Countdown to Signing Day: Weekend Update

Corner back J.C. Jackson with his father on his official visit to Florida.

Corner back J.C. Jackson with his father on his official visit to Florida.

With only three weekends left before National Signing Day, the Florida Gators hosted a large group of visitors which included commits, targets, and a couple of surprise visitors. Overall the staff hosted nine recruits and for all intents and purposes it was a successful weekend for the staff as they try to hold on to what they got while reeling in a final few targets.

Likely the biggest target for the staff this weekend was one who was already committed to the Gators. At least tentatively committed. Cornerback J.C. Jackson had been wavering on his commitment for over a month and many were predicting he would not end up in this class on signing day. The cousin of Ermon Lane many felt he would end up flipping back to Florida State, where he was previously committed. Rumors were bandied about that he was overheard after the Under Armour All American game telling a fellow recruit that he was going to FSU with Ermon, who recently decommitted from the Gators himself.

With three highly rated corners committed and one more, Adoree Jackson leaning to the Gators, it’s highly likely that J.C. had a lot of people in his ear downing his commitment to the Gators and making him feel unloved or unwelcome. But before fans begin to criticize decisions of 17-18 year old recruits, and they do all too often on social media sites, it’s important to remember how easily influenced these kids are to outside influences who may or may not have the recruits best interests at heart.

This is why it was very important that his father came on the visit with him. Any time you can get parents in on a trip with a commit that’s wavering it’s a positive for the committed school. Parents can often cut through the b.s. that recruits sometimes may not be able to, ask the tough questions of the staff, and be an extra set of eyes and ears as well as a positive influence in the recruits ear focusing their attention on what’s real as opposed to what’s perceived. With corner being the position of highest need for the Gators in this class, it was imperative that the staff cut through the b.s. and nail down this commitment.

In this case, I think that’s what happened this weekend. Reports are that J.C. and his father liked what Muschamp had to say about the need to keep J.C. in this class and exactly how they plan to use him. With the Gators lack of experienced corners outside of Hargreaves and Poole and with the way the staff plays a lot of nickel and dime coverages and uses a large rotation of players, they need to bring in 4-5 at the spot and the likelihood of early playing time is high. Additionally, with the staff looking for playmakers and their propensity for putting their best athletes on special teams, the staff was likely able to sell Jackson on playing time there as well much like they did with Purifoy and others.

Either way, keeping Jackson in the fold was job one for the staff this weekend.  Selling the parents is always a HUGE part of settling a rocking ship. I think they did that and I think they nailed down his commitment.

Another area of need for the Gators in this cycle is the all important “playmaker”.  Probably the biggest thing the Gators offense has been lacking since 2009 is a playmaker. A guy regardless of position who the staff can count on to get the ball to in space and can simply go make plays. The staff had a few guys in this weekend that fit that bill.

Isaiah McKenzie with receiver's coach Joker Phillips on his UF official visit.

Isaiah McKenzie with receiver’s coach Joker Phillips on his UF official visit.

One such player is Isaiah McKenzie known as “the human joystick” for his playstation-like moves with the ball in his hand. McKenzie is a smallish player at 5’9 179 but is perfect for the spread offense that Muschamp is installing this upcoming season under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. He is a versatile guy that can work out of the backfield, as an h-back, in the slot, or out on the edges with quick screens and drag routes. McKenzie had good things to say about his visit but still has visits to Ole Miss next weekend and Notre Dame on the final recruiting weekend. Many analysts felt coming in that the Irish were the team to beat here and likely still are. I think the staff opened his eyes a little with the switch to a spread but I think they’ll be hard-pressed to pull him away from the Irish.

Another playmaker visiting this weekend was four star running back Derrell Scott out of Havelock, North Carolina. Despite taking Brandon Powell’s commitment and early enrollment last week the staff would still like to bring in another running back provided it’s one of the few left on their board and Scott is probably at the top of that board right now. Unfortunately, the Gators, who offered very late in the process, are not on the top of Scott’s board. With recruiting being mostly about establishing relationships there really is no time to build that relationship this late in the game. While Florida is one of his three finalists, the other’s being Tennessee and South Carolina, they are a distant third to the others who have been recruiting him for two plus years. This one is likely a Vols-Gamecocks battle in the end with Tennessee having the upper hand right now.

One recruit that also received a late offer from the Gators and fits the bill as a playmaker is Deiondre Porter from Tampa, Florida Jefferson high school. Porter was previously committed to USF until receiving an offer from the Gators last week. Two days after receiving that offer he decommitted from the Bulls and scheduled a UF visit.

Porter is a versatile guy who the Gators are recruiting as an athlete. He was a high school quarterback with solid numbers that can be utilized in a number of different positions at the next level including receiver and quarterback as well as on defense and special teams. His versatility makes him an important pickup for the Gators who need to bring in a second quarterback this cycle due to the unexpected tranfers of Tyler Murphy and Max Staver. Porter can fill that slot while contributing in a number of other ways as well. Porter had good things to say about his Florida visit to 247sports recruiting analyst Ryan Bass.

“It was real good, everything, from the people, the stadium, the school, academic wise,” Porter said. “It’s got everything I’m looking for.”

After his visit, Porter announced he would be announcing his college choice on Monday.

Tyre Files ‏@DtrackstaP13h

Making an Announcement Tomorrow at 6pm on BHSN ! #Commitment Comin tomorrow”

He will be choosing between Florida, Central Florida, and South Florida with most analysts considering it a UF/UCF battle at this point. My gut feeling is the opportunity to play at Florida is too much to pass up and that’s where he will end up.

