Florida's Top 10 recruits of this century: Where's Tim Tebow?
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators have gone two full recruiting classes without a 5-star signee, but it hasn’t always been that way. Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook, Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp all persuaded a fair number of marquee recruits from each class to wear orange and blue.
Jim McElwain has signed two 5-star prospects – OT Martez Ivey and DE Cece Jefferson – both in the class of 2015. Since Ivey and Jefferson were both Sunshine State products who wanted to be Gators, and were recruited by Muschamp’s staff, some McElwain critics don’t give the third-year coach credit for landing their signatures.
Whether the credit goes to McElwain, Muschamp, or both, Ivey is one of the highest-rated Florida recruits of this century. On the surface, it might seem that Ivey and Jefferson should be considered equal, as they’re both rated 5 stars. On the 247Sports Composite, however, each prospect (dating to the class of 2000) is given a five-digit score. Ivey’s score is 0.9990, which is much higher among the 5-stars than Jefferson’s 0.9951.
Here are Florida’s top 10 signees of the 21st century by composite score:
1. DE Ronald Powell (0.9999), 2010: Meyer’s final Florida class, which ranked No. 1 nationally, was headlined by Powell, the nation’s No. 1 recruit.
Powell never quite lived up to the billing as a Gator. He appeared primarily off the bench as a freshman in 2010 (25 total tackles, 2.5 for loss, sack), and earned a starting role in 2011 (32 tackles, 9 TFL, 6 sacks), but missed the 2012 season due to a torn ACL. He finished his career in 2013, but seemed a little slower after the injury.
The New Orleans Saints picked Powell in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He currently plays for the Seattle Seahawks.
2. QB Brock Berlin (0.9998), 2000: Berlin was supposed to be the man to get the Fun ‘N’ Gun back on track after a post-Danny Wuerffel rough patch, but that didn’t pan out. Rex Grossman, a class of 1999 signee who redshirted, took over as the starting quarterback in the 2000 season and held onto it for the rest of his career.
Grossman’s missed curfew for the 2002 Orange Bowl, Steve Spurrier’s final game as Florida coach, resulted in Berlin getting the start and playing the first quarter, but that was it from the highly rated quarterback. Berlin transferred to Miami to finish his career, which included leading the Hurricanes to rally for 28 unanswered points against Florida in 2003 for a 38-33 UM victory.
3. OT Martez Ivey (0.9990), 2015: Ivey has played left tackle and left guard during his Florida career. Last year’s starting left tackle, David Sharpe, left for the NFL and Ivey is expected to be his replacement in 2017. How Ivey handles his natural position next season could define his career, as he could potentially be NFL bound once eligible.
4. WR Percy Harvin (0.9989), 2006: The highest rated Florida signee in 2006 wasn’t Tim Tebow. From the time Harvin arrived on campus, Meyer saw the No. 2 national overall prospect of the class as a “Reggie Bush type” player. The injury bug hampered Harvin from ever having a complete season like Tebow, but when he was healthy, he was arguably Florida’s most electric player ever with the ball in his hands.
As a rusher, Harvin averaged a jaw-dropping 9.5 yards per carry (194 rushes, 1,852 yards, 19 TD). He was practically a guaranteed first down out of the backfield, and also Tebow’s go-to wideout (133 catches, 1,929 yards, 13 TD).
Neither Tebow nor Harvin would have ever put up their incredible stats without the other, but watching Harvin’s Florida highlights it’s hard not to wonder what might have been were he not overshadowed by the most famous player to ever suit up at Florida. Harvin did get one thing Tebow doesn’t have – a Super Bowl ring.
T5. CB Vernon Hargraves III (0.9979), 2013: Hargreaves was the No. 3 overall recruit of the 2013 class, and he certainly lived up to the hype. He stepped into the Gators’ secondary as a freshman, and was one of the few bright spots (10 passes defended) in an otherwise miserable season.
A three-year starter, Hargreaves finished with an impressive 27 passes defended (including 10 INT). Of those 27, 23 came in his first two seasons. SEC quarterbacks learned to throw elsewhere by time the 2015 season rolled around.
The Buccaneers brought Tampa’s own back home with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
T5. OT D.J. Humphries (0.9979), 2012: You could probably get a “who?” if you asked a casual Gators fan about Humphries. The Mallard Creek (Charlotte, N.C.) product did not get a lot of attention during his three years in Gainesville, but NFL scouts liked his size (6-5, 307 pounds) and potential enough to make him a first-round pick in 2015 (No. 24 by the Arizona Cardinals).
T5. DB Will Hill (0.9979), 2008: Nicknamed “The Thrill,” Hill was one of the more hyped recruits of the Meyer era. He was a member of the SEC All-Freshman team in 2008, the year of UF’s last national championship, while rotating into a secondary unit that featured Major Wright and Ahmad Black. He stepped into an increased role in 2010 and left for the NFL following his junior year. Hill went undrafted, but later signed as a free agent with the New York Giants. Suspensions due to drug use have followed Hill at nearly every stop along the way of his football career.
8. DT Dominique Easley (0.9978), 2010: Powell was the headliner of the 2010 class because of the recruiting rankings, but Easley had the better career at Florida (72 tackles, 18 TFL, 5.5 sacks) as a dominant pass-rusher and run-stopper in the middle. The bulk of Easley’s stats came in the 2011 and ’12 seasons, his sophomore and junior years before a torn ACL claimed his senior season.
Easley was the No. 29 overall pick the New England Patriots in the 2014 NFL Draft and now plays for the Los Angeles Rams.
9. RB Ciatrick Fason (0.9970), 2002: Fason is the top Zook signee on the list, an era many Gators fans have attempted to block out of their memory. While he’s not remembered in the same way as Florida’s all-time great running backs (Emmitt Smith, Errict Rhett, Fred Taylor, etc), Fason had one of the best single seasons in Gators history, ranking No. 6 with 1,267 rushing yards in 2004. That was the same year he logged 210 yards against Kentucky, the fourth-best single game performance in school history.
10. LB Jelani Jenkins (0.9969), 2009: Jenkins only played in two games as a freshman, but was a leader on defense as a sophomore and junior, combining for 151 tackles, 10.5 TFL and 4 sacks. Injuries caused his numbers, and draft stock, to go down in his senior year (29 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks). He was a fourth-round by the Miami Dolphins, and has remained there all four seasons.
What about Tebow? Florida signed nine of the top 100 overall recruits, according to the 247Sports.com composite. Jenkins, No. 10 on the Gators’ list, tied for No. 104 overall.
Sharrif Floyd, Andre Caldwell, Derrick Harvey, Jefferson, Darrell Lee, Chris Leak, Carlos Dunlap, Gary Brown, Jarvis Moss, Teez Tabor, Matt Elam and Jonathan Bullard all were ranked ahead of Tebow.
Tebow came in at No. 23 on the Gators’ list, tied at No. 282 overall. His score was .9916, just a fraction ahead of Jeff Driskel (.9915).