GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida football team is back in The Swamp this Saturday for another night game.
Coming off the big SEC win, there should be a packed house and several prospects visiting. The Gators won’t be back home again until Oct. 8 when LSU comes to town.
That will be the biggest recruiting weekend of the season and a chance to impress the nation’s top talent.
Seems like UF isn’t recruiting at the elite level we were under Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp. Do you see a drop off in talent coming?
I hate these kind of comparisons and the fact that fans judge the recruiting ability of coaches too soon. Meyer and Muschamp spent multiple years at Florida with very successful seasons in Year 2.
UF coach Jim McElwain is two games into his second season. Give him time, both as a coach and a recruiter. You can’t compare a home with a master bedroom balcony and an indoor pool to a house that just laid its foundation.
It takes three full recruiting cycles for a coach to build his own team, and McElwain is in the middle of his second one. From a team rankings standpoint, Meyer and Muschamp had more success than McElwain in their first cycle and finished with top-5 classes.
However, McElwain wasn’t far off with his 2016 class and recruited some key players. He and his staff signed both quality and quantity at the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions, and the early returns have been promising.
The Gator brought in the most early enrollees (12) in school history and are already reaping the benefits. The stars of the class were wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland and defensive end Antonneous Clayton, but the 3-star signees have proved to better than their rating.
Jawaan Taylor is starting at right tackle, and last week Lamical Perine became Florida’s first true freshman running back since Jeff Demps in 2008 to rush for 100 yards in an SEC game. The Gators have also gone head-to-head with elite programs and won recruiting battles.
So several signs show that things are trending upward under McElwain, but it’s not just about the Jimmies and Joes.
Muschamp recruited multiple high-profile offensive prospects to Florida and the offense was awful. X’s and O’s matter as well, and a talented roster does you no good with bad coaches.
McElwain won SEC Coach of the Year in 2015 and became one of only six coaches in conference history to win 10 games after inheriting a team that won less than nine games the previous year. The X’s and O’s appear to be working.
Despite not having his players, McElwain made the most of the hand he was dealt and got much more out of Florida’s offensive personnel. The unit still struggled down the stretch, but he turned Kelvin Taylor into a 1,000-yard back and Antonio Callaway into a record-setting receiver.
Consider the offensive explosion against Kentucky as McElwain’s brand new kitchen. I’m interested to see what his house looks like when it’s complete.
With our offense/defense showing up so far, what prospects are we gaining leverage on or in position to flip?
(From @MarQuel810, @Dupree4Three)
The 45-7 win over the Wildcats definitely opened some eyes. The nation’s No. 2 running back for 2018, 5-star recruit Lorenzo Lingard (Orange City, Fla.), is now calling the Gators one of his top teams and praised McElwain’s offense. Defensive tackle Tyrone Truesdell (Albany, Ga.) named them his leader.
Despite an unspectacular showing in the season opener, UF improved its chances with 5-star Ohio State cornerback commit Shaun Wade (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Michigan offensive tackle commit Kai-Leon Herbert (Fout Lauderdale, Fla.). Both attended the UMass game and seemed genuinely interested in Florida afterward.
The Gators still need other 5-star prospects to visit such as wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (Detroit) and Alabama offensive tackle commit Alex Leathewood (Pensacola, Fla.). They plan to be on hand for the LSU game and a win that night would certainly make an impression on them.
With LB Adonis Thomas now in junior college, do the Gators have a shot? And who are the other linebackers being pursued?
The Gators have two in-state linebackers committed (James Houston and Ventrell Miller) and will likely go out of state for a third prospect at the position.
Their primary targets appear to be 4-star linebackers Anthony Hines (Plano, Texas), Levi Jones (Austin, Texas) and Rahyme Johnson (Los Angeles). All three are expected to officially visit UF, but Johnson is the one to keep an eye on. A few Florida commits are recruiting him to join the class.
As for Thomas, he’s certainly someone worth monitoring this year. He was high on the Gators as a prep prospect but they finished behind Alabama, where transferred from in July. I’m sure the staff has reached out to him and will see what kind of season he has in junior college.
If he plays well and a third linebacker is still needed in a few months, Thomas has to be considered as a potential option.
With Dre Massey out for good, Antonio Callaway banged up and Tyrie Cleveland still hurt, who can do you think will shine from here on out?
Callaway won’t miss more than the North Texas game and Cleveland should eventually play this season, but UF needs a wide receiver to step up this weekend.
My pick is C.J. Worton, who I thought would have a breakout game against Kentucky. He only ended up with a couple catches, but both of them moved the chains on third down. Worton now has his feet wet and will be targeted a lot on Saturday.
I also expect true freshmen Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain to have larger roles in the offense, especially Swain. His touchdown catch last week should be the first of many this season, which is going to be a selling point to Peoples-Jones.
Who’s looking to redshirt this year?
Obviously Massey and cornerback C.J. McWilliams will get medical redshirts with torn ACLs. Linebacker Jeremiah Moon (thumb) could be eligible for one if he doesn’t return from surgery.
Safety Quincy Lenton (broken foot) is going to heal before the season is over, but he’ll likely redshirt as well. Outside of those four players, seven freshmen have yet to see action this season.
Quarterbacks Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask may both redshirt if one doesn’t play Saturday. Wide receiver Rick Wells will eventually play along with Cleveland, but that probably won’t be the case for defensive ends Clayton and Jordan Smith or offensive linemen Stone Forsythe and Brett Heggie.
In all, as many as 10 of Florida’s 25 signees could redshirt.