GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Unlike several other top programs, Florida didn’t have a flurry of commitments on National Signing Day and fell just outside of the top 10 in the final team rankings.
Despite landing one the nation’s best wide receivers Wednesday, many Gators fans were disappointed with how the class turned out. Coach Jim McElwain didn’t share the same sentiment.
“Absolutely,” McElwain said when asked if he’s happy with the class. “You can you see the numbers on the sheet (a list of 25 signees). Last time I checked, that’s a full class. I feel pretty good about it.”
The Gators signed their two highest-rated commits Wednesday (five-star defensive end Antonneous Clayton and four-star wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland), but the strength of their 2016 class is already on campus. Florida brought in a school-record 12 early enrollees in January, more than any other program in the country.
The Gators also added graduate transfer quarterback Austin Appleby, giving them the same amount of mid-year enrollees as signing day additions. With the 13 new players on the roster, UF won’t have the depleted depth chart it had last spring.
“I think you can sort of tell what we were trying to do in this class. We were trying to restructure some of the rooms, get some new blood in there, get some guys as competition as we move forward,” McElwain said. “So for us, having 12 of those guys in there, it totally changes the locker room, the meeting rooms and what we’re going to be able to accomplish in spring ball.”
Of the nine total ESPN 300 and ESPN 50 junior college recruits Florida signed in this year’s class, seven enrolled last month, and each one of them play positions where the Gators needed to upgrade their talent.
“Even though they didn’t finish in the top 10, it’s a good class because it addresses a lot of needs,” said Mike Farrell, Rivals.com national recruiting director. “The bottom line when looking at a recruiting class is seeing how you stack up in your conference and you want to see if you’ve hit your needs. It might not be a stellar finish, but they’ve hit a lot of needs here.
“It’s a really important class for McElwain because it’s his first full one, and that’s huge. This is really going to dictate a lot of how successful McElwain is not right away, but over the next three years. When we’re looking two years out, this class is going to have a big impact. I think Antonneous Clayton could be Dante Fowler, Chauncey Gardner could be Jalen Tabor and Feleipe Franks could be the quarterback of the future if he develops.”