GAINESVILLE -- It's about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, nearly time to hop in the ol' Ford and head down Florida's Turnpike. Next stop is my lovely home base, Miami. I really miss Miami now that Momma Herald has me living in Gainesville and covering the Gators. Don't get me wrong, Gainesville is great and it's a great place to live, but there's nothing quite like those Miami nights.
While I will be making a cameo appearance at our office on Biscayne Bay, I won't be kick'n it in South Beach tonight. Instead the party will be near Hollywood Beach. I know, I know: Hollywood Beach doesn't have the same ring to it as South Beach. But, hey, I lived in Hollywood Beach for nearly a year when I first moved to South Florida and the place has it's own special charm. They don't call it Hollyweird for nuthin'.
If you want to find me tonight, I'll be at Le Tub on AIA enjoying the best sirloin burger in America! What does this have to do with the Gators? Absolutely nothing, but while I'm in South Florida I might take the opportunity to hunt down a few high school football prospects. I hear the Urbanator and his staff are impressed with several South Florida studs. Now, the million dollar question is: Can Meyer actually sign any of those players? Florida's current administration has made a little headway in Broward but can't get anything done in Miami. (True story: The latest crop of Miami Northwestern Bulls who signed with UM used to call former Florida assistant Doc Holliday "Snake Eyes.") Holliday was considered a great recruiter by his peers, but he wasn't really trusted in Miami.
Urban revamped his recruiting strategy when Holliday bolted for West Virginia at the beginning of this offseason. Meyer positioned new assistant Lance Bedford (cornerbacks) in Miami. Meyer says that Bedford's lone responsibility is making inroads in Miami. According to some of my old high school sources in the area, Florida assistant Kenny Carter (running backs) has also been spotted in Miami quite a bit.(For the record, Miami coach Randy Shannon has about three assistants AT ALL TIMES working Miami-Dade.) We won't know until February whether or not Meyer's new "Miami Plan" is working.
Urban can close the deal on just about any recruit north of Boca but he hasn't been able to make much of a splash on the South Florida recruiting scene. (Why? It probably has nothing to do with Meyer and everything to do with Miami coach Randy Shannon.) Major Wright, of course, is the lone exception. Sure, Meyer has done a fabulous job reeling in the unheralded players -- Moses Jenkins (Lauderhill Boyd Anderson), Marcus Gilbert (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquanis), Bo Williams (Oakland Park Northeast), Frankie Hammond Jr.(Hallandale) -- but those guys haven't amounted to much. Jenkins, probably my favorite player on the team, is yet to break into the secondary rotation. Gilbert, injured much of his first two seasons, is poised to make an impact this fall. Williams transferred to Iowa State. Hammond is an incoming freshman who looks like another project.
Miami, and in particular Randy Shannon, hated losing Major to Florida. Miami was Major's first choice at the beginning (he'll still you his favorite player of all time is Sean Taylor) but that was when Larry Coker was on the outs, leaving the Hurricanes vulnerable. Meyer swooped in.
Meyer now has a foothold in Broward, but can Meyer sign a few Miami-Dade superstars this recruiting cycle? He's looking to sign two or three from the area. When talking about Miami-Dade and Broward, Meyer always likes to stress "quality" over "quantity" -- an indirect reference, of course, to Shannon cleaning house in the area. Here's a list of a few Miami and Broward prep stars Florida would love to sign. Gator Clause, of course, offers an opinion on whether or not that might happen.
OT JARED WHEELER (6-5, 300 pounds) Plantation American Heritage
Cut from the Sam Young mold (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas/Notre Dame), Wheeler is a powerful kid with a nice upside.
Does Meyer have a chance? Expect Wheeler to give Florida a lot of consideration. There is a tendency, however, for kids from Broward private schools to leave the state.
QB EUGENE SMITH (6-3, 175 pounds) Miramar
Florida needs to sign a quarterback and this kid is plenty talented. He threw for over 500 yards last season against Pompano Beach Blanche Ely, a team that featured two future FBS cornerbacks. Does Florida have chance? Nope. Smith wants the chance to play right away and that would not be the case at Florida.
WR DURON CARTER (6-3, 185 pounds) Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
Now here's a kid to keep an eye on. The son of NFL great Cris Carter, Duron Carter is a skilled receiver with strong leadership potential. This would be a great pick up for the Gators and Meyer should have the inside track. Not only has St. Thomas recently been a pipeline to Florida, but Cris Carter is close friends with Meyer. Carter speaks to the Gators once or twice a year and gets sideline passes to home games at The Swamp.
RB LAMAR MILLER (5-11, 205 pounds) Miami Killian
Oh, what the Gators' coaching staff would do to sign this kid. Miller is projected to be one of the best high school running backs in the nation this fall ... but Miami has first dibs. That won't stop Florida from making a strong push.
RB JAMAAL BERRY (5-11, 190 pounds) Miami Palmetto
Another talented Miami-Dade back. Another talented Miami-Dade back who Florida probably has no chance of signing.
LB FRANKIE TELFORT (5-11, 194 pounds) Miami Gulliver Prep
Meyer does a great job of recruiting the moms. This speedy linebacker wants to go out of state but he could probably be swayed.
ATH BRANDON MCGEE (5-11, 180 pounds) Plantation
McGee is a star quarterback for coach Steve Davis at Plantation but McGee will likely play secondary in college. Florida should make signing McGee a top priority or be prepared to see him playing against UF for another SEC team or perhaps Ohio State.
FS TEVIN MCCASKILL (6-2, 180 pounds) Miami Northwestern
Florida offered Tevin early. This guy is a lock for UM, of course.
GATOR CLAUSE'S SLEEPER SPECIAL
SS A'Kevis Anderson (5-10, 190 pounds) Hallandale
This guy has been cracking skulls at the varsity level since his freshman season at Hollywood Hills. A born leader, Anderson would be a talented addition to the Gators' secondary.