GAINESVILLE – Despite a turbulent month of December for the program, the Florida Gators are poised to compile their best recruiting class since 2006 with Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes.
Coach Urban Meyer's job flip-flopping hasn't swayed the now-24-player 2010 recruiting class that exploded over the weekend with five-star commitments at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
West Palm Beach Dwyer safety Matt Elam, California DE Ronald Powell and Philadelphia DT Sharrif Floyd are all top-15 national prospects who gave oral commitments to the Gators during Saturday's national television broadcast.
The Gators have landed five commitments since Meyer announced a leave of absence in late December, including Pahokee wide receiver Chris Dunkley and Staten Island defensive end Dominique Easley.
Part of the challenge is holding the class intact because of coaching uncertainty, but the Gators expect up to 12 early enrollees in the spring semester by the end of this week.
A couple commitments might still look around, but the Gators are loaded up with one of Meyer's best classes in his five-year UF career.
- GRADE: A+. After the weekend, Florida finally got the five-star heavy hitters to compliment the bevy of top-100 players. The biggest high-profile target that slipped from the Gators' grasp was Treasure Coast linebacker Jeff Luc, who committed to Florida State. But the Gators have more than compensated. And there's still plenty of time for Florida to prevail with numerous game-changing recruits, including Minnesota offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, Ohio linebacker Jordan Hicks and Illinois receiver Kyle Prater, who might be backing off his USC commitment because of Pete Carroll's departure.
- LEAVING: Between four and six offensive starters, five defensive starters. On offense, the Gators lose Tebow, wide receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Aaron Hernandez, a junior who declared for the NFL draft, as did OL Maurkice Pouncey, twin to OL brother Mike. On defense, gone are linebackers Brandon Spikes and Ryan Stamper, as well as NFL-bound players CB Joe Haden, DE Jermaine Cunningham, DE Carlos Dunlap and S Major Wright.
- RETURNING: Between five and seven offensive starters, six defensive starters. Though the defense loses its vocal leaders, the Gators return depth on the interior defensive line, a lock-down cornerback in Janoris Jenkins and athletic linebackers such as A.J. Jones, Brandon Hicks and Jon Bostic. Expectations are lofty for quarterback John Brantley, and the redshirt junior should have at least three returning linemen blocking for him. Florida's leading returning receiver is Deonte Thompson with 24 catches.
- SCHOLARSHIPS: At least 25, depending on the total number of NFL draft departures. Florida still has room for a couple of 2010 studs.
- COMMTIMENTS: 24
- NEED FULFILLED: Dwyer tight end Gerald Christian is a talent entering a position without depth. Dunkley can contribute right away in a receiving corps without a proven leader. Palmdale, Calif., cornerback Josh Shaw might push for a starting spot because of his combination of size and speed. Florida might have up to seven defensive backs signed on Feb. 3.
- STILL NEED: Florida is short on offensive linemen. Jacksonville Fleming Island tackle Ian Silberman is the only oral commitment thus far at the position. They need Henderson. Expect a couple more before signing day. Linebacker is also a need after the loss of Brandon Spikes. Um, Christian Jones, anyone? Hicks is another possibility.
- NATIONAL RANKING: No. 1 by Rivals.com, No. 1 by Scout.com and No. 1 by ESPN.com
- SUCCESS OR FAILURE?: Major success. The Gators have been impressive with less than a month left, but now they have to close. Last year's coaching staff lost Nu'Keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague on the last day. If a handful of players de-commit and Florida doesn't replace them with studs, maybe you can stamp an 'incomplete' on their resume. But this class looks too deep with talent to dismantle.
- EXPERT OPINION: "This was a fabulous class before Saturday. Now it's scary good. The positions of need are really met and there's now plenty of star power. There's still plenty of time to get more five-star guys. Lots of talented players might be leaning toward Florida. The Gators will likely have the country's top class when it's all over. Some recruits might look around, but as of now Florida has weathered the storm. Things could have gone south quickly if Urban Meyer didn't handle his job uncertainty well." Adam Gorney, Rivals.com
Jeremy Fowler covers the Florida Gators for the Sentinel. You can reach him at email@example.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun