GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Welcome back to the Mail Stack.
After a couple of months away, I’m looking forward to answering your questions again about Florida football and recruiting. There’s a lot to discuss this month.
One name that’s been in the news is 4-star cornerback Brad Stewart from New Orleans (McDonogh 35 High School). He was scheduled to make his commitment on Aug. 17 and had five SEC finalists.
But he’s now holding off on that decision and has no time frame on a new date. Stewart plans to use his five official visits this fall, so he may want to wait until he’s taken some or all of his trips before choosing a school.
Nonetheless, the Gators remain in great shape with him and the other cornerback targets on their board. They also should land a commitment at the position this month.
Here are the top five questions from this week:
What are Florida’s chances of flipping Chris Henderson and is there a chance Florida signs five cornerbacks?
(From @justiwood, @aman_hyrams)
Henderson committed to the hometown Hurricanes six months ago, but has left the door open for Florida. He sees an opportunity to play early at Florida and is close with fellow Miami cornerback Shawn Davis (Miami Southridge High School), who will make his decision on Aug. 26 between Florida and Miami.
Henderson also communicates with Florida cornerback commits Elijah Blades (Muir High School, Pasadena, CA) and Marco Wilson (American Heritage, Plantation, FL). If Davis joins them, playing with that group would certainly appeal to him.
Henderson is not in a rush to make a final decision and wants to see how both teams play this season, but the Gators are definitely a threat here. If he makes the switch, Florida will have landed or flipped seven one-time Miami commits under McElwain (and there could be an eighth).
I think the Gators would take five cornerbacks if they had the room. You want to have at least eight players at the position, and UF is already short now with seven.
If five corners are signed in this year’s class, that makes eight returning players for 2018 and the Gators wouldn’t have to rely on any incoming freshmen like they will next season.
Davis, Henderson and Stewart seem to be the most realistic options for Florida to reach five.
Should we be concerned with OL recruiting right now or does the staff still get four solid guys?
First of all, the Gators don’t need to sign four offensive linemen in this class. If David Sharpe doesn’t turn pro after this season, they will return all 15 offensive linemen for 2017 with only three seniors.
So Florida has a lot of depth at the position and doesn’t need to load up again until 2018. The coaches will land at least one more lineman, possibly two, to go along with Kadeem Telfort.
They’ll keep trying to flip 5-star targets Calvin Ashley (Auburn) and Alex Leatherwood (Alabama), but their chances appear to be better right now with Caleb Chandler and Navaughn Donaldson, a Miami commit. Both prospects plan to officially visit UF this fall.
Is there any chance we flip anyone this cycle and does anyone flip from us?
For what it’s worth, Telfort visited Florida for Friday Night Lights and told SEC Country his commitment was solid.
— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) July 22, 2016
Other UF commits to keep an eye on are Blades and athlete Kadarius Toney. Both recently received offers from their in-state schools (Southern Cal for Blades, Auburn for Toney) and plan to take visits.
I mentioned Henderson and the three linemen (Donaldson, Ashley and Leatherwood). I don’t see Florida flipping 5-star cornerback Shaun Wade, currently an Ohio State commit.
In addition to Leatherwood, the Gators will continue recruiting two more Alabama pledges in wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and athlete Chadarius Townsend. At this time, I think Donaldson and Henderson are the most likely to flip.
How improved will our running game be with the style of O-linemen and RBs we have recruited?
(From @pigskinGATOR, @wilderssOB)
You’ll see a more physical run game and better blocking this year, and that’s a direct result of Florida’s recruiting efforts.
Three of the five starters on the offensive line are McElwain signees, as well as 10 of the 15 linemen. Several of the redshirt freshmen have impressed in fall camp, and McElwain has singled out true freshman tackle Jawaan Taylor for his play.
McElwain called the running back position the strength of his team at Florida Media Day, and the four scholarship players at the position are his guys. All of them are downhill runners and resemble the ball carriers he had at Alabama.
Florida’s offense will eventually share many of the characteristics of McElwain’s offensive units with the Crimson Tide, and it starts up front with imposing linemen and hard-nosed runners in the backfield.
What freshmen are standing out so far? Who do you expect to get playing time?
(@drichdman, @ashleyjosh64667, @KenCasa1, @jp_uf_nyu)
I like what I’ve seen from quarterback Kyle Trask, wide receiver Freddie Swan, linebacker Vosean Joseph and safety Chauncey Gardner Jr.
Trask’s impressive showing in the spring has carried over into fall camp, and he looked great in the early portion of Thursday’s practice. Swain has shown the ability to get consistently open in the passing game.
Joseph is a violent player and doesn’t carry himself like a freshman on the field. He’ll help out with linebacker depth this year. Gardner will not only play in Florida’s secondary, but he could challenge for a starting job as the season goes on.
I expect Taylor to factor into the O-line rotation based on McElwain’s praise, and it’s safe to say wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland and defensive end Antonneous Clayton will get playing time as well.
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.