GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida will host eight prospects on official visits this weekend, the first of the final three-week contact period for the 2016 recruiting cycle.
The Gators will have a few commits in town as well as some targets at positions of need.
Here are the three best things that could happen for UF recruiting this weekend:
1) Leave a lasting impression on the linebackers
Florida still wants a fourth linebacker for 2016, and five-star Lyndell Wilson’s latest comments aren’t very encouraging for the Gators.
A pair of four-star prospects at the position visit UF this weekend in Dontavious Jackson and Jaleel Laguins, a Georgia commit.
Linebackers coach Randy Shannon has been the primary recruiter for Jackson, who is visiting with teammate and three-star defensive back Chris Brown.
“I really like how (Shannon) is recruiting me and being honest with me,” said Jackson, who will take six trips this month. “They let me know that the opportunity to play is there, but they’re not going to give it to me. I’ve got to come in and earn it. I’m very intrigued by that.”
Laguins has visited Florida several times, but he’s never seen the indoor practice facility and wants to check it out. UF’s lack of linebackers will not be a selling point for him.
“To be honest, it’s not a factor. It’s not,” Laguins said. “Don’t get me wrong, I would love to play in the NFL. That’s every athlete’s dream to make it to the NFL, to play many years in the NFL and have a very long career.
“But the most important thing to me is a degree. So playing early — yes, it’s nice and everything — but if I put in the work anywhere, I’d say just let the chips fall where they may.”
Like Jackson, Laguins will visit other schools after his trip to Florida, so the Gators really need to impress them this weekend and make it last.
2) Blow away Landon Dickerson
A total of four, possibly five, offensive linemen will be in Gainesville, none more important than four-star Landon Dickerson.
The top-100 overall recruit has never visited before, but he may be the Gators’ best chance at landing another prep offensive tackle.
Jauan Williams will take a trip to UF, but is heavily favoring Florida State at this time. The other top target, Marcus Tatum, just committed to Tennessee, though he may visit Florida this weekend after five UF coaches saw him Thursday.
Dickerson, the nation’s No. 7 offensive tackle, is currently leaning toward FSU and Tennessee, but he’s visiting Florida, Alabama and possibly Georgia this month.
“I’ve said throughout this process that I’ll be open until the very end,” Dickerson told SEC Country. “Florida just kind of intrigued me. The coaching staff did a good job convincing me about coming to visit the school.
“It’s a great program and they have great educational opportunities. Obviously they’re really shallow on the depth chart. It’s promising that I could go in there and potentially play right away. I’d probably prefer that.”
Could Dickerson see himself committing to UF after just one visit?
“I could, especially since I’m taking an official visit there,” he said. “I just really need to see everything. The campus, the coaching staff, education, facilities.”
Florida is hosting another uncommitted lineman in four-star offensive guard John Simpson, a U.S. Army All-American who has previously visited LSU and South Carolina and will take trips to Alabama and Clemson before deciding. He could be a tough pull for the Gators.
3) Put an end to Jawaan Taylor’s recruitment
Three UF commits will be on campus in center Brett Heggie, defensive end Jachai Polite and guard Jawaan Taylor.
Florida coach Jim McElwain’s first visit of the contact period was to Taylor.
“It was great to see him,” Taylor said. “We had a lot of fun talking. My parents fell in love with him. He was just telling me all about the University of Florida and that it’s great to be a Florida Gator. He’s ready for me to come up on my visit.”
Taylor told SEC Country he’s still being pursued by Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Miami, Georgia and South Carolina. The Gators could put an end to his recruitment this weekend.
“I’m not sure if I’ll visit other schools,” Taylor said. “After this visit, I’ll let them know. If not, I just won’t take any other official visits. I’ll just go to Florida.”
— Jawaan M. Taylor7⃣4⃣ (@jawaan_taylor74) January 14, 2016
OL Landon Dickerson, 6-5, 293, Hudson (N.C.) South Caldwell
OL Brett Heggie, 6-4, 300, Mount Dora (Fla.) Mount Dora (Florida commit)
OL John Simpson, 6-4, 290, North Charleston (S.C.) Fort Dorchester
OL Jawaan Taylor, 6-4, 330, Cocoa (Fla.) Cocoa (Florida commit)
DL Jachai Polite, 6-3, 250, Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland (Florida commit)
LB Dontavious Jackson, 6-2, 239, Houston (Texas) Alief Elsik
LB Jaleel Laguins, 6-2, 209, Watkinsville (Ga.) Oconee County (Georgia commit)
DB Chris Brown, 5-11, 183, Houston (Texas) Alief Elsik
All player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.