Is Leak a Lightning Rod For UF?
AP
AP

Posted Jan 16, 2003


Ron Zook landed his biggest commitment in his short tenure as the Florida Head Coach with the Chris Leak verbal to Florida. Can Leak help Zook and Florida with some more prospects?

On Jan. 5, All-America quarterback Chris Leak made his verbal commitment to Florida on national television. Leak, from Charlotte (N.C.) Independence High School, is currently ranked No. 2 in the quarterback rankings and No. 5 overall by TheInsiders.com.

He has had a spectacular high school career, winning three straight state championships. Along the way, he threw for a mind-boggling 15,593 yards and a national-record 185 touchdown passes. Leak just may be the most polished prospect in the country.

In the All-America Bowl, featuring many of the nation’s top high school football players, Leak showed why he was one of the most coveted players in America, winning the Most Valuable Player trophy in leading the East to a victory over the West.

Early in the recruiting process, Leak was headed to Tennessee. After all, his older brother, C.J., had transferred to the Volunteers and was Casey Clausen’s backup. The stage was set for Chris. He was going to be a Vol. Then things changed suddenly, proving there are no such things as "locks" in recruiting. The relationship between the Leaks and Tennessee headed south, all the way to Gainesville, where Florida Gator head coach Ron Zook and staff won over the blue-chipper.

This wasn’t easy for the new Gator head coach. Florida had to fight off Florida State, Texas, USC and Iowa. In the end, Leak just felt more comfortable with Florida than the other four, and his commitment gives the Gators a much-needed boost in the recruiting wars.

The Leak verbal could not have come at a better time for the Gators. First of all, Leak spent a week with many of the nation’s top prep players who may or may not have been looking at Florida. Now some big names are all of a sudden high on the Gators. Tennessee wide receiver commitment Jayson Swain may take a visit to Florida.

Adarius Bowman, a wide receiver committed to North Carolina, may visit the Gators. Andre Caldwell, perhaps the most explosive receiver in the nation, also played with Leak in that all-star game. Although Caldwell is not saying much about the recruiting process, there is much speculation that he could follow Leak and his older brother Reche to the University of Florida.

Secondly, the Leak decision came in early January, perhaps the most pivotal time in the recruiting process. Florida hosted over a dozen prospects this past weekend and will have more prospects in this weekend. Recruiting can sometimes act like a game of dominos. When you get that first big one to commit, especially a player of Leak’s magnitude, and to do this in recruiting’s biggest month, the momentum can really get going. In Florida’s case, "big mo" is on its side right now.

The bottom line is this: Leak's pledge could be a recruiting lightning rod for Florida. He will attract a lot of attention to the Gators and make some recruits think a little harder about Florida.

Now, it’s up to Zook and his staff to close the deal with these kids. Can Florida turn Swain and or Bowman? Will the Gators land five-star receivers Caldwell and Chad Jackson? Will Leak’s signing influence the other side of the ball, where the Gators are desperate for defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs?

All-American types such as Ernie Sims, Earl Everett, Dee Webb, Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, Joe Cohen, Reggie Nelson, Robert Killebrew, Carnell Stewart, Antonio Cromartie, Tranell Morant, Bryan Pata and others are all defensive prospects high on Florida with decisions looming over the next four weeks.

Will Zook get them all? No way. There are too many big-name prospects who also are high on Florida State, Miami, Georgia, etc. And let's face the facts: Recruiting powers like the 'Noles and the 'Canes always close well. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, fresh off their first SEC Championship in 20 years, are cleaning up.

For Florida, the pivotal thing is to win its share of the recruiting wars. Last season, Florida did not beat FSU or Miami on one recruit. That must change in Gainesville for Zook to be successful in recruiting. But we are already seeing signs of Zook’s tireless work ethic when it comes to recruiting. Leak is the prime example and his commitment gives the new Swamp leader a potential huge edge in helping him close the deal for potential recruits to come to the University of Florida.


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