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While the football staff has taken a more national approach to recruiting in this, their first full year of doing it, it is still clear that the state of Texas is a high priority. With the commitment already of Jevan Snead from the lone star state, and a few others from Texas lining up and singing the praises of the Gators, we thought it would be a good idea to talk to Scout.com's Stacey Dean and find out just what he thinks of Florida's move into the recruiting hotbed of Texas and the southwest in general. We also want to get his insight on a few players from the area.
Dean covered recruiting for Horns Illustrated before joining Scout.com's Inside Texas. He soon took over production of the Texas Hot 100 rankings and became the Texas Recruiting Analyst for Scout.com. Currently, he is the Scout.com Southwest and Midlands Region Recruiting Analyst, responsible for evaluating and ranking prospects in the Lone Star State as well as the states of Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Arizona and New Mexico. Two years ago, Dean spearheaded the campaign to reduce inflated HT/WT/40 data, making the HT/WT/40 data in the Texas Hot 100 recognized as the most accurate source of HT/WT/40 information in the business. Dean's rankings and scouting bios have been published in SuperPrep, PrepStar and The Sporting News/School Sports annuals as well as referenced for the Houston Chronicle Texas Top 100.
Bob Redman: Can you tell the Gator fans out there (in general) what kind of impact has Urban Meyer and the Gators made in recruiting the state of Texas and the entire southwest region?
Stacey Dean: Well, the seeds were sewn in Texas when Urban Meyer was at Utah. I can speak to that fully. I cannot name the kids, or anything like that for you, but countless prospects from the Lone Star State spoke highly of Coach Meyer. And, I remember thinking Coach Meyer is not afraid to take his message into the high school coach's offices, to the kids, and their parents. The message was that he could help them become fine young men, improve them on the football field, and win at Utah. He made no bones about going after some of the state's top prospects. He was relentless in his pursuit to build a pipeline in the Lone Star State, working some of the state's top athletes, perhaps quite a few that it didn't look like he could even get. Yet clearly obvious that he was also working the Texas high school coaches, to plant some roots of his own in the Lone Star State. And as I said above, the feedback on Meyer from the kids was always positive. His name was often mentioned as the favorite coach to talk to, even versus some of the top recruiters in the nation. When he got the head coaching gig in Florida I was pretty sure he'd continue working Texas, due to the foundation he built in terms of the important relationships with the HS coaches there, and that he was going to reap the benefits of that hard work, especially coming into the state where UF has a lot of appeal.
BR: Can you give us a brief report on the two kids the Gators signed out of Texas last year, wide receiver David Nelson and running back Kestahn Moore?
SD: I recently saw David Nelson, about a few weeks ago, and he's a great person on and off the field. Not only that, but he's already an ambassador for the Gator program. Look for him to be paired up with the Texas kids who take official visits to Gainesville throughout his 4-5 years in the program. Nelson, as a wide receiver, is a long-strider, who takes a little longer to get going, but once he does, he's as fast as anyone. He has a great pair of hands, runs good routes, and needs to work on getting in and out of his cuts, which he will. The most exciting attribute he brings to the Gator wide receiver ranks will be his ability to redirect, even in the air, twisting and turning his way to bring in the ball --- kid has amazing body control --- and that will be apparent to all Gator fans soon.
Regarding Kestahn Moore, I remember when no one was really talking that kid up. We were the first to spot the kid and make a major correction in the State Rankings, regarding where he should be slotted in the pecking order. Essentially, when we saw what he could do, we fell in love. He can run, catch and block. He does all of that very well. Moore, provided he stays healthy, can make plays in the Urban Meyer O and make them often. He has excellent vision, the ability to rip off huge chunks of yardage, and catch passes 30-40 yards downfield. He's a good one, no doubt about it. And, personally, I cannot wait for him to excel as a Gator, and make me look good for having him in the State's Top 20 -- ;)
BR: How close were the Gators with wide receiver Brandon La Fell and running back RJ Jackson?
SD: Very close, but LSU being close to Houston, R.J. Jackson's mother diggin' LSU, Brandon La Fell wanting to play with RJ, and not to mention knowing La Fell too would be closer to home, sealed the deal for LSU.
BR: This year the Gators are hitting Texas and the southwest hard again. Tell us a little about Gator commitment Jevan Snead?
