Leak a lightning rod for Florida?Posted: Tuesday January 14, 2003 11:44 PM
On Jan. 5, All-America quarterback Chris Leak made his verbal commitment to Florida on national television. Leak, from Charlotte (N.C.) Independence High School, is currently ranked No. 2 in the quarterback rankings and No. 5 overall by TheInsiders.com.
He has had a spectacular high school career, winning three straight state championships. Along the way, he threw for a mind-boggling 15,593 yards and a national-record 185 touchdown passes. Leak just may be the most polished prospect in the country.
In the All-America Bowl, featuring many of the nation’s top high school football players, Leak showed why he was one of the most coveted players in America, winning the Most Valuable Player trophy in leading the East to a victory over the West.
Early in the recruiting process, Leak was headed to Tennessee. After all, his older brother, C.J., had transferred to the Volunteers and was Casey Clausen’s backup. The stage was set for Chris. He was going to be a Vol. Then things changed suddenly, proving there are no such things as "locks" in recruiting. The relationship between the Leaks and Tennessee headed south, all the way to Gainesville, where Florida Gator head coach Ron Zook and staff won over the blue-chipper.
This wasn’t easy for the new Gator head coach. Florida had to fight off Florida State, Texas, USC and Iowa. In the end, Leak just felt more comfortable with Florida than the other four, and his commitment gives the Gators a much-needed boost in the recruiting wars.
The Leak verbal could not have come at a better time for the Gators. First of all, Leak spent a week with many of the nation’s top prep players who may or may not have been looking at Florida. Now some big names are all of a sudden high on the Gators. Tennessee wide receiver commitment Jayson Swain may take a visit to Florida.
Adarius Bowman, a wide receiver committed to North Carolina, may visit the Gators. Andre Caldwell, perhaps the most explosive receiver in the nation, also played with Leak in that all-star game. Although Caldwell is not saying much about the recruiting process, there is much speculation that he could follow Leak and his older brother Reche to the University of Florida.
Secondly, the Leak decision came in early January, perhaps the most pivotal time in the recruiting process. Florida hosted over a dozen prospects this past weekend and will have more prospects in this weekend. Recruiting can sometimes act like a game of dominos. When you get that first big one to commit, especially a player of Leak’s magnitude, and to do this in recruiting’s biggest month, the momentum can really get going. In Florida’s case, "big mo" is on its side right now.
The bottom line is this: Leak's pledge could be a recruiting lightning rod for Florida. He will attract a lot of attention to the Gators and make some recruits think a little harder about Florida.
Now, it’s up to Zook and his staff to close the deal with these kids. Can Florida turn Swain and or Bowman? Will the Gators land five-star receivers Caldwell and Chad Jackson? Will Leak’s signing influence the other side of the ball, where the Gators are desperate for defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs?
All-American types such as Ernie Sims, Earl Everett, Dee Webb, Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, Joe Cohen, Reggie Nelson, Robert Killebrew, Carnell Stewart, Antonio Cromartie, Tranell Morant, Bryan Pata and others are all defensive prospects high on Florida with decisions looming over the next four weeks.
Will Zook get them all? No way. There are too many big-name prospects who also are high on Florida State, Miami, Georgia, etc. And let's face the facts: Recruiting powers like the 'Noles and the 'Canes always close well. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, fresh off their first SEC Championship in 20 years, are cleaning up.
For Florida, the pivotal thing is to win its share of the recruiting wars. Last season, Florida did not beat FSU or Miami on one recruit. That must change in Gainesville for Zook to be successful in recruiting. But we are already seeing signs of Zook’s tireless work ethic when it comes to recruiting. Leak is the prime example and his commitment gives the new Swamp leader a potential huge edge in helping him close the deal for potential recruits to come to the University of Florida.
Florida DE headed to Ohio State
The Buckeyes should close strong in the recruiting wars, especially after winning the national championship. And they just landed a big one from the state of Florida. Stanley McClover, a defensive end from Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard High School, just committed to Ohio State.
"I actually committed when I got back from the visit," said McClover. "I had a feeling when I was leaving that this is the place for me. They just won the national championship and they are the No. 1 team in the country. I know some players there and I really like everyone. The staff seems so cool and everyone is so down to earth. Plus, recruiting was kind of getting a little crazy."
McClover is a member of TheInsiders.com Hot 100 and one of the nation's top defensive ends (No. 14 in the nation). McClover picked Ohio State over Auburn and Miami.
