The new year is off to an eventful start for Florida football recruiting.
The Gators have been well represented by their All-American commits, and they landed four-star defensive tackle Shavar Manuel on Tuesday.
His commitment moved Florida’s class to No. 1 in the Scout.com team rankings.
With the recent transfers and early departures for the NFL draft, UF currently has 29 scholarships available for 2016, excluding walk-ons. One of those goes to graduate transfer quarterback Austin Appleby.
Florida still has two juniors considering the NFL and a few transfer candidates, so the Gators should have room for the 28-30 recruits Jim McElwain told me he plans to sign in this class.
Is Coach Mac writing off quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the addition of Austin Appleby?
(From @TheMikeDriver , @pigskinGATOR, @timmywhitney, @mevansfl)
The Gators still want Haskins and will continue recruiting the Maryland commit, but they also couldn’t put all their eggs in that basket.
There’s a possibility that Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask will both need to redshirt, as is the case with many true freshmen quarterbacks. Whether they’re able to remains to be seen, but if you’re Florida, you don’t want to force one of them into action due to lack of depth.
Luke Del Rio is considered the leading candidate to start next season, and behind him would have only been Treon Harris if the freshmen weren’t ready. With the way Harris has played recently in McElwain’s offense, he’s not a suitable or sustainable option.
I doubt Florida is counting on him to come in and be the starter, but he’ll certainly contend for the job. Should Del Rio win the competition, the Gators will have a pair of quarterbacks behind him with two years of experience as a starter (Appley and Harris).
That’s a way better scenario than the backup situation in 2015 with Josh Grady and walk-on Jacob Guy. Moreover, Appleby is the quintessential McElwain QB and fits his system better than Harris and Grady.
As for Haskins, I ultimately don’t expect the Gators to land him because he wants to start as a freshman and would enter preseason camp at UF behind all the quarterbacks who went through spring practice. He’s a confident kid who won’t be deterred by Appleby or anyone else, but Florida already wasn’t the ideal place for him if his goal is to play right away.
UF could not turn down a veteran QB available right now in order to hold out hope for a high schooler who has to be flipped from his in-state school. After having just two scholarship quarterbacks in eight games, McElwain has made a point of expanding the depth chart.
Now he has five scholarship players at the position for 2016.
Which WR do we have the best chance to land: Nate-Craig Myers, Sam Bruce, Tyrie Cleveland, Tre Nixon, Eli Stove or Binjimen Victor?
(From @TheBigDog16, @Bigro94, @justiwood, @chaney1991, @Dupree4Three, @Clayton04J, @mevansfl)
Florida’s wide receiver board in this cycle is a prime example of how fluid recruiting can be.
Two of UF’s mid-year enrollees, Dre Massey and Freddie Swain, weren’t even on the radar back in the summer. Also during that time, Bruce and Victor were seemingly Florida’s to lose, Craig-Myers looked like a long shot and Nixon had dropped the Gators from his list of favorites.
In the last Mail Stack before Christmas, I thought Craig-Myers was UF bound, Nixon and Victor were the two most likely after him and Bruce and Stove would stick to their current commitments (Miami and Auburn, respectively). I didn’t bother to mention Cleveland, a Houston commit.
After speaking with four of those aforementioned receivers during Under Armour week, I feel differently about some of them. As of now, and I can’t stress that enough given how often things change this time of year, I currently think Craig-Myers (see update) is going to re-commit to Auburn and Stove will flip to Florida (see update).
UF also has a legitimate chance with Cleveland (see update), while the recruitments of Nixon and Victor are up in the air.
Here’s how I would rank the remaining targets in order of most likely to commit to the Gators:
- Eli Stove (Auburn commit)
- Nate Craig-Myers
- Tyrie Cleveland (Houston commit)
- Tre Nixon
- Binjimen Victor
- Sam Bruce (Miami commit)
With the loss of Jeremi Powell, what is the order of priority at LB?
(From @timmywhitney, @justiwood, @toddickson, @chaney1991, @dwm08e)
The Gators always aimed to take four linebackers in this class, even more so now with Powell leaving the football team.
Florida has three commits in Vosean Joseph, Jeremiah Moon and David Reese, an early enrollee. The top target is Lyndell Wilson, who conceded to SEC Country last week that UF isn’t actually his No. 1 school (see update).
Wilson is seriously considering the Gators though, as he plans to bring at least four family members with him for his official visit to Florida on Jan. 29. But I think another linebacker visiting that weekend, Joshua Uche, will be the guy who ends up in the class.
Here’s the order of priority at LB:
- Lyndell Wilson
- Joshua Uche
- Dontavious Jackson
- Elysee Mbem-Bosse
Top 3 must takes on each side of the ball?
At 26 commits, Florida is almost full and most of the needs have been met in this recruiting cycle (here are the top 4 needs).
I anticipate a couple more defections from UF’s defensive back class, so I see the Gators adding 5-6 more recruits for 2016.
Here are the three positions on each side of the ball that are still a priority:
- WIDE RECEIVER
- The No. 1 target is Craig-Myers, followed by Cleveland and Stove. Florida needs to land at least one of those three.
- OFFENSIVE LINE
- The Gators return 13 linemen next season and have three commits, but they want one more prospect at the position and it will likely be Marcus Tatum.
- TIGHT END
- UF is still looking for a tight end, and Nick Eubanks and Jamal Pettigrew sit atop the board. Jacob Mathis is also an option.
- Wilson and Uche are the only ones I could see the Gators landing, and I like their chances better with the South Florida product versus an Alabama prospect considering the Crimson Tide.
- Florida has five cornerback commits, but I don’t expect C.J. McWilliams and Antonio Nelson to remain in the class. The Gators hope to add Kristian Fulton, and he’s really the only remaining CB target.
- DEFENSIVE END
- Not a huge area of need with three commits at the position, but adding U.S. Army All-American Brian Burns would give UF a talented group of freshmen and sophomore edge rushers.
Without further ado, here is my first mock class you all have been asking for. I’ll update this every week and make my final predictions on the Tuesday before signing day.
Right now I have 29 kids in the class, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Florida hit 30 with a surprise recruit or someone who I don’t think is coming (Haskins or Wilson, for example).
* — mid-year enrollee
QB Feleipe Franks*
QB Kyle Trask*
RB Mark Thompson*
RB Lamical Perine
WR Joshua Hammond*
WR/ATH Dre Massey*
WR Eli Stove
WR Freddie Swain*
WR Rick Wells
TE Nick Eubanks
OL Stone Forsythe*
OL Brett Heggie
OL Jawaan Taylor
OL Marcus Tatum
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 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.