Before he even left campus for the NFL former Florida head coach Urban Meyer was on the lookout for the next Percy Harvin. Time and again receiver and running back prospects would share how the UF coaching staff saw them as the next Percy Harvin or told them how great a fit they were for the 'Percy Position'.
Sure, some of them were speedsters, athletic or had similar frames.
However, none of them possess Harvin's total package.
Honestly, very, very few do.
So, lets just get it out of the way.
There is no future Harvin. He is a once in a generation type of player who last season was likely on his way to taking home the NFL MVP Award before a season ending injury. He is the complete package of size, speed, athleticism, shiftiness and explosion.
You name it, he has it. It will be a long time coming before we see a player in a college jersey able to duplicate it.
That however hasn't put a damper on the comparisons. Not just when it comes to Florida signees and targets.
A quick search of the Rivals Network shows that just recently an update by Mike Farrell has Meyer comparing Curtis Samuel to him. An article on the WVU site compares Tavon Austin to Harvin. Another article attempts to draw similarities between DeAndre Thompkins and the former Gator receiver/running back.
"They both have the ability to hit top end speed instantly once they turn up field. A rare trait and both guys have it. Both are fluid athletes that can cut on a dime. Also, both accelerate through traffic and split defenders and aren't afraid of contact."
And then there is an update where five-star Clemson commit Deshaun Watson shares that CU coach Brent Venables believes that former Clemson, and current Gators commit Dalvin Cook has a similar skill set.
Two things stand out about that revelation. First, it isn't a coach sweet talking a prospect by telling him he is the next Percy Harvin. It is a coach sharing his thoughts on a prospect with another prospect. Secondly, it isn't the first time Cook has been compared with Harvin.
At first glance, the two share many similarities. They are both roughly the same height and have the same build coming out of high school (Harvin blew up, especially in the upper-body, after arriving on campus). They both have a high end gear rarely found at the high school level. They both have enviable change of direction. They have the ability to put a foot in the ground and explode in the opposite direction.
Inside the Gators asked in-house talent evaluator Matt Hamilton, who works at NFL Films breaking down film for use on the show Playbook on NFL Network, to share his thoughts after watching the high school highlight tapes of both Harvin and Cook.
"Wow, I can definitely see it," Hamilton said of the comparisons after watching the film. "They both have the ability to hit top end speed instantly once they turn up field. A rare trait and both guys have it. Both are fluid athletes that can cut on a dime. Also, both accelerate through traffic and split defenders and aren't afraid of contact."
Hamilton shared that off of the tape, he also spotted some differences.
"You don't think of physicality when you think of Harvin, but he does throw some stiff arms and runs a little tougher through contact. Harvin also, much like we saw at Florida and still see in the NFL, showed more versatility in lining up at wide receiver as well as running back and proving to be a natural receiver. Cook didn't have many catches on his reel, but the ones he did were more of the body catch variety."
Though cook still has a year of high school ball to work on his game, Hamilton shared this breakdown of his tape:
Strengths: World-class speed and acceleration. Can hit top speed as soon as he decides to go, and his top speed is elite. Not afraid of contact, will finish his runs. Fluid athlete with some elusiveness and the dynamic ability to cut on a dime.
Weaknesses/Questions: Hands? As I said, not much on tape. Needs to work on securing the ball better in traffic. A lot of his runs on tape were cutbacks and runs he bounced outside. The question that needs to be answered is can he run between the tackles and get the tough yards as well. He does show toughness in space, but we all know it's a different animal in the SEC trenches.
The bottom line is, though the 'Percy Position' is no longer utilized in the Florida offense, how do the two compare?
Playing in what might be the most talent rich region of the country, last season Cook basically did what he wanted when he wanted to do it. He gained 1,452 yards on 127 carries (11.4 avg) and scored 21 touchdowns on the ground. For those who don't want to be bothered with doing the math, that is a touchdown every six carries. He added nine catches for 272 yards (30.2 avg) and two touchdowns receiving. Then to top it all off, he scored three touchdowns in the return game.
While those stats are Harvin-esk at the very least, though Hamilton likes what he has seen, he isn't ready to put Cook up on the Percy pedestal just yet.
"Harvin's versatility has been totally unmatched by anyone in the NFL or college, and it shows up on his high school tape," said Hamilton. "I am not sure Cook can be that all around guy, but he is going to be a dynamic weapon at running back and in the return game for sure. With some work on his hands and technique, it's definitely not out of the realm of possibility though, with his kind of athleticism and skill set, he has the tools to be a Percy like difference maker. But realize, when you are talking about Harvin, when he's out there and healthy, he might be the most dangerous player in the NFL."
That is a pair of big shoes for anyone to fill, much less a high school junior.