Join us here at SEC Country for Gator Chomps, a daily recap of the latest Florida recruiting news, tales from the trail and perspective on what it all means for the Gators.
Florida establishes new recruiting tradition
The inaugural Great Gator Grill-Out on Saturday was aimed at giving visitors a unique recruiting experience and a better bond with the new staff at Florida.
First-year coach Dan Mullen and his staff created a fun-filled event inside the indoor practice facility, and the barbecue was just a bonus. The Gators had several games for the visitors to do with the coaches and current players, including a water balloon fight and a pie eating contest.
On the day before the cookout, director of recruiting operations Lee Begley had 100-inch screens set up in the IPF for recruits to play Fortnite and Madden 18.
So you think it’s not cool to be a Gator? They got Fortnite and Madden 18 ready to play on 100 inch screens, a bad ass bbq with Hot Links, Chicken, and Ribs… not the mention Jeezy is playing over the PA System. This shit ain’t happening in Tallahassee. pic.twitter.com/XW1HeDQiqd
— Mr. Snell (@theebigbossSS) May 19, 2018
“This is by far the best visit I’ve been on,” said 4-star tight end Jahleel Billingsley (Chicago), who named Florida his leader following the trip. “No other visits have been like this. Nobody has brought out games, food and just mingled all at one time. It’s never been like that at any other school.”
Florida had four top-100 recruits in town, including 4-star guard William Putnam (Tampa, Fla.). He will announce his top 5 soon, and the Gators seemingly solidified themselves as a finalist with his visit Saturday.
“It was definitely more of a family environment more than it was a recruiting deal,” Putnam told SEC Country. “Football wasn’t really discussed too much. It was just kind of about having a good time, eating good food, hanging out with the coaches. It was really fun. I got water all over me from the water balloons.
“It was really nice, especially at a time like this where a lot of guys in my own class are starting to kind of commit and everyone’s starting to find a place for them. It was refreshing just being able to relax. I was able to see the personalities of the coaches and that plays into the decision. It’s not just all about football in the end. There’s a lot more to it.”
— Nathan Pickering (@therealnathan22) May 20, 2018
Top-50 overall defensive end Nathan Pickering (Seminary, Miss.) made the eight-hour drive from Mississippi with 4-star wide receiver Dannis Jackson (Sumrall, Miss.), a top-100 recruit in the 247Sports rankings. Given his longstanding relationship with Mullen and two trips to Florida in six weeks, the Gators are legitimate a contender to land Pickering.
“I just expected to come here and eat barbecue,” he said. “I walked in and they had Fortnite on the big screen, Madden on the other one. They had games. I liked that. It was very fun and shocking. I didn’t expect this to happen.
“… I definitely saw a different side of the staff. They weren’t recruiting me as much as they were on the last visit. This time was more relaxed. They didn’t treat me like a recruit. They treated me like I’m one of their own.”
Said Jackson: “I like it down here. This was my first time coming down. … It was nice playing the limbo game. I did that. That kind of stuff is fun to do. The water balloons, too. It was just a nice, family atmosphere. It felt like I was at a cookout and that means a lot. I like when coaches don’t pressure you. Just show what you have to offer. That’s how it should be and that’s what they did. I want to come back and see the game-day atmosphere, maybe for an official.”
Florida had a few highly touted defensive backs on campus, including Jordan Battle and Jaden Davis from St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). They made the trip with some of their South Florida Express 7-on-7 teammates.
— IV (@Jayd4_) May 20, 2018
“It was actually really fun,” Davis said of the visit. “We got in a water balloon fight with Coach [Ron] English and Coach [Charlton] Warren. I got to really bond with them. I like the fact that we were able to come up to a barbecue and just talk man-to-man.
“We talked about stuff other than football, just relationships and family. That was another great thing about this visit. Florida is one of my high options and I’m really thinking about them.”
Said Battle: “Something that stood out was the coaches’ communication skills. They were speaking to me very well. The games were fun and they brought all of us together to have a good time.”
The Gators also hosted some 2020 targets on Saturday, including quarterback Anthony Richardson (Gainesville, Fla.), tackle Jalen Rivers (Orange Park, Fla.), defensive end Chantz Williams (Orange Park, Fla.) and athlete Derek Wingo (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Richardson received an offer from Florida last week and enjoyed his visit Saturday.
“I met a lot of people, hung out, ate food, talk to some coaches and it was fun,” said the Eastside High School quarterback. “The relationships I’m building with the staff made me feel pretty good. They’ve been telling me they like me and really want me to come, and I’ve been thinking about it.”
Florida secures official visit from CB Chris Steele
The Gators made a positive first impression this weekend on the nation’s No. 4 cornerback, Chris Steele.
The top-50 overall prospect (Bellflower, Calif.) took a three-day trip to Gainesville and told SEC Country he plans to return next month for an official visit, tentatively scheduled for June 1.
The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Steele took official visits last month to Oklahoma and LSU, with the latter having been eliminated from consideration. He also plans to officially visit Miami and Southern Cal in June.
Florida knocked it out of the park this weekend with Steele, who hit it off with the coaches at the barbecue and even played a pie prank on English, which was captured on video.
SEC Country will have more on Steele’s trip after he returns home to California.
I’ll be back… 🐊 pic.twitter.com/6VX7MaOaWC
— steele 🎒 (@KinggChris7) May 20, 2018
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