Star ratings and recruiting rankings always generate the most buzz with every signing class, but college coaches will tell you filling team needs is priority No. 1.
Everyone loves the 5-star receivers and running backs, but if your team’s roster is hurting for offensive linemen, you better bring in some big uglies to block for those skill players. Fortunately for UF, 13 players return along the O-line next season and at least three commits will join them.
In his first full recruiting cycle, Florida coach Jim McElwain and his assistants have been able to address every major need for 2016. Even so, the Gators are still trying to land a few more top-100 prospects at three of the four positions they’re focusing on.
Here are the biggest needs in Florida’s recruiting class:
Returning players: Luke Del Rio, Treon Harris
Verbal commits: Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask
Remaining targets: Dwayne Haskins
The skinny: After failing to sign a quarterback in the last class, the Gators had to land an elite signal caller for 2016. They got their man in Franks, an Elite 11 finalist who flipped from LSU to Florida in late November. Franks and Trask will both enroll early, giving UF some much-needed depth at QB. With Will Grier unexpectedly transferring, Florida might try add a third signal in Haskins, who’s currently committed to Maryland but officially visited UF last month.
Returning players: Alvin Bailey, Antonio Callaway, Ahmad Fulwood, Kalif Jackson, Brandon Powell, Ryan Sousa, Chris Thompson, C.J. Worton
Verbal commits: Josh Hammond, Dre Massey (athlete), Freddie Swain, Rick Wells
Remaining targets: Sam Bruce (Miami commit), Nate Craig-Myers, Tre Nixon, Eli Stove (Auburn), Binjimen Victor
The skinny: As expected, Florida is losing junior Demarcus Robinson to the NFL draft as well as three seniors. The Gators will miss Robinson’s production, but Callaway established himself as Florida’s best receiver this season. Outside of Callaway, however, UF doesn’t have any proven players at the position. An injection of talent will come in the spring from January enrollees Hammond, Swain and Massey, a junior college athlete who will play a few offensive spots. Florida also looks to be in great shape for 4-star wideouts Craig-Myers and Nixon.
Returning players: Austin Hardin and Jorge Powell (walk-on)
Verbal commits: Eddy Pineiro
Remaining targets: None
The skinny: Has a head coach ever personally recruited a kicker harder than McElwain did Pineiro? Probably not. Florida’s kicking game has been absolutely abysmal, and McElwain went out and flipped the nation’s No. 1 junior college kicker from Alabama. Of all his commitments, Pineiro might be the most impressive considering the effort Nick Saban put into his recruitment. With Pineiro coming, Hardin may elect not to return to UF for his redshirt senior season.
Returning players: Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis, Rayshad Jackson, Daniel McMillian, Jeremi Powell, Matt Rolin
Verbal commits: Vosean Joseph, Jeremiah Moon, David Reese
Remaining targets: Dontavious Jackson, Jeffery McCulloch, Elysee Mbem-Bosse, Josh Uche, Lyndell Wilson
The skinny: The Gators have signed just one linebacker (Jackson, a 2-star) in the last two years, so they needed to load up in this class and have done so with Joseph, Moon (a 4-star) and Reese, an early enrollee. With Anzalone and Davis both coming back next season and the oft-injured Rolin finally seeing the field, the incoming freshmen will provide depth but may not be counted on as much. UF could also still add Mbem-Bosse and Wilson, a 5-star recruit with a top three of Florida, Alabama and Georgia.