- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
GatorNation's Rankings Week concludes with a list of the Gators’ top needs in recruiting for the class of 2014, as well as a list of the top players the Gators are pursuing at those positions.
Ranking UF’s needs for 2014
1. Offensive line
The Gators would like to sign at least four linemen to help build depth on a unit that will be losing center Jonotthan Harrison, right guard Jon Halapio and guard/center/tackle Kyle Koehne after the 2013 season and left guard Max Garcia and right tackle Chaz Green after 2014. UF signed six offensive linemen in 2013, but two are transfers who will be juniors in 2013. The goal is 15 scholarship linemen and a good class balance. UF will hit that number in the fall, but the class balance is still out of whack.
2. Defensive end
On the surface, this might not look like a need because Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard are sophomores, Bryan Cox and Alex McCalister are redshirt freshmen, and Jordan Sherit is a freshman. That’s a good start, but the Gators don’t have many speed rushers, guys who can play the buck position as well as defensive end. Redshirt junior Ronald Powell can play buck or strongside linebacker, and Fowler is pretty much the only one who can play all three spots if needed. The Gators want players in the mold of Jevon Kearse, Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss. UF would like to sign at least three in 2014.
This could turn out to be the top need for the Gators depending on what happens this season. If juniors Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy have good seasons, they could bypass their senior seasons and declare for the NFL draft. With Jaylen Watkins (who has been moved to safety) graduating as well, UF could lose its top three corners. If freshman Vernon Hargreaves III is as good as he’s billed to be, that’ll help compensate for those losses, but the Gators want to sign at least three corners in 2014. It might be hard to find kids who can play right away because UF demands a lot out of the cornerbacks, and that’s too much for most freshmen to handle.
Commitments: Duke Dawson (Cross City, Fla./Dixie County)
4. Tight end
This wasn’t an area that was expected to be a significant need for the Gators, but the tight ends on campus has been disappointing and hasn’t shown they can be a factor in the passing game. Sophomore Kent Taylor needs to get bigger, stronger and tougher (the last part especially), redshirt freshman Colin Thompson has been injured and was signed as more of a blocker, and juniors Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook have caught a combined two passes for 12 yards in their careers. Florida needs to find some players who can become playmakers in the passing game the way Jordan Reed was the past two seasons.
5. Wide receiver
The Gators just signed five receivers, but the position has been so bereft of playmakers and the talent level so poor that UF needs to sign at least three more in 2014. This is the position that is holding back the development of the passing game, and it’s likely to take at least another signing class or two before it is back to the level that it should be at Florida. UF is also completing the transition from the smaller, shiftier receivers that Urban Meyer favored to the bigger, more physical receivers that Will Muschamp wants. The hope is that two of the five freshmen will become consistent players in 2013, but it’s hard for freshmen to adjust to beating press coverage and to learn to adjust their routes based on coverages. They rarely had to do either in high school. UF needs to keep stockpiling talent here, because that increases the chances of hitting on several big-time players.
Commitments: Ryeshene Bronson (Fort Myers, Fla./Dunbar)
4dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf