Florida enters the game with an eight-game winning streak over Tennessee, which only has four wins against the Gators in the last 20 years. Florida, which has a 1-1 record this season after losing to Miami on Sept. 7, needs another win against Tennessee to turn its momentum back in the right direction.
Florida could also use a boost in recruiting. The Gators are in fine shape with their 14 commitments for the 2014 class, but they’re still playing catch up to several SEC teams.
That’s why Florida has invited a long list of prospects to campus this weekend. The list of players expected to take official visits this weekend includes safety Jamal Adams from Lewisville, Texas, defensive end Lorenzo Carter from Norcross, Ga., linebacker Clifton Garrett from Plainfield, Ill., tight end DeAndre Goolsby from Derby, Kan., and wide receiver Speedy Noil and linebacker Gerald Willis III from New Orleans.
Five of the official visitors are ranked inside the Rivals100. Goolsby is ranked No. 168 overall by Rivals.
Other top prospects plan to take unofficial visits to Florida on Saturday, including running back Bo Scarbrough from Bradenton, Fla., and offensive lineman David Sharpe from Jacksonville, Fla.
How important will this weekend be for Florida? Rivals analyst Mike Farrell wrote he expects it to play a large role on the Gators’ signing class.
“I think this is a weekend that as National Signing Day approaches we’ll look back at this as one that was make or break for Florida. I think Florida leads for Adams and Carter; I think they are in the mix for Garrett and are probably long-shots right now for Noil and Willis, but they still need to impress them all. This is an atmosphere game; if the fans are out there booing the team because it struggles on offense or if they lose it could be a fall-apart situation for the group that will be on campus.”
Carter has named Florida his leader in the past but held off recently on calling the Gators his top choice. Carter told Rivals he doesn’t want to create speculation before he takes his official visits.
“It’s too early to name a leader,” Carter said. “I named (Florida) as a leader after my visit there. It was a great visit, but my leader would change after every visit if it was like that. So I just have to wait it out. It is a cluster of leaders with Georgia, Florida, and Bama.”
Florida has some ground to make up with Garrett, who’s favoring LSU and showing increased interest in Oregon. But he told Rivals he’s still open-minded despite LSU’s lead for his services.
“I just want to see who is going to (bring) that wow factor,” Garrett said. “Once I get on campus at these schools, I think I am probably going to get that feeling and know which school is going to be the one.”
Running back Joe Mixon from Oakley, Calif., has canceled his visit to Florida. Instead, the Gators will try to impress Scarbrough, who’s continued to show interest in Florida despite his commitment to Alabama.
“I’m pretty solid right now, but we’ll see what happens in the end,” Scarbrough told 247Sports last week.
Florida is in very good shape with two elite defenders who won’t be visiting this weekend: cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and linebacker Dwight Williams from Gardena, Calif. The Junipero Serra High School teammates are both favoring Florida, according to Rivals.
Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun called Florida’s chance of landing Jackson “outstanding.” He wrote in part:
“UF track coach Mike Holloway is a major player in Jackson’s recruitment and has already given the five-star prospect personal workouts. Holloway is the only track coach Jackson speaks with — or at least he was for a while — and he appears to be closest with the football coaches at Florida.”
Report: Tennessee leads for Malone
Wide receiver Josh Malone from Camp Station High School in Gallatin, Tenn., announced plans this week to take official visits to Georgia, Tennessee, Clemson and Florida State.
Malone, who said he’s “still debating about the fifth one,” told 247Sports the visits will play a large role in his final decision.
“The way I’m approaching these visits is to try to learn as much as I can and really see if I can just see myself at that place for the four years or five years that I’ve got to be there, and see if I just like the environment,” Malone said. “Really, it’s just going to come down to the comfort level.”
Malone appears to be feeling most comfortable with Tennessee. The Vols have a “slight edge” in the battle for Malone, according to 247Sports, which credited Tennessee’s in-state commitments and assistant coach Tommy Thigpen for making a push.
Tennessee could use a player like Malone, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 6 prospect by 247Sports. He’s also the most important uncommitted prospect on Tennessee’s board, according to ESPN RecruitingNation‘s Derek Tyson.
“With an embarrassing loss to Oregon over the weekend, Tennessee is trying to hold on to its recruiting momentum. Landing a player such as Malone would help that cause,” Tyson wrote.
Tennessee’s offense struggled against Oregon and will likely do the same against Florida this weekend. That’s why Tennessee’s coaches have made it clear to Malone that he’ll have a chance to play right away.
“I pay attention to stuff like that,” he said. “The passing game just isn’t polished right now. It’s going to be a couple years before their passing game is really just polished. But you also notice when people start freshman wide receivers, because that means they give freshmen opportunities to come out and play.”
Missouri lands two in Georgia
Missouri had a successful week recruiting the state of Georgia, landing commitments from wide receiver Nate Brown from North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee and athlete Thomas Wilson from Buford High School.
Missouri safeties coach Alex Grinch, whose recruiting territory includes Georgia, deserves a lot of the credit.
“(Grinch) really carries himself well,” North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’s a guy I can already feel like I can pick up the phone and have a conversation with. He’s up to speed on our guys. He’s one of those guys doing his homework.”
Wilson felt the same way. He committed to Grinch and Missouri before taking an unofficial visit to Columbia.
“I like the program, I like coach Grinch and he’s told me about the program himself,” Wilson told Rivals. “I’m going to take an official visit as soon as I can. I like how it’s on the rise and I could play against good opponents in the SEC. I just want to get there and see what I can do.”
Missouri has 22 commitments for the 2014 class. The Tigers’ last three commitments have come from the state of Georgia, with athlete Tavon Ross from Bleckley County High School in Cochran joining Brown and Wilson.
Elam visits Kentucky
Defensive tackle Matt Elam from John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, Ky., visited Kentucky last weekend to watch the Wildcats play Louisville.
The game didn’t go well for Kentucky, which lost 27-13 to its in-state rival. Still, Elam came away “impressed” with Kentucky during his visit, according to Rivals.
Elam, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 18 defensive tackle by Rivals, is the top remaining prospect on Kentucky’s board. Elam has heard that from coaches and commitments with the Wildcats.
“Matt’s a top priority,” Kentucky quarterback commit Drew Barker said last month. He’s a prototypical SEC defensive lineman. It’s insane how athletic he is for how big he is.”
Elam told the Lexington Herald-Leader he’s used to hearing from Barker, who’s probably Kentucky’s top recruiter among the Wildcats’ commitments.
“Drew’s on the coaching staff for sure,” Elam said. “He’s doing a great job helping bring in top recruits. He’s after me hard. Texts, phone calls, whenever we see each other.”
Elam has official visits scheduled to Alabama, Kentucky and Notre Dame this fall. He’s considering taking all five official visits.