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November 16, 2011

Florida selling early playing time


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MORE FLORIDA RECRUITING: UF in top three for Rivals100 linebacker | Five-star has only Florida visit remaining | Instate four-star has UF in top two | No. 10 rated JUCO visiting UF this weekend

The guidelines of a college football coach when it comes to discussing recruiting to media are very strict. Without the ability to speak about specific players, coaches typically stray away from touching on recruiting issues.

But on Monday, in the midst of a season that has many Gators fans looking toward next year, UF coach Will Muschamp grazed discussion of the recruiting trail as much as he has all season.

While fielding questions about a lack of depth along the line of scrimmage, Muschamp turned to a 2012 class that is currently in the works.

"We'll recruit well up front," he said.

"I feel very excited about where we are as far as from that standpoint. But again, we'll continue to improve and gain depth as far as recruiting is concerned and do a better job of coaching the guys here on campus."

Although Muschamp can't name names, Florida currently has two players committed on the offensive line and three on the defensive line. If things go as planned, as many as two players on the offensive side of the ball and four players on the defensive side could be added to that group by National Signing Day on Feb. 1, 2012.

When asked how immediately these freshmen could impact the team's on-field performance, Muschamp did not rule out the possibility of 2012 signees getting a chance to contribute right away.

"I've had offensive linemen start as freshmen," he said. "It is tougher. I've always said the closer your position is to the ball, the tougher it is to play early. But a lot of that can change now, especially with mid-year enrollees. You never know."

On the offensive line, the most likely candidate to start right away would be five-star offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, who is rated as the No. 1 tackle in the nation and No. 3 overall prospect. Humphries has said coaches have told him he could contribute as a freshman in a similar way to how current left tackle Xavier Nixon did in 2009.

If Florida is able to flip current Oklahoma State offensive tackle commit and four-star junior college prospect Donald Hawkins, he could be another potential immediate starter in 2012. At 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, he certainly has the big frame that would intrigue Florida coaches and will be visiting Florida for the Florida State game.

Plenty of opportunities at early playing time are also being promised on the defensive line, one of the areas where the most big-name prospects remain on the board, specifically at end. The Gators are at least in some way in the running for four five-star prospects and two four-star prospects at defensive end right now.

Meanwhile, coaches are advertising early playing time at defensive tackle, a position where the staff currently has two pieces is looking for a third.

"[Defensive line coach Bryant] Young is always telling me no other school is going to offer an opportunity like this for you to step into because honestly you can see from TV that they don't have any depth at the defensive tackle position," current defensive tackle commit Dante Phillips said. "Most schools, they have the depth, but they'll tell you that they don't have it so they can persuade you to come play for them. But Florida doesn't have that depth, so they're ready for me to get there and play whenever."

Similar chances for early playing time have been mentioned to four-star junior college defensive tackle and Tennessee soft commit Damien Jacobs, who will be taking a UF official visit this weekend. Phillips said Sunday he had not heard anything from Florida's coaches about their interest in bringing in a third defensive tackle.

Muschamp's Monday recruiting talk came after a Sunday in which he contacted recruits including four-star linebacker commit Jeremi Powell after a tough loss to South Carolina.

"He was just telling me they want me up there, so I can start banging heads," Powell said. "He was telling me how they really need me and everything."


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