but with his size, explosiveness and toughness, he can give the Gators a quality lineman who can also offer some depth with his versatility.

Reminds us of: The ESPN 300 defender draws some comparison to Oregon State DE Scott Crichton. A bit of a tweener at this stage, Willis could develop into a full-time defensive tackle or, like Crichton, could play DE in college with the ability to slide inside in pass-rushing situations. Like the talented Beavers defender, Willis can play with a nasty edge and has the ability to be a tough and disruptive player in the trenches.

How the class is shaping up: Florida’s class took a dip earlier in the week when No. 4 RB Dalvin Cook decommitted, but the week ends on a positive note for the Gators with the commitment of Willis. It was a down year for the Gators, but on the recruiting trail, they have enjoyed better success and have thus far assembled a top 10-caliber class. With the top-five DT on board, Florida once again has 11 ESPN 300 prospects committed, with the class led by a trio of top offensive prospects in No. 2 OT David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School), No. 2 WR Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) and No. 2 QB-DT Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day).