Perhaps the biggest Gator news out of Beaverton this week is 2013 star Derrick Henry of Yulee High. Henry told Corey Long of ESPN.com that he is getting the most interest from Florida right now and he considers the Gators his favorite.
"They are showing the most interest and I'm a Florida fan," Henry told Long. "They are moving to a pro-style offense and the new coaching staff is great. Everyone seems to be excited right now."
It's a complete reversal of Henry's thoughts last fall when he was a heavy lean toward Florida State. He said Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina are the top schools chasing him right now.
The junior finished fourth in the Nike SPARQ national championships on Wednesday. He rushed for nearly 5,300 yards and 65 touchdowns in his first two varsity seasons and the state record books are starting to tremble.
Several services have been reporting during the first few days of The Opening that the University of Florida is in the hunt with a number of top stars for 2012, including one of the most wanted out there in Kwon Alexander, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker out of Oxford, Ala. Alexander has apparently been befriended by Gator commitment RB Mike Davis (Stonemountain, Ga., Stephenson), who is also participating in The Opening, and he told CBSsports.com that he is recruiting Alexander.
Alexander is at least listening somewhat to his friend. "They're up there, They're in my top ten," Alexander told Bryan Fischer of CBS Sports.
He also said, "Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Oregon, USC, Ole Miss," are in the mix, as well. "Distance is not a factor. I'm looking for a family. I'm looking for good academics, a great team, some good people to be around and to just play ball." The other two schools of his top 10 are Miami and Oklahoma.
Yep, he has the Seminoles and Hurricanes in there too, so stay tuned to this recruiting battle. Alexander, who is rated as the sixth best outside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com, and 77th best player overall, has all the big dawgs hunting.
Also rattling off the Gators as part of his remaining choices was Ellis McCarthy, a huge 311-pound, 6-foot-5 defensive tackle from Monrovia (Calif.). Rivals rates McCarthy as the No. 2 defensive tackle in the nation and No. 6 player overall. McCarthy told Scout.com's Brian Huffman his top five are USC, Cal, Oregon, Washington and Florida.
And if you listen to fellow defensive lineman Aziz Shittu (6-3, 275), McCarthy will be going wherever he goes. Shittu, out of Atwater (Calif.) Buhach, told CBS' Fischer he and McCarthy are planning to go to the same school. Huffman has Shittu's list as being Stanford, Cal, USC, Michigan, Washington, UCLA, Florida and Nebraska.
"They stand out for different reasons," Shittu told Huffman. "The California schools, it's close to home, my family is close by and good academics in all schools."
He also said: "We're going to go to the same school. That's the plan, that's what we talk about. Me and Ellis, we just chill. I'll be telling jokes and he'll be laughing and I'll be telling jokes and he'll be laughing. We're just compatible."
Other players listing Florida as a finalist among their lists were:
- Inglewood (Calif.) athlete Derrick Woods, a likely wide receiver whose top schools are Alabama, USC, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington, according to Scout.com.
- Geismer (La.) Dutchtown stud Landon Collins, who won the SPARQ national title on Wednesday at The Opening, told Scout he's narrowed it down to Texas, LSU, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, USC and Miami.
- Also, USC commit Jayden Mickens, a 5-9, 175-pound wide receiver from Los Angeles Dorsey High said he plans to use one of his official visits to check out Gainesville.