GAINESVILLE, Fla. — No member of the Florida football team has played at Arkansas, but two of them have been there.
UF freshman wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland junior college cornerback transfer Joseph Putu officially visited Arkansas in January, and Putu committed to the Razorbacks while in Fayetteville.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and his entire staff went to see Cleveland three days after his trip. They also took a clever picture to impress the nation’s No. 2 receiver.
— cynsean yancy (@poohbearyancy) February 2, 2016
But Cleveland chose Florida instead of Arkansas on signing day, and then Putu flipped to UF hours later despite never visiting the school. After those results, Bielema went on ESPN2 and appeared to accuse the Gators of cheating, calling them “the new Ole Miss.”
— Matt Barrie (@MattBarrie) February 3, 2016
Florida coach Jim McElwain responded to Bielema in his signing day press conference, saying, “I have no idea what this guy was talking about, to be honest.”
After Bielema’s comments picked up steam, he had to release a statement and said he called McElwain and Rebels coach Hugh Freeze to clarify what he meant.
“I said something earlier that came across in the wrong way, I guess,” Bielema said. “I was paying a compliment to Florida. We’ve seen them kind of pop up everywhere. Before my last couple years here, really had only competed against Florida in Georgia and Florida itself a lot, because I love to recruit Florida. Well, this last week we were competing against them on a wide receiver in Texas, a running back, a player in Louisiana and a player in North Dakota. And I’ve never seen that before; that’s all I was making reference to.
“It’s kind of like last week, we stumbled across an offensive lineman in Illinois and I really liked him and started to proceed with him and found out he — before I got anything going — had committed to Ole Miss. And I told my staff, ‘Ole Miss, they’re everywhere.’ That’s kind of the comment we make. It wasn’t in reference to anything other than that. I mean that wholeheartedly and honestly, and when I said that earlier, I was paying a compliment to Florida.”
Nonetheless, Bielema was understandably upset about Cleveland. Typically the Razorbacks are unable to land recruits of his caliber, so missing on him had to sting.
The Hogs even won over Theresa Yancy, Cleveland’s aunt. Yancy, whom he lived with in Houston, told reporters on signing day she wanted him to go to Arkansas.
This week on the SEC coaches teleconference, Bielema was asked about Cleveland’s recruiting process and if it “struck a chord” with him.
“I don’t know that it did,” he said. “It maybe was a moment when coaches wear recruiting on their sleeve on that one and every year that is kind of how it works out.
“But I credit a very good effort by all coaches that were involved. He is a very good player that we felt strongly about and wanted in our program as well.”
With less than three months to go until signing day, here’s a breakdown of Florida’s 2017 class:
- Where it ranks: No. 17 nationally, No. 8 in SEC (15 commitments)
- Top recruits: 4-star DE Zachary Carter (0.9376 rating), 4-star WR Daquon Green (0.9322 rating)
- Class movement: 3-star DT Jordon Scott (decommitment | replacement options)
- Breakdown by position: QB (1), RB (1), WR (1), TE (2), OL (1), DL (3), LB (2), DB (3), ATH (1)
- Geographical breakdown: Alabama (2), California (1), Florida (10), New Jersey (1), Texas (1)