Gainesville event attracts South's finest

Originally Published: July 21, 2008
By Billy Tucker | Scouts Inc.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The overall numbers may have been down a bit from last year, but the excitement and marquee names surrounding this year's version of Friday Night Lights at the University of Florida were just as impressive. As the JumboTron lit up for a pregame introduction and deafening music blasted throughout Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, about 200 prospects (primarily 2009 and 2010 players) emerged from the tunnel and went into The Swamp after Florida football head coach Urban Meyer.

[+] EnlargeDre Kirkpatrick
Tim Casey/Gator Country Dre Kirkpatrick is one of the top DBs in the 2009 class.

Recruiting glitter was prevalent throughout the night, as was an emphasis on simulating an electrifying game-day atmosphere to entice some top prospects. Still, the focus of the one-night camp was competition -- and most of the ESPN 150 Watch List prospects in attendance, including cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsden, Ala.), running back Trent Richardson (Pensacola, Fla./Escambia), wide receiver Jheranie Boyd (Gastonia, N.C./Ashbrook), and defensive tackle Gary Brown (Quincy, Fla./West Gadsden) showed up with their game faces on.

Best of the best

Kirkpatrick was a man among boys Friday night. He competed extremely hard and almost toyed with the wide receivers during one-on-one drills. We knew this kid could run and had smooth hips, but it was his superior physical prowess that stood out at The Swamp. Kirkpatrick, one of the nation's top cornerback prospects, consistently got up in the grill of receivers and denied a clean release off the line with his long arms and good upper-body strength. His ability to jam and reroute receivers clearly showed he is the total package at the corner position.

Boyd displayed why he was selected as an Under Armour All-American and presumably left Gainesville as wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales' No. 1 recruiting target. The North Carolina native showed great fluidity in and out of his cuts along with smooth overall movement skills for a taller wideout. He plucked most balls away from his body with his big hands and showed off his great top-end speed, separating himself as a route-runner. Boyd looked all of 6-foot-2 standing, but his muscular frame is still a bit slight. He'll need to bulk up to beat press coverage consistently at the next level.

[+] EnlargeJheranie Boyd
Gator Country/Tim Casey Jheranie Boyd is at the top of Florida's wish list.

It's hard to judge a downhill running back at a camp without shoulder pads, but Richardson impressed with his soft hands and lateral quickness during one-on-one drills versus linebackers. The Under Armour All-American flashed his 10.6 100-meter foot speed throughout the night. He easily could have taken reps with the linebackers yet not looked out of place despite his compact, thickly built frame. One of Florida's top power lifters at his weight class, Richardson informed us that Escambia High School has to order new Olympic bars to match his increased strength in the weight room. The Alabama pledge said he was still committed to the Tide, but it sounded as if he definitely was checking out his other options, including the Gators.

Defensive tackles dominate in the trenches

Recently added Under Armour All-American Gary Brown looked a bit shorter Friday night than he had on film, but he was just as massive and just as quick off the ball. We knew Brown could overpower blockers, but it was his great hand technique that impressed us during one-on-one drills. Brown worked moves and didn't try just to overpower his blockers as a pass-rusher.

Fellow stout defensive tackle Curtis Porter (Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte) showed he easily could play on the defensive side of the ball in college as well as offensive guard. We actually thought he had a wide-based body structure similar to that of Florida's highly touted incoming freshman defensive tackle Omar Hunter (Buford, Ga.), but he's not as muscular as Hunter at this point. During his reps at defensive tackle, Porter used his strong, colossal hands to control blockers and great power to drive them off the ball. On a side note, we were amazed by Porter's awesome grip when exchanging greetings at the conclusion of the camp Friday.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Porter
Curtis PorterCurtis Porter could play on either side of the ball at the collegiate level.

Front seven sleepers

One of the top sleepers in this year's outside linebacker class made the trip to Gainesville and definitely opened some eyes. Although Conor O'Neill (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) lacks a bit of size to be considered a top national prospect, he has great range, and his long yet undersized frame, coupled with his constant presence around the football, reminds us of 2008 Under Armour All-American outside linebacker Sean Spence (Miami/Northwestern). An ideal bandit/rover, O'Neill looked good in coverage and definitely can match up well in space.

Defensive end Victor Gray (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) showed impressive speed off the ball as a pass-rusher and good overall upside at the position. He looked good on foot with his tall, lean frame and was difficult for tackles to mirror all night because of his quickness off the ball. Gray needs to work on incorporating hand technique -- he is strictly a speed rusher at this point -- but he definitely was a pleasant surprise in the trenches.

Mixed reviews

Outside linebacker Jon Bostic (Wellington, Fla./Palm Beach Central) impressed us physically; he easily boasted one of the more well-built frames of any prospect Friday night. We're still firm on our evaluation that he is a bit straight-lined and excels more as a vertical, downhill attacker than a kid with great lateral fluidity. He showed good acceleration throughout the night for his size but seemed to lose some in transition when opening to turn and run in coverage. He could grow into a middle backer at the next level.

Receiver Emory Blake (Austin, Texas/S.F. Austin) didn't blow us away with size or speed, but he was very consistent Friday night and has a knack for getting open and catching the football. He ran routes well, adjusted his body well to the throw and snagged most balls thrown in his area with a great set of hands.

Offensive skill players perform as advertised

Receiver Kendall Kelly (Gadsden, Ala.) was a difficult matchup for most corners who stepped up to challenge him with his good blend of size and speed. His foot speed was great, and he accelerated past his competition throughout the night. His ability to keep his speed at the top of his stem was perhaps most impressive.

Wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson (Pahokee, Fla.) actually looked a bit taller and rangier live than on film and was easily one of the faster receivers at the event. The Florida pledge consistently torched the competition with elite quickness and separation speed as a route-runner.

Wide receiver Duron Carter (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) caught most balls thrown in his vicinity and consistently extended away from his body for the grab. He has a strong frame, runs sharp routes and showed his future possession skills with some great jump-ball catches.

Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin has a future weapon for his high-tempo version of the spread in running back Rodney Scott (Cross City, Fla./Dixie County). He displayed great hands, foot speed, lateral quickness and the loose hips that will make him a great space player and versatile playmaker at the next level.

Quarterbacks get just a passing grade

Most of the quarterbacks on hand were dual-threat guys, so this wasn't the ideal venue to showcase their talents. Still, no one really stood out or wowed us with his passing skills. Morgan Newton (Carmel, Ind.) was perhaps one of the better passers of the night. Jordan Reed (New London, Conn.) threw some of the nicer balls in The Swamp but also was a bit inconsistent and looked like he had gained a lot of bulk from our junior film evaluations.
Looking to 2010

Defensive lineman Tavadis Glenn (Jacksonville, Fla./Terry Parker) was very impressive with his size and long wingspan. His advanced hand technique combined with his quickness off the ball should make him one of more coveted defensive linemen in the Sunshine State next year.

Wide receiver Chris Dunkley (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) flashed great speed and acceleration during one-on-one drills. He has a deceptively strong frame, and with continued physical development and overall polish, he could emerge as one of the better receivers in the 2010 class.

Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.

Billy Tucker

Scouts, Football Recruiting
• Recruiting coordinator for ESPN RecruitingNation.
• Nearly a decade of college coaching experience.
• Was recruiting coordinator at nationally-ranked Division II colleges.