'Noles, Gators, Knights reap rich harvests

of the Sentinel Staff

Florida State solved its quarterback depth woes and hung on to a coveted receiver as the Seminoles reloaded with one of the nation's top recruiting classes on Wednesday.

Not even a coaching change could prevent Miami from also signing a top-10 class. The University of Florida met its needs and UCF and South Florida both are encouraged about their futures in Division 1-A by getting large, talented classes.

Adrian McPherson, Florida's Mr. Football who passed for more than 3,700 yards the last two years for Bradenton Southeast, and Joe Mauer, USA Today's Offensive Player of the Year and the national Gatorade Player of the Year from Cretin-Derham Hall of St. Paul, Minn.. Both signed grants-in-aid to play for the Seminoles on National Signing Day.

Matt Henshaw, from Brentwood, Tenn., the son of Tennessee Titan assistant coach George Henshaw, signed later in the day to give the Seminoles three quarterbacks. Currently, FSU has only red-shirt freshman Chris Rix and receiver-turned-quarterback for this spring Anquan Bolden in school at the position.

FSU not only met its needs but did so with nationally coveted players. The Seminoles wanted offensive linemen and got seven including 325-pound Milford Brown who was the consensus choice as the top junior college blocker in the nation, plus Blake Williams, the younger brother of current FSU starter Brett Williams, who starred for Kissimmee Osceola.

The `Noles wanted a big running back and a little running back and ended up with Eric Shelton, the 238-pound man-mountain from Lexington, Ky., who rivaled Kevin Jones as America's top big back and Willie Reid, a Georgia Player of the Year from Warner Robins who FSU coaches say is a complete football player with capabilities of playing running back, receiver or corner back.

The `Noles needed linebackers and signed coveted Miami Carol City athlete Willie Jones, son of the former Seminole All-American. Jones set the Dade County record for sacks with 36 last fall.

Finally, the Seminoles kept Craphonso Thorpe, the all-star receiver and kick returner from Tallahassee Lincoln at home. Thorpe flirted with going to Miami even indicating he might sign with the Hurricanes on Wednesday but announced he would pick FSU at a noon press conference.

Miami and Florida also got more good news than bad news.

The Hurricanes quickly signed nationally coveted linebackers in Roger McIntosh of Gaffney, S.C., and Leon Williams of Brooklyn, N.Y., and were holding their breath to hear whether Coral Gables running back Frank Gore, who rivaled McPherson for state honors, would sign with UM instead of Ole Miss where he committed 48 hours earlier.

Florida got the big signature it wanted from big Maurice Mitchell, the 6-8, 317-pound tackle from Albany, Ga., who played last fall for Fork Union, Va. Military Prep. Mitchell had signed with Alabama a year ago but did not qualify, and Georgia had wooed and pursued him. Georgia did get touted receiver Fred Gibson of Waycross, Ga., to switch from the Gators.

It was a need-filling class for the Gators who wanted to get big offensive linemen--and did. But it was also disappointing to lose 300-polund defensive lineman Torran Williams to LSU since that too would have filled a big void in the defensive line.

UCF had signed 20 of its 26-strong by noon time, led by linebacker Stanford Rhule of Dillard, defensive end Rashad Jeanty of Carol City, defensive tackle Mike Lynche of St. Petersburg Gibbs and tight end Darcy Johnson of Palatka.

The Knights also devoured Central Florida talent, including Astronaut's trio of Marcus Clemons, Peter Sands and Craig Waters plus tight end Matt Lundy of Cypress Creek and 6-10 offensive lineman Jeff Harper of Class 6A state champion Palm Bay.

South Florida signed 30, it's larges and most talented class building on its move into Division 1-A next season. Highlights of the Bulls' class include WR/DB Joe Bain of Dade City Pasco, All-Southern utility back Brian Fisher of Pensacola Pine Forest, tight end Tim Jones of Lakeland Kathleen and Georgia transfer running back D'Juan Green of Jacksonville.

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