GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida currently has the No. 4 football recruiting class in the 247Sports Composite team rankings.
The Gators have climbed up the rankings over the past few months by landing some of their top targets in the 2016 cycle.
But there’s a sector of UF fans who (still) have concerns about the amount of three-star commits, which make up roughly half of the class, depending on the recruiting site. ESPN only gives 10 of Florida’s 26 commits a three-star rating, while 247Sports has the most with 17.
While stars are often a good reference point, they don’t tell the whole story and sometimes aren’t reflective of a recruit’s actual ability. Some prospects are victims of the positions they play, such as Under Armour All-American center and first-team all-state selection Brett Heggie, or the nation’s top-ranked junior college kicker, Eddy Pineiro.
An offer sheet and highlights are always the best indicators, but many of the three-star commitments UF accepted before the fall didn’t have a lot of offers. However, that has changed since their senior films got out.
It should also be noted that a few future Gators, who were three-star prospects when Florida offered, now have a four-star rating: wide receiver Joshua Hammond, linebacker Jeremiah Moon and running back Mark Thompson, who finished with the No. 1 junior college ranking at his position.
The UF coaches and recruiting staffers certainly deserve a hat tip for beating the bushes, finding under-the-radar kids and identifying talent through early, but thorough, evaluations. Now others are playing catch-up as signing day approaches.
Here are eight pledges for the Gators who are better than their three-star rating in the 247Sports Composite, an industry-generated average:
1) Aaron Robinson, CB, 6-foot-1, 178 pounds (Deerfield Beach, Fla.)
This is easily the most impressive evaluation job by McElwain and his staff. Robinson came to Florida’s 7v7 camp in June as a relatively unknown prospect. After watching Robinson compete for a couple hours, McElwain & Co. offered him and he committed on the spot. Since that night, Robinson has gained offers from Alabama, Georgia, Miami, North Carolina, Southern Cal, South Carolina and Tennessee. As a senior, he was a first team all-state selection in the highest classification of Florida high school football (8A). Alabama, Georgia and Miami are pushing to get Robinson on campus this month, and South Carolina saw him Thursday. But UF assistant Kerry Dixon II, his primary recruiter, has secured a visit from Robinson this coming weekend.
2) Vosean Joseph, LB, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds (Miami, Fla./Norland)
Joseph committed to Florida nearly a year ago after he caught the eye of area recruiter Randy Shannon. He was the second member to join the 2016 class. Arkansas, Louisville, Miami, South Carolina and West Virginia were among the schools that offered him in the months following his decision. After a dominant senior season that earned Joseph first team all-state honors, Alabama and Maryland extended offers last month and the Crimson Tide hosted him on an official this past weekend. Joseph isn’t the only UF pledge Nick Saban has pursued.
3) Lamical Perine, RB, 5-foot-11, 211 pounds (Theodore, Ala.)
In late May, Perine received an offer from Florida and committed the next day. It was his best offer at the time, and not many others came his way over the summer and fall. But after running wild as a senior (1,654 yards and 15 touchdowns), Saban called Perine with an offer and began personally recruiting him. He put his best foot forward to flip Perine and keep him in the state of Alabama, but in December, the running back shut down his recruitment and declined to visit Tuscaloosa following an in-home visit from UF assistant Tim Skipper. Last week, Perine was named the Alabama Class 7A running back of the year.
4) Jeawon Taylor, DB, 6-foot-2, 192 (Montgomery, Ala./Park Crossing)
Here’s another sleeper athlete UF plucked out of Alabama. Both in-state SEC schools knew about Taylor early on and evaluated him, with Will Muschamp offering a scholarship to Auburn last spring. But it was an August offer from the Gators that caught his fancy and got him to commit. Former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart immediately offered Taylor after becoming the head coach at UGA, and he visited Athens last weekend. Another renowned defensive coach, D.J. Durkin, gave a tender to Taylor when he took over at Maryland and will host him on an official this weekend. Taylor, ranked the No. 1 safety in Alabama, will take his final trip to UF on Jan. 29.
5) Jachai Polite, DE, 6-foot-3, 250 pounds (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland)
Polite had a dozen offers by the time he showed up at UF’s camp in July, but the Gators immediately offered him after his workout and made the pass rusher a priority. It was a smart move on their part. Polite finished with the most sacks in the state of Florida in 2015 and made the Class 6A first team. Auburn, Miami, South Carolina and Tennessee also recruited Polite heavily in the fall, but the Gators won him over in November. A new school, Southern Cal, has entered the mix and will receive a visit from Polite, but he’s “very solid” to Florida due his relationship with McElwain and defensive line coach Chris Rumph.
6) McArthur Burnett, ATH, 5-foot-10, 175 pounds (Pahokee, Fla.)
Florida State and Miami offered Burnett a couple months ahead of UF last spring, but once the Gators did, they went all out for Burnett. Their efforts proved to be both effective and well placed. Florida landed Burnett after the Ole Miss game and got him on campus as an early enrollee, outlasting some late official visits he made to Auburn and Louisville. UF recruited Burnett as a cornerback, and he put on a show at that position when he camped in Gainesville. He might also get a look on offense because he’s a dynamic playmaker. Burnett earned first team all-state honors as Pahokee’s running back in 2015.
7) Quincy Lenton, DB, 6-foot, 195 pounds (Meridian, Miss.)
Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins needs two pats on the back for Lenton. When Collins was the DC at Mississippi State, he gave Lenton his first SEC offer as a junior and produced his commitment for the Bulldogs. Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia, Ole Miss, Missouri and Vanderbilt all followed suit with tenders. But when Collins came to UF, he landed Lenton again during the Gators’ Friday Night Lights event. Auburn, UGA and the Mississippi schools continued to contact Lenton and tried to convince him to visit, but he has remained loyal to Collins and Florida.
8) C.J. McWilliams, CB, 5-foot-11, 164 pounds (Miami, Fla./Southwest)
While his size may warrant a three-star rating, there’s no doubting his skill set. Florida Atlantic was the only school that jumped on McWilliams before UF, and he committed to Shannon and the Gators in May. Several programs have extended offers to McWilliams since that pledge, including Louisville, Miami, Nebraska and North Carolina. The hometown Hurricanes, Tarheels and South Florida Bulls are trying to flip McWilliams, who was also an all-state selection in Class 8A.