-- Jamie Newberg, TheInsidersRecruiting.com
De La Salle RB returns from Oregon
Maurice Drew, 5-foot-8, 200-pound running back from Concord (Calif.) De La Salle took his second official visit of the year to Oregon and came home saying the Ducks are a great fit for him.
"Everything was first class," Drew said. "From getting flown in a private jet to the way we were all treated, it was incredible. Friday we watched a cool highlight tape of the team, kind of a history of the program. Over the last 11 seasons, Oregon is the top program in the Pac-10, and that was impressive.
"We took a tour of the campus, saw the facilities, which are incredible, and had our names announced over the loudspeaker at the football stadium. It was cool. With me, they actually did play-by-play of me scoring a touchdown. I went to some cool parties Friday and Saturday night and just felt really comfortable there.
"I think it's going to take a lot to beat Oregon. I want to take my last three trips and then I'll make my decision after I see everything. I'm going to USC next week, then UCLA, and my last trip will be to Cal. I should be ready to decide close to Signing Day."
-- Greg Biggins, PacWestFootball.com
Big OL back from Florida
Carlton Medder of Groveland, Fla., committed to Georgia when he wasn't a household name. Now that he is firmly placed on the map, the Dawgs have a border war on their hands with enemies from the South and the North.
"I went to Florida this weekend," said Medder, "and I'm going to Tennessee next weekend. I had a good time at Florida. We went to the lake and had a barbeque. We raced paddle boats and stuff. It was a good time."
Medder had planned on taking visits ever since his commitment, but how did the Florida visit affect him?
"Things are still pretty much the same,” he said. “I mean, Florida really opened up my eyes, and it isn't over until Feb. 5. I still consider myself a Georgia commitment, though."
Georgia's biggest foes on the field, the Vols and the Gators, are going to be their biggest foes off the field in this BorderWar.
-- Scott Kennedy, BorderWars.com
Top rated RB pulls the trigger
It's been a long haul for BorderWars 101 Team running back Skyler Thornton to narrow down his list of favorites, but he's got it down to one now. He made a decision to be a Gator this weekend.
"My visit to Florida went well this weekend," Thornton said. "I went ahead and committed to Florida. It was just a fun visit, and I really felt comfortable there with the players and coaches. One of the coaches is supposed to come this weekend to talk about how I'll fit in next year and our workout schedule."
Thornton worked out hard in the summer to add several pounds of muscle, and he became one of the most coveted players in the South this year.
-- Scott Kennedy, BorderWars.com
Standout Miami LB has good visit at Ohio State
At 6-feet and 210 pounds, Miami (Fla.) Central standout linebacker Ali Highsmith made his first official visit of the year this past weekend. "I went up to Ohio State," he said. "Me, [Eric] Moncur, and Stanley [McClover] went up and we had a good time together. Ohio State has a bunch of guys on their team from down here. We hung out with Chris Gamble and some of the guys."
Highsmith has two more trips lined up and may take a fourth. "I'm going to LSU next weekend and then UM on the 24th," he said. "I'm not sure yet, but I might go to Auburn on the 31st. But I think I'll probably know where I'm going after I visit UM."
So did the visit to Ohio State put the Buckeyes even with the Hurricanes? "It was straight and everything, but I still like UM," he said. "It's right down the road, and they're going to need some linebackers. Me, Bowe, Pata, Moncur and a bunch of us are taking our visit together."
Highsmith, who finished the season with 90 tackles, seven sacks, eight caused fumbles, and three defensive touchdowns, also enjoyed his trip to the CaliFlorida Bowl. "That was fun," he said. "All of us [from Dade] hung out together and Earl [Everett] too. I didn't like the way they game went, but it was fun during the week. There were a lot of good players. That dude Earl and someone named Glenn [Cook] were pretty good linebackers I thought."
Highsmith is close friends with Norland standout Dwayne Bowe. "He didn't go anywhere this weekend," he said. "We're going to LSU together next week and then UM. We'll probably go [to college] together."
-- Mike Bakas, TheInsiders.com
New Jersey WR names a leader
Wide receiver James Townsend says, “Iowa is my leader right now. I’ve been watching them all year and they spread the ball around. Iowa has good receivers, and I think I’ll have a chance to play early if I decide to go there.
“I visited South Carolina in December,” Townsend said. “I’m going to West Virginia [Jan. 10], Iowa [Jan. 17] and Michigan State [Jan. 24] in January.”
Townsend, a 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, from Delran (N.J.) Holy Cross is a three-year varsity starter that was named all-region in 2002.
Townsend had 2,113 yards receiving and 30 touchdowns combined as a junior and senior.
-- Chris Pool, PoolRecruiting.com