Though the Letters of Intent have been signed and faxed in, Inside the Gators isn't quite ready to move on from the class of 2014 just yet. Today, in order give a more complete look at the Florida signees, Matt Hamilton shares his expert opinion on Florida's signing class.
All evaluations were based off each player's Rivals.com highlight film. Scouts usually need at least three full game tapes of a player to get a full evaluation of his skill set, strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. More so, scouts prefer the tapes not to be from consecutive games. Highlight tapes only show off a few physical traits and some tendencies as far as technique is concerned.
It is important to keep in mind things like practice habits and character go a long way in determining recruits' success.
Having said that, here is what I observed from watching their highlight tapes
PART I: OFFENSIVE SKILL PLAYERS
This is my third year breaking down Florida's Signing classes, and the biggest thing that stood out to me in my previous two years was the lack of standout skill players on the offensive side of the ball. Yes Muschamp has brought in some quality talent like Kelvin Taylor, Matt Jones and Ahmad Fulwood, as well as some promising offensive linemen, but what really has held the Gators back (in addition to injuries) is the lack of a truly explosive players offensively. And as a result, they ranked 116th in the country, averaging just over 10 yards per completion and 111th in the nation averaging just 4.79 yards per play.
Grier is a big play machine. A talented athlete, Grier can make plays in the read option game and scrambling, as well as from the pocket. Has good speed and elusiveness in the open field. Tough as a runner, will run through arm tackles. Good arm strength, can make every throw. Inconsistent and lazy at times with his footwork, can be flatfooted. Excellent passer on the move, always gets his front hip around to his target and is very accurate. Grier's mechanics are the biggest area of concern. He has a low release point (which is a concern at just 6'2) and looks to almost shot-put the ball at times to his target, in addition to his footwork issues. Still has decent arm strength considering, so if he fixes these mechanical issues he should be able to get a lot of pop on his throws. Grier is an unorthodox quarterback, at his best when things break down and he is forced to run around and make plays with his arm or legs. He may make some maddening decisions at times against SEC defenses, but he will come up with highlight reel plays. Hate to make comparisons like this because he still has developing to do, but it really is impossible to watch Grier and his gunslinging mentality and penchant for unbelievable plays without being reminded of Johnny Manziel.
Harris is a talented dual-threat quarterback that you can design runs for and keep in the pocket. Very active feet and good footwork. Good vision and excellent elusiveness in the run game. Always keeps his eyes downfield when scrambling. He scrambles to pass, not to run. This is a great sign for his development as he doesn't use his terrific running ability as a crutch when in trouble, but looks to make plays down the field first and foremost. Does a good job setting himself and regaining his mechanics when on the move. Good toughness, willingness to step up in the pocket and make throws. Good accuracy, throws an excellent fade ball. Biggest concern is his average at best arm strength and his delivery. Harris can send his deep balls, but his short to intermediate throws lack significant zip. I think his delivery can be improved and help his arm strength, as it looks like he's throwing darts at times. Good anticipation, can throw his receivers open. Has great field awareness, can make things happen when the play breaks down. A talented prospect with a ton of upside, but I don't think he's ready to play right away and could really benefit from a redshirt year. With work on delivery, can be a very good college quarterback.
Powell is a small and shifty back that brings some big play potential to the Gators backfield. Has great feet and hips, can cut on a dime. Explosive through holes, can accelerate to his top speed quickly. A true home run threat. Can provide a great contrast to bigger backs like Jones and Taylor. Excellent as a punt/kick returner as well. Seems to have decent hands, but I'd like to see more of him catching the ball. Loved seeing tape of him at cornerback to see how physical he can be. The biggest thing he needs to work on, especially as a smaller back, is his ability to run through contact. Stops his feet at times on the initial hit and can get stood up. Goes down a little too easily at the high school level, he must get better in traffic to excel against SEC defenses. That being said, not many people got close enough to Powell to even get a hand on him, and his explosiveness and shiftiness will absolutely translate to the SEC level of football.
