In the four decades that I was game fully employed as a personnel scout within the league, I can't remember a time where the big three universities in the talent rich state of Florida has produced as few senior professional prospects. Injuries, early defections, the development of the heretofore second level universities within the state (U of South Florida and Central Florida U) and the players themselves have all contributed to this seemingly impossible phenomena
The U of Florida is just two years removed from winning an NCAA National Championship and has for over a decade annually been rated among the leaders nationally in the signing of blue chip prospects, but as strange as it might sound, in my opinion, there are no sure things in this year's senior prospect grouping.
Louis Murphy came to the university via junior college route. He has excellent size, strength, recorded speed and a world of athletic potential, but I felt his hands were at best adequate (didn't catch clean). I felt he had particular problems with the low balls. After the catch, he showed strength, but again I was disappointed in his instincts and run after catch ability. Is going to need some added work using his body to shield the ball from would be defenders. Rated the number one receiver in the country, I just didn't think that his recorded speed, but he's not correlated with his play speed. Physically Murphy looks a great deal like Irving Fryar, but based on my exposure, he has a ways to go in his development as a player. I wouldn't consider before the end of the second or top of the third round, but I suspect someone is likely to over-draft Murphy based on his extremely impressive physical stature and track speed.
Of the three offensive linemen viewed only Jason Watkins in my opinion merits late round draft consideration, based primarily on his physical attributes and playing potential. I liked his size, feet, body control, range and balance points. He played in the left side in 2007 and I was impressed with his overall movement. He sure looks the part physically, but I just never saw him finish anything. He lacked striking power on his punch and overall might be a tad soft. He's not there yet, but if I don't miss my guess, this guy has a chance to become a more than functional professional player for a club that has the necessary patience to work with him. Has mid to late round draft consideration within the league.
Both left tackle Phil Trautwein and Jim Tartt were major disappointments and in my opinion will have a very difficult time playing beyond this level of play. Trautwein is a big sucker who missed the 07 season due to injury, but based on my exposure in 2008, I didn't think he showed much in the way of body control, balance or playing range. He's not a natural knee bender and he lacks striking power. He's playing in one of the very best football programs in the country and is a bright experienced individual, but I feel he is at best an adequate college football player.
Tartt who has missed a great deal of the 2008 season due to injuries started the Tennessee game, but based on that outing, I felt he spent far too much time on the ground, lacks functional playing strength and his blocking efficiency (pluses and minuses) left much to be desired.
Kestahn Moore is a running back who caught my eye as a true freshman, but with each passing season his role has diminished. I didn't see many touches in 08, but I didn't see special skills in any area of his game. He does run hard, is tough, highly competitive and will finish inside, but he appears to lack instincts, vision and doesn't have the type of speed to run away from second and third level defenders. Overall, I see Kestahn as a very serviceable free agent back within the league.
The Gators were dealt a major blow in two-a-days when tight end Cornelius Ingram was injured and lost for the season. Obviously the professional scouts will have to base their opinions on a review of 2007 tape and rely heavily on spring workouts, but the former quarterback who considered entering last springs draft has is an impressive looking athlete who can both run and catch. Based on his injury and lack of practical playing experience, unless someone has multiple early picks (top two rounds), I don't see any club drafting this player any sooner than the bottom of the 3rd or the top of 4th.
In regard to junior and red-shirt sophomore players, I expect a number of these highly skilled underclassmen, including a number at the University of Florida, to declare and in many cases impact at the professional level. I have taken a peak at some of these special players, but until these individual declare for the draft, I will list possible early defections, but will not comment on their playing skills.P>Percy Harvin – WR - Medical concerns, but top speed and a ton of ability.
Brandon Spikes – LB – play making backer with size and top instincts
Tim Tebow – QB – Big, strong and a top competitor. Not a polished passer.
Jermaine Cunningham – DE has pass rush skills, quicks and range