Join us here at SEC Country for a daily recap of the latest Florida recruiting news, tales from the trail and perspective on what it all means for the Gators.
IMG Academy teammates return to Florida
The Gators had IMG Academy players on campus Saturday for the second weekend in a row.
After welcoming the IMG Academy football team for the second scrimmage, Florida hosted 5-star defensive end Nolan Smith II, 5-star running back Trey Sanders and 4-star running back Noah Cain for the spring game.
All three are top-50 overall recruits in the 247Sports 2019 composite. Sanders and Smith are both in the top 10, while Cain is ranked No. 32 nationally.
They each had high praise for Mullen after the game.
Sanders: “This is my third time coming up in four weeks and Coach Mullen has changed this place all around. Ever since Coach Mullen has gotten here, I can see a whole difference in the staff and everything. I just like the vibe up here.”
Cain: “I like the energy Coach Mullen is bringing back to the school. You can tell a big difference with the new staff. They got that juice, that energy and that fire back at Florida, so I really like that.”
Smith: “Coach Mullen is real cool. He’s funny and hilarious. He’s a swag-type of guy. I gotta have a head coach with a little swag.”
Sanders enjoyed watching Florida running backs coach Greg Knox and his position group, particularly true freshman Dameon Pierce. They became close friends when both were committed to Alabama (read more).
Sanders, the top-ranked running back in the country, has spoken to Pierce and the other players at the position about Knox.
“Ever since he got here, I’ve talked to the running backs and they say he’s a great guy, best coach they’ve probably ever had,” Sanders said of Knox. “He’s very energetic and that’s what I like about him. I need a coach that’s energetic because I’m energetic.
“Coach Knox is the main guy for me. He thinks I’m an all-around player and he says I can do anything — run the ball, block, catch, run routes, all that. I talk to him about every day and it’s a pretty good relationship.”
Cain reiterated Saturday that he’s been impressed with the Gators’ new offensive scheme as well as their personnel (read more). The nation’s No. 2 tailback called Florida’s receiving corps one of the best in the country and said Mullen wants every position to be at that level.
“They’re trying to get Florida back to those glory days when they were winning and going to the SEC Championship [Game] every year,” Cain said. “Coach Mullen is heading in the right direction with that. I can see it in the players. They really like Coach Mullen a lot.”
Smith, who has been committed to Georgia for 16 months, likes Florida’s 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. The 6-foot-2, 232-pound defender would play outside linebacker for the Gators.
“Guys are flying around and the coaches focus on the little details,” Smith said. “I was paying attention to how they rush the passer and what moves they were using. It’s more of an NFL scheme and that’s what I would really love to play in.”
Gators in great shape with Trey Sanders
The Gators have ground to make up with Cain and Smith, but they appear to be in the driver’s seat for Sanders following his latest trip to Gainesville.
He was also at the game Saturday with his brother, Umstead Sanders. The junior college linebacker committed to Florida last month as a preferred walk-on and will enroll this summer.
“They got my brother, so of course they’re going to try to be extra hard on me,” Sanders told SEC Country. “He’s calling every day trying to get me to commit. I’m tried to tell him I gotta to take my time. He understands, but ever since committed it’s like another coach calling my phone every day.
“I always wanted to play with my brother in college. We’ve always talked about that since we were little. I feel like when he committed to Florida, it was a big thing for me.”
Sanders said his brother surprised their family with the decision and no one knew it was coming before his Twitter announcement. Their parents “went crazy” upon learning the news, according to Sanders.
“He didn’t tell anyone he was going to commit. He just posted it,” Sanders recalled. “I was in school and I saw that he committed on Twitter. We talked on FaceTime right afterward and I was like, ‘It’s like that? You got too big time for me?’
“He said he likes Gainesville because it’s close to home. My mom is a big Gator fan, so he feels like he was doing her justice, too. … This is a dream come true for her. This is her favorite school. She loves Florida.”
Despite those factors, Sanders is taking his time with the recruiting process and has other programs to consider before making a decision. He also holds offers from Auburn, Georgia, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State and Oklahoma, among others.
“I don’t have any favorite schools,” Sanders said. “I’ll narrow things down during the season.”
Cain will attend the Texas spring game next week and wants to take five official visits in the fall. Ohio State is the only trip he has locked in thus far. The early enrollee plans to make his decision in December.
“Georgia, Ohio State, Miami, Penn State, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas are some of the schools recruiting me hard,” Cain said. “I’m just going to take the process slow. Some of these could change before I make my decision and that’s why I’m just enjoying it right now. It’s a blessing to be in this position.”
Smith said the status of his Georgia commitment is “undisclosed,” but the Georgia native has been solid with the in-state Bulldogs for more than a year. However, he’s still giving consideration to schools such as Alabama, Clemson and Florida.
“My recruitment is open. I show love to schools that show love to me,” Smith said. “I’m looking at Florida. They’re building. You can’t stay the same. I see an improvement and that’s a good thing. Just keep recruiting me.”
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