As Jim McElwain tries to rebuild Florida football into a championship program, one of his mottos is “recruit daily or die.” Join us here on SEC Country for a daily recap of the latest Florida recruiting news, tales from the trail and perspective on what it all means for the Gators.
What I learned at The Opening
More than a dozen Florida Gators recruiting targets competed this past weekend at The Opening, an annual combine for the nation’s top high school football players.
SEC Country spent the past three days gathering news, notes and updates. Here’s the latest on Florida’s targets from The Opening:
5-star QB Justin Fields, Kennesaw, Ga.
- After two visits to Florida in as many months, Fields told SEC Country he can picture himself playing for the Gators and will “probably” return to Gainesville for a game this fall. There isn’t much left for him to see at UF, but Fields said he’d like to check out The Swamp when it’s packed. That trip could potentially turn into an official visit for Fields, who still doesn’t have a decision timeline and may extend his recruiting process a few more months. His top schools are Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Georgia.
5-star DE Micah Parsons, Harrisburg, Pa.
- Florida’s offer to Parsons in April peaked his interest right away and factored into his decision to de-commit from Penn State. He insists his recruitment is wide open and plans to visit UF this summer or during the fall. His teammate, 4-star wide receiver Shaquon Anderson-Butts, has a Florida offer and Parsons also is close friends with Gators running back commit Iverson Clement and Fields, a former Nittany Lions pledge. It may take a perfect storm for Florida to land Parsons when he decides in January, but the potential is there.
5-star CB Patrick Surtain Jr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- Florida and more than a half-dozen big-time programs have long been chasing LSU for Surtain, and nothing has changed on that front. The Tigers hold a strong lead for Surtain and he returns to Baton Rouge this month. The U.S. Army All-American may also visit Florida on July 21 for Friday Night Lights. Surtain is complimentary of the UF staff and says all the right things about the Gators, but it’s clear the Gators are on the outside looking in. Surtain plans to commit during his senior season, sometime afterward or on National Signing Day.
5-star QB Matt Corral, Long Beach, Calif.
- Things picked up fast between the Gators and Corral after his de-commitment from Southern Cal last month. He plans to visit Florida with his parents in late July and wants them to connect with UF offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, his primary recruiter. Corral likes Nussmeier’s coaching style and the two of them have apparently hit it off. He wants to decide before his senior season and his top schools are Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Miami.
5-star DB Tyreke Johnson, Jacksonville, Fla.
- UCLA was the leader for Johnson early in his recruitment, then Florida began to surge for him in March. Now, Georgia has emerged as the favorite for Johnson after his May visit to Athens with family members in tow. UF coaches are keeping tabs on Johnson, but he told SEC Country the Bulldogs are pursuing him the hardest. The U.S. Army All-American plans to decide in December and enroll early.
4-star RB James Cook, Miami (Florida State commit)
- Cook told SEC Country he has eliminated Florida from consideration as well as LSU and Miami. His recruitment is now down to two schools: Florida State and Georgia. Despite his commitment to the Seminoles, Cook said UGA has pulled even with FSU. He plans to make a final decision by the end of his senior season.
UPDATE: Cook de-committed from FSU on Tuesday.
4-star OL William Barnes, Apopka, Fla.
- Seven months remain in Barnes’ recruitment, but a pair of schools have separated themselves from the pack. Barnes called Florida and North Carolina his co-leaders, confirming what many have assumed for months. The U.S. Army All-American took trips to UF and UNC in June and returns to Gainesville on July 21 for Friday Night Lights. Barnes also plans to visit North Carolina again this summer and will make his decision on National Signing Day.
4-star WR Mark Pope, Miami (Miami commit)
- Pope has solidified his pledge to the Hurricanes. On May 25, the U.S. Army All-American said his recruitment was still open and then visited Florida the following week. But at The Opening, Pope told SEC Country he’s 100 percent committed to Miami and has decided to stick with the Hurricanes. He still hears from the Gators once or twice a week but doesn’t plan to officially visit UF.
4-star OL Richard Gouraige, Tampa, Fla.
- It may be just a matter of time before Gouraige commits to the Gators. Florida became his No. 1 school in the spring and remains atop his leaderboard. Gouraige told SEC Country that UF assistant Brad Davis is the college coach he’s closest with. Auburn and LSU are also on his radar, but neither program appears to be posing a threat to Florida. Gouraige does not know when he will decide.
4-star S Amari Burney, Clearwater, Fla. (Florida commit)
- Burney has shut down his recruitment after joining Florida’s class on June 1. He silently committed to the UF coaches two weeks prior and kept it quiet until his announcement. Burney expects Florida to finish with a great 2018 class because he said several recruits who favor the Gators — both privately and publicly — are waiting to make their decisions. Burney likes Florida’s chances with Fields and 4-star wide receiver Anthony Schwartz.
4-star DT Rick Sandidge, Concord, N.C.
- Sandidge told SEC Country he has high interest in Florida because of his relationship with Gators defensive line coach Chris Rumph. Sandidge will “definitely” get back to UF after enjoying his April visit to Gainesville. However, Sandidge said he will not officially visit Florida because those trips will be for schools he hasn’t seen yet. At this time, he wants to check out LSU, Louisville, Penn State and Southern Cal this fall. Sandidge is in no rush to make a decision and claims no leaders.
4-star WR Anthony Schwartz, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- The recruiting process is winding down for the fastest recruit in the country. He plans to visit five SEC schools after the dead period ends and then make his decision in September. Florida will receive a visit along with Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee. Schwartz told SEC Country the Gators still lead for his services and he communicates with UF coaches daily.
4-star DT Dante Stills, Fairmont, W.Va.
- Stills named Florida in his top 3 last month along with Oklahoma and West Virginia. He plans to visit UF and OU this month before making his decision in late August. Stills said he wants to tour Florida’s business school on his visit and find out what kind of opportunity he would have for early playing time.
4-star TE Kyle Pitts, Warminster, Pa.
- Barring a surprise, Pitts will be Florida’s next pledge. His visit to UF on June 10 won him over because he connected with the coaches and realized how much he’s needed at the tight end position. Pitts will reveal his decision in mid-July with a commitment video. However, he plans to take official visits in the fall and his three finalists (Florida, Georgia, Virginia Tech) will all receive trips.
3-star LB David Reese, Fort Pierce, Fla.
- Reese told SEC Country he wants to be committed by the end of the summer, though right now his recruitment is “wide open.” Reese said the Gators started recruiting him harder in the spring and he plans to make his fist recruiting visit to Florida in the coming weeks. Miami and Michigan are considered the other contenders for Reese.
Miss a previous Gator Chomps notebook? Find every daily recap of Florida Gators recruiting right here.