Florida, Alabama land top recruits
The Southeastern Conference landed two more of the nation's top prospects on Friday.
Charlotte (N.C.) First Coast five-star lineman D.J. Humphries, the nation's top offensive tackle and the No. 7 overall prospect in the ESPNU 150, picked Florida Friday night. He chose the Gators over Auburn, Clemson, South Carolina and Tennessee.
In all, 10 of the top 25 prospects in the ESPNU 150 who have already committed have chosen SEC schools.
Humphries To Florida
D.J. Humphries, who's No. 7 in the ESPNU 150 and the nation's No. 1 OT, committed to Florida over Auburn, Clemson, South Carolina and Tennessee.
How he fits: The Gators are in the process of rebuilding the offensive line after losing several starters but are loading up on prospects. After signing only two tackles in the 2011 class, a need still exists and Humphries definitely fills that need. He joins ESPNU 150 tackle prospects Jessamen Dunker and Omari Phillips to give the Gators three of the nation's top 16 tackle prospects. With young players like Ian Silberman and Chaz Green already on board, adding in Dunker, Phillips and Humphries gives the Gators the pieces to build a young, athletic and talented O-line.
Although Humphries' announcement was a surprise to the hundreds gathered at his high school for the announcement, it was not news to Florida. It turns out Humphries told first-year Gators coach Will Muschamp of his decision Aug. 3 -- Muschamp's birthday.
"I could hear him drop the phone and screaming for all the coaches to come into the office," Humphries said, recalling the moment.
Humphries, who will enroll at Florida in January, was sure he wanted to be a Gator when he returned home from a visit to Gainesville in March.
Humphries' commitment is another impressive building block in Florida's strong class, which is ranked third in the nation and features 17 commitments, including seven from within the ESPNU 150. The Gators also seem to be setting up roots in North Carolina.
"I've been behind the scenes recruiting for a while," Humphries said. "They've put together a great class. We're working on a lot of guys in this state, trying to take over North Carolina."
Humphries is the second North Carolina prospect to commit to Florida, along with safety Rhaheim Ledbetter from Shelby (N.C.) Crest. Ledbetter's teammate, defensive end Jonathan Bullard, also is strongly considering Florida.
"You get to Florida and see all those palm trees and you're like, 'Man, I'm tired of pine trees,' " Humphries joked.
Humphries said he chose the Gators because he felt as if he could spend the next 40 years of his life in Gainesville, and he appreciated Muschamp's desire to get Florida back to an elite level.
Black had a harder time making his decision.
"It was a real tough decision but I have decided to go to Alabama," Black said. "I had some great choices and I really loved Alabama and Florida State. I kept praying about it and praying about it. In the end, Alabama is where my heart is and the school where I just feel more comfortable."
The problem was Black, 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, also felt comfortable with the Seminoles. That made his decision much tougher.
"I have been going back and forth for a while between those two schools," he said. "In fact, if you would have asked me a month or so ago, it was probably going to be Florida State. I love both schools and just felt a little better with Alabama. There wasn't a major reason of Alabama over FSU. It was just a feel."
Another nod in Alabama's favor is recent history. The Crimson Tide won the BCS National Championship Game two years ago and are No. 2 in the USA Today top 25 coaches' poll, which was released Thursday.
Black To Alabama
Chris Black, who's No. 29 in the ESPNU 150 and the nation's No. 3 receiver, committed to Alabama over Florida State.
How he fits: This is one way to help move on from the Julio Jones era. Alabama needs to find players to fill the void for the 2011 season, but landing Black fosters the feeling that, at worst, a potential option to take the reins as a playmaking receiver is not far away. His feel for the game and savvy route-running ability, as well as his prowess in the return game, could allow him to get in the mix quickly. Alabama has targeted and landed some talented receivers over the past few classes, but although someone could still emerge this fall, the Tide has failed to find another true difference maker since landing Jones. How those other receivers develop will determine just how big this get is for Alabama. If receivers do emerge, then suddenly Black is another playmaker and no team can ever have enough of those. He would also make a difference in the return game. Finally, landing Black feeds Alabama nation with a sense of revenge by plucking one of Florida's top prospects away after just losing one of its own (QB Jameis Winston) to FSU.
Also, Alabama has produced NFL-ready players, and had four -- defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, wide receiver Julio Jones, running back Mark Ingram, and offensive guard James Carpenter -- taken in the first round of the draft in June.
"I believe I will have a better opportunity to play early at Alabama," Black said. "And I will get to play under coach (Nick) Saban. He and his staff have produced some great players and Julio Jones was just drafted very high in the NFL draft. Saban knows how to really develop guys and put them in the NFL."
Black is a big-play wide receiver with explosive speed who also will make a difference in the return game. But he brings more than just on-field talent to Tuscaloosa.
"He brings a lot to Alabama," said Frederick Culver, First Coast's defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. "The way Chris handled the whole entire recruiting situation speaks volumes about the great character of this young man. That's the kind of men Nick Saban wants at Alabama. He has handled things so well. As a player, Chris has incredible speed and great intangibles. The kid is a real playmaker and very durable. In four years of playing he has no injuries. This kid can get into the end zone and that's something Alabama needs."
This has been an intriguing week between Alabama and FSU. The Seminoles won a huge recruiting battle Wednesday, landing the nation's top quarterback, Hueytown (Ala.) High School's Jameis Winston.
But Friday, the Crimson Tide got even by landing Black.
"It's been a crazy week," said Black, who likely will play both outside receiver and in the slot in Alabama's offense. "I talked with Jameis a lot and we wanted to go to the same school. He's going to be a great quarterback for FSU. It just didn't work out for us to play together."
With Black, Alabama has 15 commitments, including six players in the ESPNU 150.
"I know I will have a lot of prove when I get to Alabama," Black said. "But I am a runner that's quick and has great feet. I can be their deep threat. I can play on the inside or out. I can play on special teams. I can do a lot for Alabama. I will do whatever they ask."
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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