Area players making impact on UF

From top left, clockwise: Buchholz's Kendall Jackson, Gavin Hill, Jaren Hamilton and Creed Whittemore and Trinity Catholic's Tommy Kinsler received offers from UF.

This past season the Buchholz football team made a run all the way to the Class 7A state semifinals before falling to nationally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale just one game shy of the title game.

It was the Bobcats’ first final four appearance since 1995.

Photo by C.J. Gish Buchholz quarterback Creed Whittemore

Three players who were a part of that run are back, along with a fourth possible future Gator, and they could all end up wearing the orange and blue once they turn in their black and gold.

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Senior quarterback Creed Whittemore committed to the Gators back in May and last week, defensive linemen Gavin Hill and Kendall Jackson received offers from Florida.

Whittemore is the No. 86 overall prospect in the Sunshine State for the Class of 2023. He was a big school All Area selection for the second consecutive year. 

As a sophomore, he completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,675 yards with 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

During his junior season, Whittemore completed 58.6 percent for 2,043 yards with 24 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Meanwhile, Hill and Jackson will anchor what should be a stingy defensive front line for the Bobcats.

Photo by Suzette Cook Buchholz defensive lineman Kendall Jackson.

“Obviously, I was extremely happy when the news broke that Kendall and Gavin both earned scholarship offers to the University of Florida,” said Buchholz defensive coordinator Chuck Bell. “Being not only coordinator but also the position coach for both guys, made the offer even more special. I was extremely proud of the way both players were patient and understood that nothing was going to be given to them, and regardless of our staff’s close relationship with the coaches at UF, they truly had to earn the offer.”

Bell said UF was extremely thorough in their evaluations of both athletes and focused not only on their on-field talents but also evaluated their character as men off the field.  

“When the spring evaluation period opened, Coach (Jay) Bateman was the first guy through the door at Buchholz and spent the entire day on campus,” he said. “It was immediately clear that Coach (Billy) Napier’s ultra-detailed approach to building a football program leaves no stone unturned in the recruiting process.”

Jackson (6-foot-4, 255 pounds), a rising junior, had seven sacks and 14 tackles for a loss as a sophomore.

Photo by Suzette Cook Buchholz defensive lineman Gavin Hill.

“Kendall made more progress and improvement in one offseason than any player I’ve ever been around, at any level,” Bell said. “He went from a JV starter in the spring of 2021, to being hands down the best 2024 player on the field in any game we played last fall.”

At the age of 15, Jackson started all 14 games on the defensive line for a 7A final four team.  Last fall, he lined up at all four defensive line positions and had success at each spot, so Bell said “projecting where he’ll line up on the field in college is tough.”

“The best player comparison I can think of for Kendall is Dante Fowler,” Bell said. “Whether it’s putting his hand in the dirt, or rushing the edge from a 2-point stance, Kendall has proven that he can do it all on the defensive line.”

Hill, a 4-star defensive lineman, is currently the No. 54 overall rising senior in the state of Florida according to 247Sports. He is ranked the No. 38 DL in the country.

Photo by C.J. Gish Buchholz wide receiver Jaren Hamilton

“Gavin is a guy that everyone notices when he walks in a room and he has been since I met him for the first time when he was in eighth grade,” Bell said. “However, Gav is one of the most humble, team-oriented players that I’ve ever coached. The way he protects and looks out for some of our younger, more inexperienced players makes him feel like the father of our defense at times.”

Hill, who had 10 tackles for a loss and four sacks as a junior, has strictly played defensive end for the Bobcats over the last two years but Bell said he “had a ton of success playing interior defensive line against Vanguard in our spring game.”

“Gavin is currently 6-4, 265 pounds, but with his frame, I expect that he will bulk up easily to the 280-290 range in college and be one of the more athletic interior defensive linemen in the class of 2023,” Bell said.

Buchholz head coach Mark Whittemore is also impressed with Hill and Jackson.

“[They’re] very athletic and dominant defensive linemen who are unbelievably hard workers,” he said. “They both do a fantastic job of leading their teammates and making the Buchholz football program better every day. They are fun to coach.”

Photo by Suzette Cook Trinity Catholic offensive lineman Tommy Kinsler.

A fourth UF offer for a Buchholz player is senior wide receiver Jaren Hamilton, who transferred from P.K. Yonge (Gainesville).

Hamilton made the Mainstreet Daily News All Area small school team this past season after catching 30 passes for the Blue Wave for 671 yards in 11 games. He scored 10 touchdowns and averaged 22.4 yards per catch.

Meanwhile, Trinity Catholic (Ocala) offensive lineman Tommy Kinsler committed to the Gators on Sunday.

Kinsler (6-6, 330) is ranked No. 125 for the Class of 2023 in Florida.

“When Tommy makes up his mind, he can be a dominant player,” said former Gator and current Trinity Catholic coach John Brantley. “The sky is the limit.”

All of these players will see each other in two months when Trinity Catholic will host Buchholz in the preseason classic on Friday, Aug. 19.

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