BEAVERTON, Ore. — The Florida Gators are once again in contention for one of the best wide receiver recruits in the country.
Florida’s last class produced a signing-day flip from Tyrie Cleveland, arguably the top prospect at his position nationally, who was committed to Houston.
The Gators now have a chance to land Donovan Peoples-Jones, who is ranked the No. 1 receiver for 2017. The 5-star recruit from Detroit has visited Florida three times, most recently on April 3.
Despite growing up in Michigan, Peoples-Jones has followed the Florida program for a decade.
“Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow are my favorite college players,” Peoples-Jones said Wednesday at The Opening, Nike’s annual summer football camp for elite prospects.
“Their teams were really good. I always played with them on NCAA Football. They were unstoppable. That’s why it’s so easy to name Florida one of my favorite schools.”
Peoples-Jones has gained more appreciation for the Gators during his recruiting process, which began during his freshman year of high school. UF has been in the mix for him from the beginning.
“They have a good blend of athletics and academics,” Peoples-Jones said. “They have a great university, and their program is successful. I really like the coaching staff as well.”
Coach Jim McElwain, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon II are all recruiting Peoples-Jones in a collaborative effort.
“They’re real friendly,” Peoples-Jones said. “They’ve came to see as many times as possible. They even had a (satellite) camp in Detroit. So they’re making me a priority and I really appreciate that.”
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound prospect has no timetable for a decision and claims to have an “even” group of 10 finalists. The Gators are believed to be near the top of his leaderboard, but they’ll likely have to beat out Michigan and Michigan State.
Peoples-Jones insists the in-state schools don’t have an advantage because of proximity to home.
“It doesn’t help them,” he said. “Distance doesn’t matter at all. I’m going wherever I feel most comfortable and the place that can help me the most as a student-athlete. I care about academics and competing with the best.”
Peoples-Jones wants to officially visit schools outside of his region, and said Florida and Florida State are guaranteed to receive trips. Gators quarterback Jake Allen has been actively recruiting Peoples-Jones to Gainesville.
“If there’s one guy I’m keeping tabs on, it’s definitely Donovan,” Allen said. “I met him last year at Friday Nights Lights and we’ve stayed in touch since. We talk every other week or so. The kid is a stud and he’s a real cool dude. We’re going to take our official visit on the same weekend so we can hang out. I can’t wait.”
Unless otherwise indicated, rankings and ratings come from the 247Sports Composite.
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.