GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida-South Carolina game Saturday will give the Gators their biggest recruiting weekend of the season.
UF is hosting four official visitors and several of its top targets for the Class of 2017. Here are the top five prospects who will be on hand this weekend:
1. 5-star offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, Pensacola, Fla. (Alabama commit)
Offensive line is not one of Florida’s biggest needs from a depth standpoint, but the Gators must land an elite lineman who can challenge some of their developmental players for a starting job. Leatherwood is ranked as the nation’s No. 2 offensive tackle and No. 7 overall prospect. UF was the first school to offer him a scholarship, but he committed to Alabama over Florida in June of 2015.
The Gators staff is still pursing him heavily and held a satellite camp at his school last summer. However, Leatherwood has not visited UF since its spring game, so this trip could make or break Florida’s chances. Leatherwood recently said his pledge to the Crimson Tide is not as strong as it once was, and he plans to make a final decision on Dec. 16 before early enrollment.
Florida’s chances: 40 percent
2. 5-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, Detroit
McElwain has done a good job adding pieces to the receiver position, namely Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland. But the Gators still need more talent and offensive weapons, and Peoples-Jones has the potential to be a program-changing recruit. He’s the nation’s No. 1 wideout and No. 12 overall prospect. Despite growing up in Michigan his favorite college players were Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin, so he always liked the Gators.
They’re one of five finalists for him, but his recruitment is expected to come down to Florida and the in-state Wolverines. Peoples-Jones has visited UF a few times, but the program needs to leave a lasting impression on him this weekend with an official visit still left to Michigan. He will be an early enrollee and could announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Florida’s chances: 45 percent
3. 4-star offensive tackle Navaughn Donaldson, Miami (Miami commit)
The Gators will have the top two offensive tackles from South Florida if they can flip Donaldson to go along with 4-star commit Kadeem Telfort from Miami. Like Donaldson, Telfort used to be committed to his hometown Hurricanes. Florida became a threat for Donaldson last summer when he attended Friday Night Lights. It was his first time visiting UF and the coaching staff won him over.
He understands the opportunity he has to play early on Florida’s offensive line. Donaldson also has upcoming visits to Florida State and North Carolina, but right now the Gators appear to have the best chance at luring him away from the 305. He is ranked the nation’s No. 12 offensive tackle and No. 71 overall prospect.
Florida’s chances: 50 percent
4. 4-star athlete Tray Bishop, Dawson, Ga. (Auburn commit)
Cornerback is the top priority for the Gators in this recruiting cycle, but they also need to sign a safety with Marcus Maye graduating. Bishop is ranked the No. 4 athlete and No. 149 overall prospect. He could play a number of different positions in college, but Auburn sold him on being a quarterback and earned his commitment.
However, multiple sources close to Bishop have told SEC Country he’s starting to realize his NFL future might be at safety. The UF coaches were the first to tell him that in the recruiting process. And given Florida’s track record of sending defensive backs to the NFL, most notably first-round pick Keanu Neal, Bishop is intrigued about joining the Gators secondary.
Florida’s chances: 60 percent
5. 4-star wide receiver James Robinson, Lakeland, Fla.
UF already has one Under Armour All-American receiver committed in Daquon Green, and Robinson could be No. 2. He’s been on the Gators’ radar for more than a year, but nine months ago they weren’t a contender. That changed with the hire of Florida defensive backs coach Torrian Gray, a Lakeland, Fla., native who began personally recruiting Robinson.
He named the Gators his leader in April and they’ve maintained that edge throughout the summer and fall. He plans to take trips to Oklahoma, Alabama and Ole Miss, so UF has some competition. But if he enjoys the game Saturday and returns to Gainesville for an official visit, it could be hard for those schools to surpass the Gators.
Florida’s chances: 75 percent
Florida commits in action
Here are the standout performers from Friday:
Four-star quarterback Jake Allen (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) threw for 158 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-12 passing in a 45-19 win over Flanagan.
— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) November 5, 2016
Three-star running back Malik Davis (Tampa, Fla./Jesuit) rushed for 323 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in a 34-14 win over Tampa Catholic.
Four-star tight end Kemore Gamble (Miami/Southridge) caught a 13-yard touchdown as his team shut out Miami High, 44-0.
Three-star athlete Kadarius Toney (Eight Mile, Ala./Blount) accounted for 279 yards of offense and two touchdowns in a 15-7 victory against Dothan.
Unless otherwise indicated, ratings and rankings come from the 247Sports Composite.