GAINESVILLE -- Florida wrapped up its annual recruiting extravaganza over the weekend, and the success of this year’s Friday Night Lights has recruits looking at the Gators like...
In a three day span, UF netted five commitments -- (in order): 2016 defensive back Quincy Lenton, 2017 wideout Daquon Green, 2016 center Brent Hegie, 2016 linebacker Jeremiah Moon and 2016 quarterback Kyle Trask -- and generated exciting buzz with a number of other top-100 prospects.
The Gators nabbed some recruiting momentum, but can they keep it during a transition season?
In February, first-year coach Jim McElwain capped his inaugural recruiting class with a pair of five-star standouts (Martez Ivey, CeCe Jefferson). He proved he could fill out a class quickly, but nearly as important, he planted the Gators flag back in South Florida.
UF closed with a number of key prospects from the area (wideout Antonio Callaway and tailbacks Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite), reopening a pipeline with former Miami coach Randy Shannon leading the pillaging.
With fall camp just around the corner (August 6), the summer evaluation/camp period is over. A couple of takeaways following Florida’s fruitful FNL.
1. FORTIFYING A PIPELINE
The Gators continue to strengthen their position in South Florida. Case in point:
Before the run of commitments, Florida had 9 of their pledges on campus Friday. UF also had 8 Miami commits on campus too.— Luke Stampini (@LukeStampini) July 27, 2015
Not only is UF targeting uncommitted South Florida prospects, the Gators are openly aiming to poach a number of Miami Hurricane commits.
Florida’s 2016 class already includes six prospects from South Florida, including wideout Joshua Hammond, linebacker Vosean Joseph and wideout Isaiah Johnson.
Three of UF’s four 2017 verbal commitments -- highlighted by top 2017 quarterback Jake Allen -- hail from Miami-Dade or Broward County.
McElwain's plan is taking shape.
The state is stocked with playmakers (especially receivers in the 2016 and 2017 classes) and the Gators have (seemingly) positioned themselves well with South Florida wideouts Binjimen Victor and Sam Bruce (a Miami commit) -- both players who traveled to FNL with Allen. Florida is also surging (per 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions) with four-star wideout Calvin Ridley (Deerfield Beach).
Meanwhile, UF hosted a bevy of other prospects from the area, including 2017 wideout Jerry Jeudy (Deerfield Beach) and 2016 defensive target McArthur Burnett (Pahokee).
Florida's is building its foundation for the future almost exclusively from the fertile area.
2. AN INTERESTING BLUEPRINT
Make no mistake, Florida’s 2016 class is critical in resuscitating the program. UF can ill-afford failing further behind the rest of the SEC, especially as rivals Tennessee, Georgia and LSU continue to recruit as well as any school in the country.
Florida currently ranks 14th nationally -- fifth in the SEC -- according to 247Sports.
If the Gators can snag a commitment from any of the aforementioned South Florida studs, as well as four-star defensive end Antonneous Clayton or even five-star defensive end Shavar Manuel (who surprisingly named UF in his top 3), their rankings will undoubtably rise.
But UF is in an interesting position heading to the fall because of its early strategy in the 2016 class: mining for diamonds in the rough.
Florida turned heads this spring hauling unheralded (or unknown) after unheralded prospect. Recruiting rankings are an inexact science, but they continue to get better and UF appears to be betting big on its staff’s developmental potential.
That’s not necessarily the wrong approach, just an interesting one for Florida.
Considering UF's current position in the league, can it afford to gamble on so many projects (like signing a quarterback who doesn’t even start in high school)? We'll see.
Depending on some roster gymnastics (normal attrition, early NFL departures, early enrollees counting backwards, etc.), Florida probably has room to sign around 25 guys in 2016. Obviously, McElwain & Co. will nail down an exact number, but it’s a fluid process and semi-complicated by the fact UF already has 18 commits -- 15 rated three-stars or lower.
The Gators exit the summer with lots of recruiting mojo, so it bears watching how many of their early commits actually end up in Gainesville or if they’re processed for new highly targeted prospects.
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