GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida took one on the chin last Saturday, but the players have put the loss behind them as they look to bounce back Saturday at Vanderbilt.
Then comes the LSU game, which will be the biggest weekend of the year for UF recruiting and a chance for the Gators to put on a show in The Swamp.
The Tigers are reeling following the firing of their head coach, Les Miles. His dismissal will not only benefit the Gators on the gridiron, but potentially in recruiting as well.
Here are the top 5 questions from this week:
Chances we poach any LSU commits?
This went through the minds of all SEC recruiting fans when news broke on Miles. LSU has the nation’s No. 4 class and 20 verbal commitments for 2017.
Two of them have heavy interest in Florida — 4-star cornerback Grant Delpit (Bradenton, Fla.) and 4-star cornerback Kary Vincent (Port Arthur, Texas).
They committed to the Tigers in July but still plan to officially visit UF. Delpit is a New Orleans native who was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and relocated in Houston before transferring to IMG Academy.
I think Florida’s best shot is at Delpit, but for what it’s worth, both he and Vincent told SEC Country’s Sam Spiegelman they’re sticking with LSU.
Delpit: “I am still committed to LSU and I wish Coach Miles and Coach Cameron all the best.”
Vincent: “I’m not going anywhere. Forever LSU.”
You could potentially see the Gators offer and make a run at 4-star wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon (Bradenton, Fla.) as well as 2018 safety Nadab Joseph (Miami, Fla.).
Miles’ departure could also improve Florida’s chances with three 4-star targets from Louisiana: linebacker Christopher Allen (Baton Rouge), defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis (Monroe) and offensive tackle Adrain Ealy (Gonzales), all of whom are considered LSU leans.
And that’s not including Brad Stewart, a 4-star cornerback from New Orleans. He doesn’t have LSU in his top 5 and is thought to be favoring the Gators.
What’s our best odds of getting a Rivals 5-star recruit, or will this be the first year since 2011 we don’t?
This is quite an impressive run Florida’s had as it relates to the Rivals.com rankings. The Gators have a signed a total of nine 5-star prospects over the last five years:
2016: Antonneous Clayton
2015: CeCe Jefferson, Martez Ivey
2014: Jalen Tabor
2013: Vernon Hargreaves III, Alex Anzalone
2012: D.J. Humphries, Jonathan Bullard, Dante Fowler Jr.
In this year’s recruiting cycle, there’s four potential prospects UF could sign to continue the streak: wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (Detroit), defensive end Jarez Parks (Sebastian, Fla.), Alabama offensive tackle commit Alex Leatherwood (Pensacola, Fla.) and Ohio State cornerback commit Shaun Wade (Jacksonville, Fla.).
Florida is in contention with all of them. Leatherwood lists the Gators as his No. 2 team, and Wade visited UF with his parents earlier this month. It’s likely a Florida-Michigan battle for Peoples-Jones, who plans to visit UF for the LSU game on Oct. 8.
But I’ll go with the uncommitted, in-state kid for Florida’s best odds at a 5-star recruit. Parks named UF his leader early in the process and he’s a big fan of defensive line coach Chris Rumph. If Parks ends up with the Gators, half of their 5-star signees from 2012-17 will be defensive ends.
How has the Tennessee loss affected the view of our staff on the recruiting trail?
Some Florida fans wanted to fire the entire staff after that second-half collapse. Fortunately, for the sake of recruiting, prospects don’t react that way.
The few that I talked to tipped their cap to the Vols for how they came back from that halftime deficit. It’s as much a credit to them as it is a bad look for UF.
Despite the momentum Florida had coming into the game, Tennessee was favored to win and now sits in the driver’s seat for the SEC East crown.
But the Gators can still make it to Atlanta, and that’s how recruits will ultimately judge this staff as far as on-field results are concerned. One game doesn’t define a season, and there’s a lot more that factors into recruiting than wins and losses.
Given the loss to Tennessee, how do you expect this team to finish out the season?
In the offseason, I thought Tennessee and LSU were toss-up games and Florida State would be a loss. I’d now replace LSU with Arkansas for that second game toss-up given what’s transpired with the Tigers.
But it’s pretty simple for the Gators — they have to win out in conference play. They’ll be favored against LSU and Georgia and should beat both of them. That road trip to Fayetteville will decide their fate in the East.
But to repeat as division champs, Florida will also need Alabama and Texas A&M (or two other SEC teams) to beat Tennessee. The Vols impressed me in Knoxville, but I don’t think they have the talent to hang with the Aggies or the Crimson Tide.
How does the progress of Antonneous Clayton’s weight validate him dropping his redshirt? Is he game ready now?
Last week I mentioned Clayton’s weight (215) as the primary reason he wasn’t playing. He lost about 20 pounds in the summer because of an illness and that hindered him in fall camp.
But to his credit, Clayton has dedicated himself to gaining weight and now tips the scales at more than 250 pounds. So yes, he’s game ready from a physical standpoint and that’s why he’ll play against Vanderbilt.
His talent was never in question.
“He’s really obviously a great player,” McElwain said on Wednesday of the former 5-star recruit.
After struggling to generate a pass rush against the Vols, Florida could certainly use Clayton’s speed off the edge.
— Godspeed (@antonneousc) September 27, 2016
Can wait for Saturday Finna ball out!!!!????
— Godspeed (@antonneousc) September 27, 2016