Florida's 5-star recruits have delivered, but Gators hurting from lack of them

BY foxsports • February 2, 2015

Will Muschamp went 28-21 in four seasons in Gainesville. And in many ways, his time there was short because of his recruiting failures.

Muschamp landed just six Scout.com five-star prospects in his four signing classes (2011-14). Three players -- corners Vernon Hargreaves, Brian Poole and defensive end Jonathan Bullard -- have become consistent defensive stars.

But the only 2014 five-star, defensive end Gerald Willis, has already been dismissed from school. Offensive lineman D.J. Humphries declared early for the draft in January, and quarterback Jeff Driskel had a rocky four seasons at Florida and has transferred to Louisiana Tech.

The cupboard is bare -- especially on the offensive side of the ball -- for new coach Jim McElwain. But he is looking to close strong on National Signing Day as he pursues a pair of Scout.com five-star defensive ends in CeCe Jefferson of Glen Saint Mary and Byron Cowart of Seffner Armwood.

Here's a look back at Florida's five-star athletes that signed with the school from 2004-2014:

2004

DE Derrick Harvey: An elite pass rusher, Harvey had 20.5 career sacks and 17 tackles for loss in a standout junior season. Harvey started 18 of his 36 games at Florida, finishing with 90 tackles. He was drafted in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he played from 2008-10 (he's no longer in the NFL).

2005

CB Avery Atkins: After playing just his true freshman season at Florida and recording nine tackles and an interception, Atkins left school after domestic battery charges in 2006. He transferred to Bethune-Cookman, played a few games and tried to return to Florida but left after a few weeks in 2007. He was found dead of a drug overdose in July 2007.

S Reggie Nelson: A junior-college transfer from Coffeyville, Kansas, Nelson made an immediate impact with 46 tackles in 2005. He then had 51 tackles and six interceptions as a senior, when he was named an All-American and earned the Jack Tatum Award as the nation's top defensive back. Nelson was drafted in the first round by Jacksonville.

2006

WR Percy Harvin: One of the most electric players in Florida history, Harvin was a threat to score as a receiver, running back or returner. Harvin had 1,929 receiving yards and 13 TDs, but also 1,852 rushing yards and 19 TDs in three seasons in Gainesville. He left school early for the NFL after the 2008 season and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round but signed with Seattle before the 2013 season. Harvin helped the Seattle Seahawks win a Super Bowl a year ago.

QB Tim Tebow: One of the best dual-threat college quarterbacks ever, Tebow was nearly impossible for defenses to stop. He threw for 9,285 yards and 88 touchdowns but also ran for 2,947 yards and 57 touchdowns. Tebow was a backup in helping the Gators win the 2006 national title, and he started for the 2008 championship team. A first-round pick by Denver in 2010, Tebow led the Broncos to the playoffs but then was traded to the New York Jets and later was cut by the New England Patriots. He has now moved into broadcasting with the SEC Network.

WR Jarred Fayson: Opportunities never followed Fayson to Gainesville, where he had just one catch in two seasons. He then transferred to Illinois, following former Gators coach Ron Zook. He had 16 catches as a junior and then 38 catches as a senior for the Illini.

S Jamar Hornsby: Multiple arrests first at Florida and then Mississippi stalled out Hornsby's career, although he finished playing at Tuskegee. He appeared in just seven games in 2007 at Florida, then was kicked off the team for using a stolen credit card. He was later charged with felony assault after signing with Mississippi in 2009.

OL Carl Johnson: A 33-game starter, the versatile Johnson made starts at center, guard and tackle. He made eight starts in 2008 at left guard, helping the Gators win the 2008 national title.

LB Brandon Spikes: One of the defensive leaders in his career at Florida, Spikes started 39 of 47 games and had 307 tackles and 31.5 tackles for loss. He was an All-American as a senior in 2009, making 68 tackles. Spikes has played five NFL season, four with New England and in 2014 with Buffalo.

2007

TE Aaron Hernandez: An All-American at Florida, Hernandez was a matchup problem for defenses. He caught more passes than any Florida tight end in a season (68 in 2009) and in a career (111). He was a fourth-round pick by New England, and Hernandez caught 175 passes for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns from 2010-12. Hernandez is on trial and is facing murder charges in Massachusetts.

LB Lorenzo Edwards: He never cracked the starting lineup at Florida, but Edwards appeared in 32 games and had 43 tackles from 2007-09.

G James Wilson: Wilson was a durable lineman, playing in 50 games (starting 16) at Florida. He played through a number of knee injuries and battled weight issues, often playing at 330 pounds.

DT Torrey Davis: He only made 15 tackles in two seasons for Florida, but Davis made them count. He had two goal-line stops in the national championship game win over Oklahoma, helping the Gators win the 2008 title. He struggled acamdically, left the team in 2009 and landed at FCS program Jacksonville State. Davis went undrafted in 2010, played briefly with the Tampa Bay Bucs and has spent the past few years in the CFL.

WR Deonte Thompson: A 34-game starter, Thompson had sprinter speed and caught 101 passes but had just nine touchdowns in his four seasons. He had a career year as a junior in 2010, grabbing 38 passes for 570 yards and a touchdown. Thompson has been a reserve for the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills.

DE Justin Trattou: An effective pass rusher, Trattou had 121 tackles and 8.5 sacks in four seasons. He had a breakout senior season in 2010, recording 57 tackles. He was undrafted but has played for both the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings.

S Major Wright: Excellent in pass coverage, Wright had 165 tackles in 41 career games (33 starts). He also had eight interceptions and forced four fumbles. He was drafted in the third round by the Chicago Bears and had 51 tackles in his first season in Tampa in 2014.

