ORLANDO, Fla. — The Gators had a poor showing in Friday’s Citrus Bowl, but they were well represented at the 2016 Under Armour All-America Game on Saturday.
Florida commits Antonneous Clayton (DE), Chauncey Gardner (CB), Josh Hammond (WR) and Brett Heggie (OL) all started at their positions for Team Armour, which lost 27-0 to Team Highlight.
The future Gators played well overall in the game, but it was during the practices this week where they made their mark at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Rivals.com, one of Under Armour’s sponsors for the game, ranked Florida No. 1 among schools with committed recruits during the first two days of practices. On Saturday, UF was ranked third by Rivals for game performances.
Clayton produced the most hype of the four pledges, as he was praised by analysts for his first step and pass-rushing ability. Rivals had him on its “stock up” lists throughout the week, and 247Sports named Clayton its “Alpha Dog” on Wednesday.
“I had an excellent week of practice,” said Clayton, who had four tackles Saturday. “Got a chance to go against some magnificent O-linemen to get ready for Florida. (The nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle) Greg Little gave me my props. (4-star tackles) Willie Allen and E.J. Price, too. I’m ready to ball out in college now.”
As Clayton was talking to SEC Country after the game, 4-star offensive tackle Jauan Williams butted in and called Clayton “one of the best D-ends in the country.”
Gardner was equally impressive, earning a “stock up” nod from Rivals for his athleticism, physicality and knack for jumping routes. He almost a had pick-six in Saturday’s game (see below).
Gardner also got coached by NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.
“Deion loved me. He told me I’m a ball player,” Gardner said. “I follow my game after him. I loved coming in and having him teach me stuff that I haven’t learned yet. That’s something guys never get a chance to do. I met one of the best guys in the game and he coached me. I appreciate it.”
Hammond consistently made plays during practice and was also included on Rivals’ “stock up” list after displaying sure hands and a versatile skill set at receiver. He and Gardner will enroll early at Florida on Tuesday.
“The experience has been great,” Hammond said. “The competition was amazing. That’s what I enjoyed the most. I was able to get open and catch the ball well. I’m just doing me and making a point at the same time.”
Along with Clayton, Gardner and Hammond, Heggie was named a top performer by 247Sports after each day of practice. By Thursday, Heggie was No. 3 on their group of offensive standouts after showing improvement all week and holding his own against elite defensive tackles.
“It was fun,” Heggie said. “I wanted to see where I stood the first day, and then each practice I just kept getting better. It takes a lot of adjusting to the speed of the defensive linemen at this level, but I thought I played pretty well.”
— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) January 2, 2016
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— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) December 29, 2015