Goolsby is a big, athletic spread TE with good hands and good speed. Will go up and compete for the ball. Surprisingly elusive for his size in space. Good ability to run after the catch. Stiff off the line and not a crisp route runner, but I see the ability to improve their with how fluid he is with the ball in his hands. A willing blocker, Goolsby will give a great effort to block his man and go out of his way to find other people to hit once his assignment is taken care of. His technique, on the other hand, needs work. Gets his hands outside the frame of the man he's blocking and often gets stood up. More of a waist bender. Right now, projects best as a flex TE, but once he gets in the weight room and works on his technique he should be able to play with his hand in the ground. You can't teach toughness and a willingness to block and this kid has both of those things. An interesting prospect with significant upside that could turn into a reliable target in the years to come.
Lewis doesn't have a ton of tape available, put what I did see is intriguing. In addition to the monster block that went viral, in which he nearly decapitated an opposing linebacker, Lewis is a long target with a wide catch radius. He is raw, with slow feet off the ball and very stiff in and out of his breaks, but he has a lot to work with. He is even longer than his 6'5 frame suggests, as his arms nearly reach down to his ankles. He will make the tough catch in traffic and take a hit to make a play. He does a nice job of high pointing the football. Won't provide much after the catch. Is a willing blocker and a physical player, but is very far away technique-wise. Lewis is a likely redshirt with the upside and toughness to be a deadly redzone and 3rd down target.
Sousa is an impressive WR prospect that I could see playing right away if needed. More quick than fast, he has great feet/initial quickness off the line. More of a short to intermediate threat than a vertical one. Good hands, but body catches too often when the ball is in his frame. When it is outside his frame, however, he will make some tremendous catches. Will make the tough catch over the middle and take a shot to make a play. Dangerous after the catch, very shifty with good hips. Excellent vision and ability to find seams on screens. Runs with the attitude that he is going to score after every catch and didn't see him go out of bounds voluntarily once. High points the ball well on vertical routes and can go up and get it. Think he projects best as a slot receiver, but can play outside as well. Needs to become a crisper route runner, but has the athleticism and ability to get in and out of his breaks in order to do so.
Stephens is a big, physical, receiver and a true downfield threat. Has decent speed and good hands. Feet can be slow off the line. Most of his offense in high school seemed to revolve around throwing him screens and vertical routes, so I'm guessing he is going to need time to learn how to run the full route tree effectively. High points the ball, great concentration in traffic. Has great leg strength and looks to run defenders over after the catch. Will make some spectacular, highlight reel catches. Stephens would benefit greatly from redshirting as he can learn to run crisper routes and work on his footwork, but he has the upside to be a dangerous downfield threat a nightmare to tackle for DBs in a few years.
Worton is a dynamic player that plays bigger than his 6'0 frame suggests. With long arms and excellent leaping ability, he can go up and make plays down the field. Can play outside or in the slot effectively. Excellent feet and quickness off the line, does a great job using his head on his routes to influence defensive backs. Dynamic after the catch. Not quite as shifty as Sousa, but he can break some big plays. Runs tough with the ball in his hands. Sousa has a great compete level and will scratch and claw to rip the ball away from DBs when contested. He plays with a cockiness that you love to see in a WR, but he has to keep it in check, as his showboating nearly cost him a TD when he dropped the ball at the 1 yard line on one play. His development hinges completely on his ability to become a more complete route runner, but I think there is tremendous upside here.
OVERALL: Muschamp and his staff came up with a huge class of playmakers in 2014. The star ratings don't tell the whole story with this one. He added at least one dynamic athlete at every single skill position offensively. He added two impressive QB recruits that could push for reps immediately, a home run back in Powell, and versatile weapons at WR and TE. For an offense that lacked big plays, this class could be the remedy. The biggest question left is how long before these recruits are able to develop and make that impact? I'm interested to see how the staff proceeds feeling the pressure to win now, as I think a number of these kids, while they may not be fully ready for this level, can contribute majorly for stretches right off the bat.
Matt Hamilton was a former student assistant for the quarterbacks at Missouri, coach at the high school level in Connecticut, intern scout for the Detroit Lions and currently works at NFL Films breaking down film for use on the show Playbook on NFL Network.