In case you’ve been living under a rock, the sky is falling for Florida football recruiting.
That’s the way many fans felt this week with UF fading for a few wide receivers.
Unlike the previous class, when the Gators landed 15 recruits during the final two weeks of the 2015 recruiting cycle, this year’s sprint to signing day will be much less eventful.
But guess what — that’s a good thing.
Florida currently has the No. 4 class in the 247Sports Composite rankings. The Gators are ranked second by Scout, fifth by Rivals and sixth by ESPN, ahead of CFB playoff finalists Alabama and Clemson as well as several SEC schools.
That’s nothing to sniff at, folks.
Of Florida’s 26 commits, nine are ranked 164th overall or higher in the 247Sports Composite.
UF has 10 members in the ESPN 300 and ESPN JC 50, and that’s not including the nation’s top-ranked junior college kicker, Eddy Pineiro. Another six future Gators are rated four-star recruits by ESPN (16 total).
And for those of you who are (still) upset about the three-star commits in the class, I’ll have an analysis piece Thursday to alleviate your concerns.
All that being said, the Gators still have a couple needs that if left unmet will be disappointing on signing day. But any notion that Jim McElwain and his assistants can’t “close” is just ridiculous.
They showed plenty of closing power at the end of the 2015 cycle. Moreover, for some reason fans place more stock in recruits who announce on National Signing Day over prospects who commit earlier in the process.
I’ve never understood that.
Florida’s coaches also “closed” on the likes of Feleipe Franks, Antonneous Clayton and Chauncey Gardner as they neared their decisions. Those three are just as valuable as the remaining targets (if not more), and the staff’s recruiting efforts aren’t any less impressive with them because they committed before NSD.
Don’t lose sight of that during the glorified recruiting holiday.
Here are the top five questions from this week:
Why is Florida missing on so many top-notch WR’s, especially in-state?
(From @hsb03, @MedicaldocMike, @sethfrederick, @caterhune, @aman_hyrams, @RJ_Whit, @jakerenda3, @joebook450)
This is the source of Gator Nation’s recent frustration.
Nate Craig-Myers, Tre Nixon, Eli Stove and Binjimen Victor have all dropped the Gators from consideration. Miami commit Sam Bruce and Houston pledge Tyrie Cleveland will visit UF, but flipping them won’t be easy.
So how did Florida miss out on these receivers late in the game?
You have to first look at why UF had been in the running for them. Back in early October, the Gators became major players for so many wideouts due in large part to the success of their offense.
Quarterback Will Grier had thrown for 283 and 271 yards in big wins over Tennessee and Ole Miss, and Florida was prominently featuring true freshman Antonio Callaway in the passing game.
We all know what happened soon after that. Callaway continued to make big plays, but the offense regressed with Treon Harris under center and no longer looked attractive.
With Grier now gone, there’s not a sure-fire QB on the roster who receiver recruits want to catch passes from. Even with McElwain’s offensive pedigree, that side of the ball once again is full of questions marks and unknowns. Skill players are difficult to land when that’s the case, and this has been an issue with UF for several years.
On the bright side, Florida did bring in four-star wideouts Joshua Hammond and Freddie Swain on campus as early enrollees along with dynamic junior college athlete Dre Massey. Those three will go through spring practice and should each have an impact in 2016.
If the Gators hold on to Rick Wells, they’ll have 12 receivers for next season. That’s enough depth to work with, but UF will need to get more production from its current players at the position as well as contributions from the newcomers.
And who knows what kind of difference a quarterback change could make.
UF has a wide open depth chart at LB and a solid NFL pedigree. Why is McElwain struggling to leverage that into good LB recruits?
(From @HalfwayToHobo, @aman_hyrams)
I wouldn’t say McElwain is struggling. He has three good linebacker recruits in Vosean Joseph, Jeremiah Moon and David Reese.
Reese ranks as the 14th-best inside linebacker and Moon is the No. 20 outside linebacker, while Joseph has Alabama all over him right now.
It’s fair to say UF doesn’t have an elite commit at the position, but this wasn’t a great year for linebackers in Florida. Only two Sunshine State prospects are ranked among the top 10 inside and outside linebackers nationally, which is why the Gators had to go out of state for Moon and Reese.
It doesn’t look like UF is going to land five-star Lyndell Wilson from Alabama, but this is a solid LB class and will be a deep one if Joshua Uche commits to Florida over Auburn and Michigan.
How worried should the Gators be about DT Shavar Manuel visiting FSU on Jan. 29?
(From @DevinLamarr, @pigskinGATOR)
Manuel has been scheduled for that visit since last month, so this isn’t a new development. Knowing how much he enjoys taking trips, I still expected him to finish out his officials despite his pledge to UF.
I’m not saying there’s nothing to worry about here, but I’d be very surprised if Manuel flipped his commitment. Though he’s comfortable in Tallahassee and has visited FSU several times, his relationship with Gators defensive coach Chris Rumph and the opportunity to play early at Florida will be hard for the Seminoles to overcome.
Manuel heads to Gainesville this weekend for his official visit.
What are the chances Florida lands offensive linemen Landon Dickerson and John Simpson?
Heading into their visits to UF last weekend, I didn’t think the Gators had much of a shot. But after hearing how well the trips went, Florida is definitely in the mix for both linemen.
Simpson might be the more likely possibility of the two. The U.S. Army All-American isn’t leaning as far toward Clemson as most thought, and he had a fun time with UF offensive guard commit Jawaan Taylor.
Gators center pledge Brett Heggie did the recruiting on Dickerson, who told SEC Country he was “thoroughly impressed” with his Florida visit and isn’t naming leaders anymore.
Both Dickerson and Simpson still plan to take two more trips this month, so the Gators will have to wait those out and hope they showed enough in Gainesville.
Does LB Jarrad Davis and DB Marcus Maye change the decision for any verbals between now & Feb. 3?
Davis and Maye returning for their senior seasons shouldn’t cause any of Florida’s linebacker or safety commits to jump ship. Davis had previously announced that he was coming back, and both positions lost starters from this past season.
With Davis and Maye still on the roster, it does keep UF at 28 available spots for the 2016 class right now, assuming graduate transfer Austin Appleby is on scholarship. I still think the Gators can count on having at least one more transfer and sign 29.
With McElwain going to see cornerback commit C.J. McWilliams for an in-home visit last Sunday, I expect UF to keep him in the fold now. I’ve also taken out Stove and don’t anticipate Florida adding a fifth receiver to the class.
* — mid-year enrollee
QB Feleipe Franks*
QB Kyle Trask*
RB Mark Thompson*
RB Lamical Perine
WR Joshua Hammond*
WR/ATH Dre Massey*
WR Freddie Swain*
WR Rick Wells
TE Nick Eubanks
OL Stone Forsythe*
OL Brett Heggie
OL Jawaan Taylor
OL Malcolm Pridgeon
DT Shavar Manuel
DE Brian Burns
DE Antonneous Clayton
DE Jachai Polite
DE Jordan Smith*
LB Vosean Joseph
LB Jeremiah Moon
LB David Reese*
LB Joshua Uche
CB McArthur Burnett*
CB Chauncey Gardner*
CB C.J. McWilliams
CB Aaron Robinson
S Quincy Lenton
S Jeawon Taylor
K Eddy Pineiro*
That’s all for this week! Be sure to leave your questions for the next mailbag in the comment section below.
Unless otherwise indicated, all player ranking and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.