The New England Patriots have built quite the pipeline of former Florida Gators players, with Aaron Hernandez, Jeff Demps, Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham, and Jabar Gaffney being among the notable, recent examples of former Florida standouts playing for New England in the pros.
According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (and confirmed by and via ESPN Boston), the New England Patriots held a private workout with Florida Gators defensive end Earl Okine yesterday that saw head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio involved in the workout.
Okine isn’t a well-known prospect, which is what makes this private workout so intriguing. As Field Yates notes, a significant number of private workouts are so that teams can try and look at potential sleepers in the draft and see what a lesser-known prospect has to offer. I wonder if anyone tipped off the Patriots on Okine in the same manner that former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel tipped the Patriots off to Ohio State Buckeyes safety Nate Ebner in last year’s draft.
With just 27 tackles and one sack in his career, Okine is in the same boat as Ebner- he had almost no college production. However, he has an intriguing frame at 6’7″, 283 and was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. A Gainesville native who made the jump to UF after getting a big in-state offer from Florida State, Okine was ranked by Rivals as the 11th-best weak-side defensive end in the nation and the 38th-best recruit in the state of Florida. In fact, Rivals ranked him as the third-best pass rusher at the DE position in the 2008 recruiting class, which underscores his potential. He had a strong showing at Florida’s pro day with 25 bench reps and a 33-inch vertical (he had a 35-inch vertical in high school, by the way).
He certainly had talent out of high school and showed the potential to be a nice pass rushing presence, but that never materialized in his four years with the Gators. However, ESPN Boston notes that he, “was named the MVP of the Texas vs. the Nation postseason all-star game” after recording two sacks and returning a fumble for six.
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