GAINESVILLE -- Gator Clause usually doesn't write much about recruiting during the college football season but the Florida Gators' latest commitment has piqued our interest.
Josh Shaw (6-1, 195 pounds), a high school cornerback from Palmdale, Cali., pledged his allegiance to UF coach Urban Meyer on Tuesday. This is interesting for several reasons. One: The Gators went to California to find a defensive back. When is the last time Florida lured a defensive back out of California? I don't know. It's pretty rare, considering the enormous amount of elite high school defensive backs in Florida. Two: The addition of Shaw could be an indication that UF junior cornerback Joe Haden only has four more games remaining in his collegiate career.
In three short years, Haden has gone from one of Maryland's best high school quarterbacks this decade to one of the best collegiate cornerbacks in the country. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay wrote last Friday that Haden is currently college football's top-rated cornerback, according to NFL scouts. "If Haden elects to leave school early he will give the corner group an elite prospect worth drafting in the top 10 overall..." wrote McShay.
Like most starting juniors at UF, Haden will request an NFL draft evaluation in the months following UF's season. It's safe to assume that Haden will strongly consider leaving school early if he is projected as a first-round pick. How confident is the Gators' coaching staff that Haden will leave early? Well, they're confident enough in Haden's early departure that they told Shaw, the Californian, that Haden will likely leave.
Of course, we all know that coaches will tell recruits anything prior to National Signing Day. We can argue recruiting tactics another time. There is certainly a chance Haden could return to UF for his senior season. His younger brother, Jordan, is a 2010 UF commitment and Jordan Haden told me earlier this season that his older brother would like to play at UF with his sibling. That being said, the Shaw family and the Haden family have apparently been in communication this season, which means Shaw didn't announce his decision on Tuesday without doing his research.
Haden's departure after this season would open a starting spot in the Gators' secondary. We'll assume that sophomore cornerback Janoris Jenkins will retain his starting role next season. That means Shaw would battle with freshman Adrian Bushell, junior Moses Jenkins, redshirt freshman Jeremy Brown (assuming he's healthy) and a few other 2010 incoming freshmen for Haden's vacated position.
How does Shaw's decision on Tuesday affect the Gators' 2010 recruiting class? Shaw is the ranked third nationally among 2010 cornerbacks, according to Rivals.com. Landing such a high-profile recruit could mean the Gators are no longer in the running for Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, rated the No.1 cornerback in the nation. Florida currently has commitments from three cornerbacks: Shaw, Demar Dorsey of Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson (18th nationally) and Jaylen Watkins of Cape Coral (seventh nationally). Joyner's teammate at St. Thomas, cornerback Cody Riggs, is ranked eighth nationally by Rivals and is also being recruited by the Gators.