Treon Harris is another player that the staff made a late offer to and secured a visit from this weekend. The Booker T. Washington standout quarterback who is verbally committed to FSU was intrigued by the UF offer and new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. He came up to Gainesville with his parents and by all accounts had a good time. He and his parents had a lot of questions for the staff and by all accounts those questions were answered. He is a recruit that is ideal for that second quarterback slot. The staff is looking for a dual threat guy that can legitimately compete for playing time with Will Grier and Jeff Driskel in the new spread offense and the staff feels real good about Harris in that role. Coming out of the visit, I think Harris and his parents feel real good about the Gators too. While he didn’t flip his commitment from the Noles to the Gators on this visit, I get a strong feeling that he will be in this class on signing day.

Defensive tackle commit Khairi Clark shows off a Gator uniform while on his official visit to Florida this past weekend.

Defensive tackle commit Khairi Clark shows off a Gator uniform while on his official visit to Florida this past weekend.

A couple of commits that visited this weekend were defensive tackle Khairi Clark and WR/TE Moral Stephens. Both appeared to have a great time visiting with the staff and future teammates and getting a look at the facilities that they will call home for the next four years or so. Clark tweeted:

I can honestly say I love it out here in Gainesville, be getting soooo much love 🐊✊”

While Stephens also took to twitter:

Gainesville was turnt . Had a good time with the boys on my visit. @youngstarr24 ,@QuintonDunbar1 ,@t5_harris

This weekend also turned up a couple of surprise visitors. One such recruit was Pensacola West Florida Tech defensive end Rocel McWilliams who is committed to Missouri but received an offer from the Gators about a month ago and came in to visit this weekend. The visit appeared to be good as the staff laid out what their plans were for him. He was told that they were looking for a Buck defensive end with good pass rushing skills and that he fit the bill for what they were seeking at the position. At 6’4 240, McWilliams has the frame to add 20-30 pounds and has excellent pass rushing skills. While his visit did come as a surprise to many analysts, I get the feeling the staff has known for a little while that Lorenzo Carter, who tops their board at defensive end, is likely going to end up at Georgia and McWilliams is a solid plan b for them. After his visit he said he was still committed to Missouri but had some things to think about.

“I’m still committed to Missouri and I plan to visit them next week,” McWilliams said to 247sports analyst Luke Stampini. “After this weekend though I have to sit down and talk to my parents about everything because this was a good visit, but I will make my decision on signing day. Florida being only four hours away will play into my decision some.”

I think the staff did a great job selling the benefits of coming to Florida to Rocel but there’s still a long ways to signing day. McWilliams has built a solid long term relationship with the staff at Missouri and it’s always hard to turn your back on that. Additionally, he has former teammates already attending Missouri and a current teammate committed to them as well. I really get the feeling that the Florida offer and subsequent visit really opened his eyes and he is truly torn between the two programs at the moment. It will be interesting to see how long the good feeling of the visit lasts and if indeed the staff did enough to secure that commitment on signing day.

Offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste pictured with defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson on his UF official visit.

Offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste pictured with defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson on his UF official visit.

Finally, Miramar offensive tackle Yodney Cajuste has only played one season of organized football. The former basketball standout who was convinced by his high school football coach to take a stab at the sport impressed enough in his first season to garner attention to college recruiters which includes the Florida Gators who made a late offer just last week to the raw but talented recruit. Cajuste made the trip up to Gainesville this weekend and came away impressed by everything he saw. After his visit Yodny tweeted:

Florida was great… loved the campus the atmosphere nd the players florida is where its at man go #Gators

While he did not commit to the Gators and has a visit to West Virginia upcoming, where he was expected to sign prior to the Gators offer, I think the staff and facilities left a strong enough impression on him that he will be in this class in the end if the numbers fit and things fall the right way for him.

One player who was not on the visit list for Florida this weekend but needs to be noted is JUCO receiver Eric Lauderdale who sits atop the Gators recruiting board at wide receiver. The tall possession receiver has had Florida as his leader for some time now but was waiting to finish visits with Arizona State this past weekend and Oregon the following before making his decision. He announced through twitter over the weekend that he would no longer take his visit to Oregon and would be committing next Saturday instead.

Not visiting Oregon no more..”

Committing on Saturday ✊”

It appears to be down to an Arizona State/Florida battle at this point. While the staff and many analysts as well as myself have felt good for some time about Lauderdale and the Gators, the fact that he up and eliminated a scheduled visit coming off the ASU visit doesn’t appear to bode well for the Gators. It’s quite possible he saw or heard what he needed to on this visit and silently committed to the Sun Devils. While I’m not ready to predict him to the Sun Devils just yet, it has to be concerning to the staff that he suddenly appeared to shut things down on a visit other than to UF.

Overall, the biggest recruiting weekend of the final three before signing day was very successful. While no public commitments were announced coming out of the weekend, the staff did solidify one all important commitment and lead for a couple others and quite possibly have one to two who could be considered silent commitments. Either way the staff has to feel good about where they stand with Jackson, Harris, Porter, McWilliams, and Cajuste. Will they all sign with the Gators, probably not, particularly with the Gators currently in a numbers crunch, but I expect Jackson, Harris, and Porter to be in this class on signing day.

As always stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest in FREE news, analysis, and opinion on Gator recruiting and athletics as we continue on with the Countdown to Signing Day.

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