As Jim McElwain tries to rebuild Florida football into a championship program, one of his mottos is “recruit daily or die.” Join us here on 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.
Patrick Surtain Jr. headlines Saturday’s visitors
Hurricane Irma caused Florida to lose its third recruiting weekend in two years last Saturday, so the Tennessee game is a critical window for the Gators to get their top targets on campus.
Florida’s last home tilt against Tennessee was a turning point for Jim McElwain on the recruiting trail, and he’ll have the audience to put on another show in The Swamp on Saturday.
Several elite prospects plan to be attendance for Florida’s home opener, including 5-star cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. from American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.).
The 6-foot-2, 181-pound Surtain hasn’t visited Florida since February, so this is a huge visit for the Gators. He initially wanted to return for Friday Night Lights, but wasn’t able to make it to Gainesville.
LSU has been Surtain’s No. 1 school seemingly forever, and topping the Tigers will be a tall task for any program. On Aug. 30, Surtain named Florida in his top 6 along with Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and leader LSU.
Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon and secondary coach Corey Bell are leading the charge in Surtain’s recruitment.
“I’ve been talking to them a lot,” Surtain told SEC Country in July. “They’ve been doing a great job and recruiting me hard. We have great conversations with each other.”
Surtain is ranked the nation’s No. 1 cornerback and No. 4 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite. He plans to make his decision some time between the end of his senior season and National Signing Day.
Several additional targets expected to attend
A pair of Surtain’s teammates, 4-star defensive end Andrew Chatfield and 4-star wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, will make it up for the game as well. It will be Chatfield’s second trip in three months.
He attended Friday Night Lights, spent the night in Gainesville and worked out at Florida’s linemen camp in late July, which contributed to his de-commitment from Ohio State on Aug. 7. The Gators are considered a heavy favorite for Chatfield, though he hasn’t named a new leader since re-opening his recruitment.
Schwartz plans to commit before September ends, so this could be the final visit for the two-sport athlete. The South Florida speedster is the current World Youth U18 record holder in the 100m (10.15 seconds) and would run track at UF if he commits to the Gators football program.
In addition to Chatfield, Florida defensive line coach Chris Rumph will host another target at his position. Malcolm Lamar, a 4-star DE from Armwood High School (Seffner, Fla.), is scheduled to attend Saturday’s game. He committed to Oregon last month, but Florida still has a chance because of its proximity to home and Rumph’s longstanding relationship with him.
A pair of in-state offensive linemen — top-50 overall recruit William Barnes and his Apopka teammate Ed Montilus — will both be on hand as well as Trey Hill, who is ranked the nation’s No. 2 guard and No. 34 overall prospect. The Gators have ground to make up on Hill, who appears to be favoring Auburn and in-state Georgia, but SEC Country projects Florida to eventually land Barnes and Montilus (read more).
Auburn safety commit Jamien Sherwood (Jensen Beach, Fla.) will also be in attendance, but seems solid with the Tigers.
Host of commits, underclassmen will be on hand
At least seven members of Florida’s 2018 class intend to visit Saturday: athlete Amari Burney, running back Dameon Pierce, linebacker David Reese, safety Randy Russell, wide receiver Tyquan Thornton, defensive lineman Taylor Upshaw and cornerback Divaad Wilson.
McElwain & Co. are expecting a half dozen 2019 commits: athlete Maurice Goolsby, wide receiver Frank Ladson, defensive lineman Jaquaze Sorrells, defensive backs/linebackers Jaleel McRae and Marcus Tillman and defensive back Tyrique Stevenson.
The Florida-Tennessee game should draw more than 30 underclassmen combined. Some of the top targets for the Gators will be 2019 defensive backs John Dixon, Kaiir Elam and Brendan Gant, 2019 linebacker Ge’mon Eaford and 2019 lineman Trente Jones.
Miss a previous Gator Chomps notebook? Find every daily recap of Florida Gators recruiting right here.