Welcome back to the Mail Stack!
With Florida football returning for spring practice and recruiting heating up, my inbox is full once again with your questions.
Some important competitions are about to go down at several key positions on the team, and UF’s recruiting board is beginning to take shape for 2017. The Gators will host dozens of big-time prospects on campus over the next few weeks.
I’ll be providing answers about both football and recruiting topics moving forward.
Here are the top five questions from this week:
Do you think RB Mark Thompson will be the starter day 1?
He’ll certainly be in contention.
Thompson caught everyone’s eye on the first day of spring practice with his size and stature. Linebacker Jarrad Davis compared him to reigning Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry.
But what makes Thompson different than most 245-pound backs is his speed. He was a track star in high school and had the second-best 200-meter dash time in Pennsylvania as a senior.
Last month Thompson raced in The Swamp against Jordan Scarlett, who ran an electronically timed 4.38 in the 40-yard dash at The Opening in 2014. Scarlett edged Thompson in the 40, but you can see the speed of the nation’s No. 1 junior college running back.
— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) February 19, 2016
— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) February 19, 2016
Ultimately I think the starting job will come down to these two, and I’ll go with Scarlett getting the nod in the season opener because of his familiarity with playbook and experience in the SEC. However, once Thompson knows the offense and cuts his teeth in conference play, his role will expand.
Regardless, I expect Scarlett, Thompson and Jordan Cronkrite to all see playing time and contribute in the run game.
Do you think WR C.J. Worton will have an impact this year?
If he’s ever going to be a consistent playmaker on this team, it needs to happen now. There’s no doubting that he has the talent at wide receiver.
Worton started for the Gators in the season opener of his true freshman season, but he finished the year with just two receptions in three games played and broke his hand in what he described as a “dumb” off-the-field incident.
Worton looked like he had turned a corner in the first game of 2015, catching three passes and a touchdown. But after that, he disappointed.
He only played in two more games during the regular season and didn’t record any statistics. Then out of the nowhere, he checks into the SEC Championship during the fourth quarter and hauls in an incredible 46-yard touchdown pass.
The issue for Worton has been his attitude. When things don’t go his way, he gets frustrated in practice and shuts down mentally.
Former UF assistant Kirk Callahan, who was at UCF with Worton’s older brother, said last fall that C.J. still had some growing up to do.
“Maturity has to be the biggest side of him,” Callahan said. “That’s when you start to see the big-play ability.”
After two years of disappointment and unfulfilled potential, that maturity needs to finally show up from Worton as a junior or it never will. If it does, he’ll have an impact in 2016 and make more plays like he did in Atlanta.
Do you think DL Thomas Holley will take a step forward this season? He was a highly-rated recruit a few years ago.
It’s all about being healthy for Holley.
He had hip surgery in August of his true freshman year and redshirted. That injury resurfaced during his sophomore season and limited his playing time and production, seeing action in seven games and recording three tackles.
But the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder enters this spring fully healed and in the best shape of his career. Holley has slimmed down considerably and weighs more than 30 pounds less than he did as a defensive tackle recruit.
It’ll be interesting to see if he plays some strongside defensive end now. But if Holley remains healthy and goes through all of spring and fall camp without any setbacks or injuries, he should have a breakthrough this season no matter where he lines up on the D-line.
What impact will having QB Jake Allen already in the class and recruiting have on other targets?
It’s going to help from offensive recruiting standpoint. Prospects on that side of the ball want to know who their future quarterback will be, and they already have that answer in Allen.
He’s arguably the best QB in Florida and starts for one of the state’s premier high school football programs in St. Thomas Aquinas, which won the Class 7A state title in 2015.
A few of Florida’s top wide receiver targets told SEC Country that Allen is a quarterback they would want to play with in college, including Lakeland (Fla.) standout James Robinson. The Gators’ biggest priority at WR, five-star Trevon Grimes, happens to be teammates with Allen and lists UF as his No. 2 school, due in large part to their relationship.
Allen isn’t limited to just recruiting receivers. He talks to prospects at multiple positions and is really making an effort to help Florida land an elite 2017 class.
In addition to his talent, Allen is also very personable and has a positive energy about him that others gravitate towards. So he’ll be influential for UF in this recruiting cycle.
What is your percentage of Florida landing DE Zachary Carter and WR Trevon Grimes?
For Carter, I’d put it at 75 percent right now.
He spoke very highly of UF following his visit last, saying the school feels like home. There’s probably not a coach closer to Carter than Florida’s Chris Rumph, his primary recruiter and potential future position coach. Clemson and Tennessee are the biggest threats to the Gators, but they will be difficult to top.
I think Florida’s chances for Grimes are currently at 40 percent. They were probably half that two months ago, but his trip to Gainesville in late January was a game-changer. Still, Grimes admits Ohio State has a “pretty decent lead” that will be hard for other schools to overcome. At this time, UF is the only one that has a shot.
That’s all for this week! Be sure to leave your questions for the next mailbag in the comment section below.