SD: Snead is a kid that will come in and compete for the right to earn the job. He will bring in some experience, running a multiple set/formation offense such as option one play, 3-step drop the next, misdirection to follow that, and then a 7-step drop, and so forth … a lot of the same things Meyer does. Snead's familiarity will assist him in his development there. We have yet to fully evaluate the Stephenville quarterback so he could be in store for a bump up the rankings. We should be able to make a more solid ranking projection before HS football season kicks off again. So look for some kind of determination on where we think he places then, it will be a much more firm placement.
Williams diggin' Gators early has to mean something and so you simply never do know how the process will unfold until the end sometimes. But at this point, I'd have to go with the Gators."
BR: Running back Mon Williams is listing the Gators at the top of his list, what do you think the Gators legit chances for him are, and tell us your scouting opinion on Williams?
SD: It's hard to say. He said they're number one but it'll come down to how important is it for him to stick closer to home. If it is not that high on the priority list, then the Gators have a great shot as you full well know.
BR: DT Brandon Antwine is another that has listed the Gators very high. Can you tell us about his recruitment and about his play on the field?
SD: This a kid who was not on anybody's radar, save just a couple of schools when we landed on the Garland campus to check him out. He doesn't wow you in person, but on film he does. We indicated in his bio and in reports as well that he was the State's top defensive tackle prospect. He's quick off the snap, shows plenty of athleticism, and makes plays. He can split a gap by beating his man off the snap, not to mention string plays out and make the hustle-type of plays fans love. UF will battle it out with USC and OU. In the end, Antwine heads to UF or OU because he wants to take some time, take a few visits, etc. So, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Trojans might be filled up by the time the Garland defensive tackle is ready to end the suspense, leaving the Gators and Sooners to fight it out. Also, watch Texas Tech. I think if Antwine gives the Red Raiders an official visits, they could impress and put themselves in the thick of the battle, too.
BR: Offensive lineman Trent Williams of Longview is from the same high school as Tate Casey. He has the Gators on his radar can you tell us what you think about UF's chances and describe his play?
SD: We slotted Trent Williams a long time ago in the Texas Hot 100 and have yet to go back over his tape, so this is a kid who could either stay where he's at, move down a bit further, or make a move up the rankings. So, keep that in mind. As for describing his play, he has good size, good feet, and can be physical. Naturally, as I do with all prospects, I want to see more physicality, more nasty, more violent behavior. This is where Trent did not warm himself up to us, but admittedly, I need to go back and look at more than I did the first go-round. And make no mistake, we think Trent can take what we said to heart, and come out playing like nobody's business in his last year. Secondly, I think Trent will go to the school he thinks best fits him or feels the most comfortable with. The visits will be key and how well the assistant coaches can work the phone magic in the fall.
BR: Although not in Texas, Las Vegas (NV) running back DeMarco Murray has grown up a Gator fan and has always listed the Gators. Please tell us your opinion on his style of play and his recruitment.
SD: I think DeMarco Murray is similar to a Michael Goodson and/or Reggie Bush style of runner. He has very good size, very good moves, speedy pair of wheels, and the vision all good backs have. He's a kid who has not faced the level of competition a Goodson has, but you cannot penalize Murray for it. You either feel comfortable looking past it, and fault him not even in the least bit, or you simply cannot look past it, and so you do not project him as high as you might have do anyway. But, I can look past it.
BR: OK, I'm going to put you on the spot a little, understanding that this is just an opinion. It is more than six months until signing day. Tell us where you think each of the above players will sign. Tell why if you can.
MON WILLIAMS … Florida. Williams diggin' Gators early has to mean something and so you simply never do know how the process will unfold, until the end sometimes. But at this point, I'd have to go with the Gators.
BRANDON ANTWINE … Florida or OU … I think. USC might fill up at the defensive tackle position before he's ready to make his decision. If not, he really likes the Trojans and they will be tough to beat out. If the Gators and Sooners are not yet full when he is ready to make his move, I like their chances, with the slight edge going to the school in the Sunshine State. But watch out for Texas Tech, especially if they can secure a weekend official visit. Right now, though, it's all USC, UF and OU…
TRENT WILLIAMS … I'm going with LSU. Close to home and a favorite of the kids playing ball in East Texas. No reason to pick against Florida, just a guess on my part that LSU will tough to beat out if for no other reason than they carry a lot of clout with the kids in this region and often.
DEMARCO MURRAY … USC. In my opinion because it's so close to home and depth chart doesn't seem to be too intimidating based on the conversations I recently had with Michael Godson and his father who broke down (for me) the depth chart situations as either inviting or not as inviting to Goodson, and USC was one of the schools they termed as "inviting" with regard to running back depth chart talk. It will be fun to see how it all plays out.