RB Chris Rainey: A fast tailback who could also catch passes out of the backfield, Rainey had 2,464 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns from 2008-11. He also grabbed 69 passes for 795 yards and six TDs. Rainey bounced around the NFL but did not playi n 2014.

DT John Brown: He never played at Florida due to academics, enrolling at Northeast Mississippi Community College and then wanted to sign at Tennessee but never played after being involved in a fight at a bar.

DE Carlos Dunlap: A tall (6-6) and athletic pass rusher, he played in 40 games, starting 13. Dunlap had 84 tackles but also had 19.5 sacks. He was a first-team all-SEC pick in 2009, but he missed the SEC championship game after a DUI arrest. He left early for the NFL after the 2009 season, was drafted by Cincinnati in the second round and became a starter for the Bengals the past two seasons.

2008

S Will Hill: An SEC All-freshman pick with 48 tackles, Hill was a steady defensive back in his three years in Gainesville. He had 144 total tackles and was one of the top tacklers on special teams. He left early for the NFL, went undrafted in 2011, but had 115 tackles the past two seasons for the New York Giants.

DT Omar Hunter: While Hunter didn't have a high number of tackles, he was able to play in 56 games (including three during 2008, which eventually became his redshirt season). He had just 72 career tackles, but 40 came as a senior in 2012.

OT Matt Patchan: After trying to make the switch to defensive line, Patchan returned to offense in 2010 -- only to take a medical redshirt. He started seven games in 2011 at right tackle, then lost the 2012 season to injury. Patchan transferred to Boston College in 2013, and is a reserve with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

WR Carl Moore: A junior-college standout, Moore never really developed in Gainesville. He caught 41 passes and had two touchdowns in 2008 and '10 (Moore missed 2009 with an injury).

2009

OT Xavier Nixon: A durable lineman, Nixon started 33 of the 46 games in his career. He became the first true freshman to start at left tackle since 1992. He graded out at 80 percent or higher in all but one game in 2012, his senior season. Nixon went undrafted but has played for both the Redskins and Colts.

LB Jelani Jenkins: Despite a few injuries, Jenkins still started 31 games from 2010-12. He made 182 tackles, had six sacks and intercepted three passes for the Gators. He was a fourth-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2013 and had 110 tackles last season.

DT Gary Brown: Brown enrolled at Florida but was dismissed from the team in February 2010 following a misdemeanor battery arrest.

WR Andre Debose: A playmaker at both wide receiver and returner, Debose owns the Florida record with four career kickoff returns for TDs. He was expected to be a big part of Florida's offense in 2013 but tore his ACL during preseason camp. Debose had four kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns but left the team before the Birmingham Bowl.

2010

DT Sharrif Floyd: A physical, tough lineman, Floyd started in 26 of his 37 games at Florida. He had 115 career tackles and was a special-teams star (three career blocks of punts or field-goal attempts). He was a first-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings and had 42 tackles in 2014.

DE Ronald Powell: After missing 2012 with a torn ACL, Powell bounced back and played in 11 games (eight starts) last season and led the team with four sacks and eight quarterback hurries. He had 84 career tackles and was a backup for the New Orleans Saints in 2014.

OLB Chris Martin: After playing a reserve role in 2010, Martin was cited for marijuana possession in January 2011 and left the Gators over the summer. He played at a junior college, then landed at Kansas and was dismissed from the team in 2013 after he was arrested due to suspicion of aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and kidnapping.

DT Dominique Easley: After tearing the ACL in his left knee in 2011 and the meniscus in his right knee in 2013, Easley opted to leave early for the NFL. He had 72 tackles and 5.5 sacks in his career. Easley won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots on Sunday.

S Matt Elam: A dependable, consistent player, Elam played in 39 games and made 26 starts for the Gators. He had 176 career tackles, including 76 in 2012. He opted to leave after that year, and Elam was a first-round pick by Baltimore. He has 127 tackles the past two seasons for the Ravens.

WR Chris Dunkley: After signing with Florida, Dunkley did not play due to academics and transferred to South Florida in 2011. He has combined for 11 catches in 2012 and '13 for the Bulls.

2011

QB Jeff Driskel: The nation's top quarterback had an up-and-down career in Gainesville and has now transferred to Louisiana Tech. In 2012, he threw for 1,646 yards and 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. But he struggled to open 2013, and was lost for the season with a broken fibula in September. He completed just 53 percent of his passes in 2014 and lost his starting job to true freshman Treon Harris.

2012

CB Brian Poole: Considered one of the top corners in the class, Poole saw some playing time his freshman season but had just three tackles. He made six starts as a nickel defensive back in 2013, and he finished the season with 32 tackles and two interceptions. Poole had 45 tackles and led the team with four interceptions in 2014. One of them was an INT return for a touchdown that helped the Gators defeat East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. He will return for his senior season in 2015.

OT D.J. Humphries: Humphries started 19 games for the Gators and declared for the NFL draft in January.

DE Jonathan Bullard: After seeing playing time as a freshman, Bullard had eight starts in 2013. He was second among the Gators' defensive linemen with 33 tackles. Bullard had a breakout 2014, recording 52 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He will return for his senior year in 2015.

2013

CB Vernon Hargreaves: A dependable corner, Hargreaves has been an All-SEC first-team pick his first two seasons in Gainesville. A consensus first-team freshman All-American, Hargreaves had 38 tackles and his 11 pass breakups tied the record by a Florida true freshman in 2013. He followed that up with an impressive sophomore year, making 50 tackles and recording three interceptions.

2014

DE Gerald Willis: Had 14 tackles in eight games. He also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. But in mid-January, Willis was dismissed from the team after altercations with teammates.


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