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December 31, 2005ANAHEIM, Calif. - California didn't have a ton of highlights at Saturday's Air 7 CaliFlorida Bowl at Cal-State Fullerton. Florida won the game 20-0 in a monsoon like rain storm, but there were still a few bright spots for the Golden State team.
Maybe the biggest was the play of Derek Simmons of Fairfield (Calif.) Armijo. Simmons, who is 6-foot-4 and 268 pounds, had a great week of practices and then capped it off with a dominating performance on Saturday.
Simmons finished the game with two sacks, a fumble recovery, numerous tackles and several pressures on the quarterback. Simmons, a longtime USC commitment, would also be used in certain situations as a tight end or a fullback prospect.
His parents and coaches made the trek down from Northern California and were extremely proud of him. While sitting in the press box trying to stay dry, his family was talking about how Pete Carroll told him that he was one of his top defensive recruits - in the nation.
His play all week long proved Carroll right. After seeing him go up against a talented Florida offensive line, it's pretty clear that Simmons, ranked as the nation's No. 16 strongside defensive end, is easily a Rivals100 prospect.
Sylmar, Calif., four-star running back C.J. Gable also showed flashes of brilliance. Despite fumbling once, Gable was extremely deadly on kickoff returns and in the passing game. On one kickoff return, he blew by three Florida defenders like they were standing still. He was able to go from stop to start in a blink of an eye, and he impressed several of his opponents.
"They should have given the ball to that No. 2 more," Florida linebacker Dustin Doe said. "He was the real deal. Man he's fast."
Venice, Calif., running back Kenny Ashley also showed flashes of brilliance.
Ashley has been committed to Mississippi State for quite some time, but he said he was hoping a strong week of practice and a good game could open the eyes of several Pac 10 programs. He did have several really tough runs inside and his style fit for the grind-it-out approach that was the only thing that worked for the California offense.
Long Beach (Calif.) Poly cornerback Vincent Joseph and Compton (Calif.) Dominguez safety Vincent Joseph each had interceptions. Joseph's pick off was rather impressive as he made a strong break on a post pattern thrown by Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Cornerback Devin Ross also had a fumble recovery.
Chomping at the bit
While posing for pictures late in the game, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas four-star offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert was seen doing the Gator Chomp. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Rivals 250 prospect was then asked if that meant something was up concerning his future.
His answer will make Gator fans happy.
"I committed to Florida a week ago," Gilbert, the nation's No. 18 offensive tackle, said. "I just saw all the other great players they were getting, and I figured it was time I join them."
Gilbert visited Auburn back on December 16 and was slated to visit Florida State and Miami in January. He said he's not sure what is going to happen with a scheduled visit to Miami on January 27, but for now he's extremely excited about being a Gator. He was recruited by UF assistant John Holliday.
"I was down here all week with a bunch of other Gators," Gilbert said. "And it was really great. I got to know all of them, and they're great guys. I can't wait to get to school with them. I can now call them all my friends and my future teammates."
The Gator nation
With Gilbert going public, that means there were seven UF commitments on the field Saturday. Tebow led the other Gator commitments in a late fourth quarter chant of "Go Gators, go Gators, go."
Instantly he was surrounded by Gator pledges Dustin Doe, Jarred Fayson, Bryan Thomas, Jacques Rickerson and Jim Barrie. They then began to do the chant in unison.
The chant excited a Florida fan, who was sitting alone in the front row of stands with an orange and blue sign that had each of the commitments names on it. When he heard the chant, the fan held the sign up and the UF commitments all pointed toward him.
"The Gators are nation wide," the fan said.
"You know it," Rickerson said back in reply.
Making a name
Coming into this week, not many people - including college coaches - knew who Ryan Hurtado from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei was. But after a strong week of practices and a solid game on Saturday, he's going to get a ringing endorsement from his teammates.
"My original goal was to have these guys respect me and believe I'm a Division I player," Hurtado, who is 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, said. "They saw all week that I can make plays, so I think they're pretty cool with me."
Hurtado does not have a Division I scholarship yet from any team, and he's set to visit Northeastern in January, but it's definitely clear this week that somebody should probably give him a shot.
-Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland four-star athlete Tony Wilson scored Florida's first touchdown with a reception down the middle of the field. Wilson ran a seem route and was wide open between two defenders.
-Tebow caused just as much damage on the ground as he did through the air. With a 14-0 lead, Tebow did a lot of damage running the ball out of the shotgun on sweeps and draws.
-Lakeland, Fla., quarterback Billy Lowe was named the game's most valuable player for his strong and consistent play all game long. He connected with Wilson for Florida's first score and then he helped run the clock out in the fourth quarter by guiding several time consuming drives. Lowe is heading to Florida Atlantic.
-Marcus Sims was banged up early when he twisted an ankle. He didn't see the field the rest of the game, but he said after the game he is just fine and should not be hampered by the tweak.