Florida fills needs with recruits

Updated: February 6, 2013, 10:39 PM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp managed to address his team's biggest areas of need in the 2013 signing class.

The fact that Florida's class also was good enough to rank just behind Alabama as the nation's top class is an added bonus.

Five receivers, seven defensive linemen and four linebackers were among the 28 players the Gators signed Wednesday. Those positions are the most uncertain heading into the 2013 season, and every one of those players will have an opportunity to get on the field.

"We had a deep signing class this year," Muschamp said. "This class is very balanced. It's a high-character class with toughness. All of the position criteria we looked for as far as size and speed and all the off-the-field things we're looking for [are found in the class]."

The Gators' biggest need was at wide receiver; and Florida signed five, including Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, Ga./Peach County), the nation's No. 7 receiver, who was among eight players to enroll in January.

The Gators also added 6-foot-4 Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny), slot receiver Alvin Bailey (Seffner, Fla./Armwood), Marqui Hawkins (Columbus, Ga./Carver) and Chris Thompson (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville).

"Those are five guys that want to come in here and compete," Muschamp said.

Florida's passing attack ranked 114th nationally in 2012, and the Gators haven't had a wide receiver catch more than 40 passes in a season since Percy Harvin in 2008.

The Gators also need help along the defensive line, where they lost starting defensive tackles Omar Hunter and Shariff Floyd, and there is little experienced depth at the position.

Redshirt junior Leon Orr and senior Damien Jacobs are the only two defensive tackles on the roster with game experience. Redshirt freshman end Quinteze Williams has moved inside as well, and the Gators could use starting senior defensive end Dominique Easley at tackle.

Junior-college transfer Darious Cummings (East Mississippi JC) and freshman Joey Ivie (Dade City, Fla./Pasco) were two of the eight players to enroll early and will be able to participate in spring practice.

Florida added Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, Fla./Crescent City), Jay-nard Bostwick (Port St. Lucie, Fla./West Centennial), Jarran Reed (East Mississippi JC) and Antonio Riles (Lawrenceville, Ga./Archer) on Wednesday.

There are a lot of new players, but there's also a lot of opportunity for playing time.

"They'll get every opportunity, probably more than they want based on how they like to eat," Muschamp said. "So, we'll see how they pan out here in June, and then in work through the summer and into fall camp.

"And if they're guys that are the best at their position, they'll play. And if they're the best, they'll start. If they're not -- we'll make all those decisions about how much they're going to play in August."

The Gators also need help at linebacker after the graduation of middle linebacker Jon Bostic and the surprising departure of redshirt junior outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins to the NFL draft.

Sophomore Antonio Morrison, who played outside as a 218-pound freshman, is the best of the group that's already on campus. But there's concern about his size and whether he could stand up to a season of playing in the middle.

The four signees -- Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, Penn./Wyomissing Area), Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast), Matt Rolin (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods) and Jarrad Davis (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County) -- will all be in the mix to earn a starting job.

Anzalone, McMillian and Rolin enrolled early, but Rolin will not participate in spring practice as he continues to rehab a knee injury.

"They need to get ready," Muschamp said. "They're going to have a bunch of chances to go in and rep and play. [They have] play-making ability. I always look at linebackers, you have to have instincts. Both of those guys [Anzalone and McMillian] have really good instincts.

"There's certain things you can teach in the position and certain things you can't. Both players have very good instincts and very good short area explosion and quickness. Within a short area, they can change direction and they can generate power."

Florida also signed quarterback Max Staver (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy), five offensive linemen, a pair of play-making running backs in Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Day) and Adam Lane (Winter Haven, Fla./Winter Haven), and four defensive backs, including cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, Fla./Wharton), who is the No. 3 player in the ESPN 300.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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