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Posted: Saturday January 9, 2010 8:36PM; Updated: Tuesday January 12, 2010 3:36PM
Andy Staples
Andy Staples>INSIDE RECRUITING

Gators reel in three top prospects

Story Highlights

The uncertain status of Florida coach Urban Meyer has had little affect on recruits

Florida received commitments from three top prospects on Saturday

Ronald Powell, who was the All-American Bowl's MVP, committed to Florida

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Imagine if someone had suggested two weeks ago that by Saturday, Florida wouldn't even have the most unstable coaching situation in its own state -- much less the entire country. The thought would have been preposterous.

But two weeks removed from Gators coach Urban Meyer's stunning resignation for health reasons and 13 days removed from Meyer's equally stunning change of heart, Florida continues to reel in recruits. A week after the Gators got a commitment from Staten Island, N.Y., defensive end Dominique Easley, Florida received pledges from three players ranked in the nation's top 14 by Rivals.com during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Ronald Powell, ranked the nation's top defensive end and No. 5 overall prospect, picked the Gators over USC. Powell, who made multiple trips to Gainesville on his own dime from his home in Moreno Valley, Calif., had long been considered a Florida lean, but he canceled a plan to announce a commitment to Florida shortly after the Meyer drama unfolded. Saturday, he announced his choice with a Gator chomp and an MVP performance. Playing tight end, Powell caught a 23-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to start the scoring in the West team's 30-14 win. Later, Powell returned a blocked extra point 101 yards for a safety.

Florida also received a commitment from Philadelphia's Sharrif Floyd, whom Rivals.com considers the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle and No. 9 overall prospect. Floyd said he has been in contact with Meyer "every day" this past week, and he said Meyer has told recruits he intends to return from his leave of absence in time for preseason practice. Floyd said he understood the risk involved with picking Florida with Meyer's status undecided, but he said he considered Gainesville a place he could spend "the next 40 years, not just the next four."

"No matter where I went, I would have been taking a risk," said Floyd, who also considered Ohio State. "But at the end of the day, Florida's going to be Florida. Not to say Coach Meyer is leaving or anything, but you don't take a 13-1 team to an 0-13 team. That doesn't happen."

The Gators also received their second commitment from West Palm Beach, Fla., safety Matt Elam. Elam had committed to Florida as a junior, but he got cold feet about Meyer's situation and committed to Florida State on Dec. 31. Saturday, Elam reversed field again. When Elam announced his choice, an NBC reporter asked, "Are you sure this time?" "I'm positive," Elam replied.

Willis back in Tennessee class

Brandon Willis, one of the two Duncan, S.C., defensive ends who received a visit from two Tennessee recruiting hostesses in September, recommitted to Tennessee on Saturday after briefly looking at other schools. "Tennessee was always on my mind," Willis said. "I was considering [North Carolina] and UCLA, but the place I want to go to is Tennessee."

The NCAA is investigating a visit by two Tennessee recruiting hostesses to Byrnes High's game against Gaffney in Duncan on Sept. 25. Though neither Willis nor teammate and fellow Tennessee commitment Corey Miller are accused of any wrongdoing, Willis' father, Gary, encouraged his son to look at other schools out of fear that the NCAA might hand down some sort of punishment. "I didn't want to put him in harm's way," Gary Willis said Saturday.

Gary Willis said Tennessee coaches have calmed his fears, and he said he wanted his son to have the final say in his school choice. "He said, 'Daddy, I gave my word.' I had to be quiet," Gary Willis said.

'The Ride' continues

Cole Marcoux attended a football camp and wound up a reality television star. Now, the quarterback from Manhattan's Upper West Side will have to get ready for a new role: sought-after recruit.

Marcoux, a 6-foot-5, 244-pounder who attends the Fieldston School in the Bronx, won a spot on the Fox Sports Net show The Ride after an impressive performance in a July camp in Chester, Pa., run by Football University. Marcoux then beat out his seven co-stars to earn a spot in Saturday's All-American Bowl.

Marcoux already has been accepted to Dartmouth, but he may suddenly find himself with more options after his second-half performance Saturday. For most of the day, the East offense couldn't move the ball against the West defense. Marcoux, playing against defenders bound for elite FBS programs, calmly guided the East down the field for two fourth-quarter touchdowns. In the process, he showed off an arm every bit as strong as fellow All-Americans who were committed to Penn State, BYU, West Virginia and Iowa.

While Ivy League schools such as Dartmouth don't offer scholarships, some schools that do may be calling Marcoux after his performance Saturday. "If other coaches decide they want to give me a call and offer their schools," Marcoux said, "I owe it to them to consider."

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