Let's take a trip around the Southeastern Conference. Each day for the next 11 days I'll add an SEC school to this post. Check back and find out all the interesting information I've uncovered about the Gators' competition...
GAINESVILLE -- Now that we've had time to digest Florida's 22 commitments (and watch the latest episode of LOST), let's take a look at who the other guys signed. There's plenty of talent to go around in the Southeast. Who were the winners? Who were the losers?
The tour bus begins in Gainesville and travels northwest 311 miles to Auburn, Ala., home of the hated Auburn Tigers, who are geographically closer to the University of Florida than any other SEC rival. Auburn has a rich tradition of cherry picking athletes from the Sunshine State. Broward County is a pipeline to The Loveliest Village on the Plains and this recruiting cycle continued that trend. The Tigers signed five players from Broward County.
Top three: DE Raven Gray (6-5, 263 pounds); OL Jermaine Johnson (6-6, 309 pounds); DE Cameron Henderson (6-6, 215 pounds).
Missed out on: RB Enrique Davis of Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. Considered one of the best running back prospects in the nation, Davis was all set to sign with Auburn until the Tigers hired a new offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin, who specializes in the dink-and-dump spread offense. Davis de-committed with Auburn and signed with SEC West rival Ole Miss and the Rebels' new head coach, Houston Nutt. Considering the history between Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and Ole Miss, Davis' change of heart is most certainly being celebrated in Oxford, Miss.
Sleeper: ATH Marcus Jemison (6-2, 190 pounds, 4.5 in the 40); Jemison is similar to Florida commitment Will Hill in that Jemison played quarterback in high school and led his team to an undefeated regular season but now plans to switch to defensive back in college. Jemison is from McCalla (Ala.) McAdory High near Birmingham, Ala. This is the same high school that produced one of the greatest football players in the history of the SEC, Bo Jackson. Jackson signed with Auburn and things worked out for him.
Floridians: 11 including WR Harry Adams (6-0, 175 pounds, 4.3 in the 40, Fort Lauderdale Dillard); C Dax Dellenbach (6-1, 220 pounds, Coconut Creek North Broward Prep); WR Philip Pierre-Louis, PICTURED, (5-10, 175 pounds, 4.4 in the 40, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas); S Christian Thompson (6-1, 195 pounds, 4.56 in the 40, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas); LB Dashaun Barnes (6-2, 230 pounds, Tallahassee Lincoln); ATH T'Sharvan Bell (6-0, 169 pounds, 4.4 in the 40, Kissimmee Osceola); RB Eric Smith (5-10, 239 pounds, Seffner Armwood); TE Vance Smith (6-4, 245 pounds, Pace); WR Derek Winter (6-0, 178 pounds, Tampa Plant); OL Jermaine Johnson (6-6, 309 pounds, Hargrave (Va.) Military/Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas); RB Onterio McCalebb (6-0, 170 pounds, Fort Meade)
Recruiting insider: Auburn reloaded along the defensive line with defensive ends Raven Gray and Cameron Henderson. Gray (Enterprise, Ala.) was one of the nation's most sought after recruits in 2006. He signed with Auburn but didn't qualify. He recently graduated from Wesson (Miss.) Copiah-Lincoln Community College and will be an immediate contributor for the Tigers. Henderson hails from a high school (Irondale Shades Valley) rich in defensive tradition (former Alabama linebacker Saleem Rasheed, former Arkansas linebacker Pierre Brown and former Auburn linebacker Mayo Sowell). The addition of Jermaine Johnson, PICTURED, further solidifies one of the best young offensive lines in the country. Johnson played football and hoops for St. Thomas Aquinas in 2006 before attending prep school last season. He was rated the No.2 prep school player in the nation by Rivals.
Chew on this: Auburn's recruiting class boasts 11 players from Florida while the Gators' recruiting class only features 10 players from the Sunshine State. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville coached at Miami a long time ago but he still knows how to recruit in South Florida. The Tigers picked up five commitments from Broward County. Fort Lauderdale Dillard has sent nearly 20 high school football players to Auburn over the years. That pipeline continued this recruiting cycle when the Tigers signed Dillard receiver Harry Adams, PICTURED. Adams, one of the fastest high school players in the country, picked Auburn over LSU. Adams won a state title in the 100-meter dash in 2006 with a time of 10.31 seconds. Now that's peel-your-face-off fast. The mark set a state record.
Take that Nick Saban: A couple people in South Florida were pretty upset when Nick Saban ditched the Miami Dolphins for the Crimson Tide. One of those people was Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas football coach George Smith. Smith fired off a letter to the University of Alabama informing the school to never again send a recruiter to St. Thomas. Smith, of course, has produced more college football players than any other current high school coach in the country. (That's not an exaggeration, folks. It's true.) With that in mind, is it any coincidence that St. Thomas has now sent four players to Auburn in the last two seasons? Auburn, of course, is Alabama's bitter in-state rival.
TOUR BUS PODCAST: AUBURN TIGERS
The tour bus pulled into Auburn, Ala., and noticed that things have changed. New offensive coordinator; new defensive coordinator -- the Plainsmen seem to be in a transitional period. If Auburn is known as "Running Back U," then what in the heck are the Tigers thinking by changing their offense to the spread? Joe Goodman, PICTURED, chimes in with his opinion and talks about how the Tigers' changes affected their latest recruiting class.
Next stop: The tour bus heads west tomorrow for Tuscaloosa, Ala., and the campus of the University of Alabama. Gator Clause will check back in and file a recruiting report when we get there...