GAINESVILLE, Fla. — That’s one for the books.
Florida’s Friday Night Lights recruiting showcase had the potential to be a star-studded event this year. But, as always, there’s a chance that some prospects won’t make it.
No plans fell through Friday.
UF coach Jim McElwain and his staff were expecting 11 top-200 overall prospects from the Class of 2018. Eleven.
Every one of them showed up as scheduled — and then some. Surprise visitor Tyreke Johnson, a 5-star defensive back, made it a dozen.
The most memorable moments in Florida’s 13-year history of Friday Night Lights include Tim Tebow attending the inaugural camp, Cam Newton and Joe Haden visiting the following summer and 5-star defensive end Ronald Powell working out in 2009.
None of those nights topped Friday.
Like Powell, Justin Fields headlined the showcase as the No. 1 overall prospect in the country. Campers, parents and spectators packed inside the indoor practice facility to get a glimpse of the Elite 11 MVP. More than 20 Florida players came to watch as well.
With 5-star quarterback Matt Corral and the other notable names on hand, #FNL2017 easily goes down as the biggest year in event history. Several commits from the Gators’ top-ranked 2019 class visited along with 2020 QB Harrison Bailey, a future 5-star recruit.
“All this talent out here is the future of college football,” said 4-star wide receiver Jacob Copeland. “Seeing everybody come out like this, it’s a big deal.”
— Jacob Copeland 🇭🇹 (@JCope5era) July 22, 2017
Fields arrived at FNL in celebrity fashion, with media and fans snapping photos of him as he walked into the facility. He later posed for pictures with kids and even signed a few footballs when the camp concluded in The Swamp.
Crowds followed Fields from drill to drill, iPhones raised high in the air to record him throwing in front of McElwain and UF offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Fields was coached up by Nussmeier all night and also worked with Florida quarterbacks Luke Del Rio and Feleipe Franks.
“I guess you can say it’s pretty cool,” Fields said of the experience. “I like the coaches and how much knowledge they have and what I can learn from them.”
— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) July 22, 2017
Corral didn’t compete in the camp, but spent most of his time right in the middle of the action. He hung out at midfield and interacted throughout the night with Fields, other recruits and UF staff members.
Corral told SEC Country he would do interviews after his three-day visit concluded Saturday, but there was plenty of talk about the nation’s No. 2 pro-style quarterback following Friday Night Lights.
“Matt seemed to love it,” Florida RB commit Iverson Clement said of Corral’s visit. “He was around everybody. He enjoyed it. He was happy with everything.”
Friday’s commitments from 3-star tight end Dante Lang and 2019 offensive guard Wardrick Wilson gave UF four total pledges for the week. The Gators are now the team to beat for Corral and there was buzz about him possibly pulling the trigger before he leaves.
Fields, who doesn’t plan to decide until the fall, hinted at some more good news for McElwain & Co.
“Something’s about to happen, I can tell y’all that,” Fields said with a smile. “Not with me, somebody else. I can’t tell you who.”
Clement feels the Gators have a strong shot with both Corral and Fields. He also expects one of them to join Florida’s 2018 class, which has momentum rolling heading into football season.
“This is not the first time that I’ll be part of something special,” Clement said of Friday Night Lights. “When this class establishes a quarterback and the 2018 class gets on the field together, we’re going to do something special at Florida.”