With the end of college football’s recruiting dead period approaching, the Florida Gators are in dire straits having only eight commitments. Not only are they low in quantity, some could say they’re lacking in quality at this point as well with little in the way of star power.
With the exception of Louisiana prospect Derrick Dillon (consensus 4 star athlete), all the Gators commits are currently consensus three star prospects. In a recruiting cycle where the Gators were expected to clean up in-state, it’s safe to say that a second consecutive poor season combined with staff turnover has caused the Gators to miss on almost all their top prospects.
It should be a fun ride to signing day as the new staff scrambles to try to convince some long time leans to trust a new staff as well find some diamond-in-the-rough plan b prospects.
After signing only a few slot type receivers last cycle, receiver was a position of high importance coming in to this cycle. Lucky for the Gators, they had built great relationships with a few top in-state guys that were also highly rated national prospects. Guys like five star George Campbell, Deon Cain, and Auden Tate were considered strong Gator leans less than a year ago.
Unlucky for the Gators, a new offensive coordinator and system wasn’t enough to solve their offensive woes and all these top guys are now committed to other teams.
So who’s left?
To begin with, the Gators still have a commitment from Derrick Dillon who shined in the Army All American game. I say “still” because his commitment is wavering at the moment.
According to a 247sports article by Shea Dixon, the home state school, LSU, originally made the mistake of recruiting the four star athlete as a defensive back but have recently changed their tune.*
“When Muschamp got fired, that’s when they [LSU] started showing more interest,” Dillon said. “I was happy that I got [an offer] as an in-state kid, because it’s always been a dream to go to LSU, so I’m glad I got it.”
He has an official visit scheduled to LSU on January 16.
“I want to see how [LSU is] going to use me, what position and stuff like that,” Dillon said. “They have shown me they will use me in a good way and get me on the speed sweeps and stuff like that.”
Florida offers a realistic chance at early playing time and a ground floor opportunity to help revive a moribund program.
“They don’t have many receivers, and I know I can get on the field early and don’t have to wait that long,” Dillon said. “[McElwain] is a good man. I think he is going to help turn around the Florida offense. He knows his stuff. He’s going to do a lot with the receivers and running backs, so I think that’s going to help Florida’s offense a lot.”
The million dollar question then is will HE help Florida’s offense and honor his verbal commitment on signing day?
While publicly he still remains committed to Florida, the feeling is that Gainesville is a long way from home to play for a staff with whom he has no prior relationship.
Will he stay or will he go?
He says he wants to take an unofficial to Florida after the LSU trip to compare. If he makes that trip, the new staff has a solid chance to keep him. I think he really likes Florida but is nervous with a new coaching staff. If he doesn’t, then he will most likely sign with LSU on signing day.
Khalif Jackson is a three star wide receiver from Neptune Beach, Florida who signed his official letter-of intent on Friday and is one of two early enrollees (the other is three star tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe).
Jackson is a big target at 6-5 200 (reportedly up to 220) could end up as either a wide receiver or tight end at Florida. Unlike many who jumped ship due to the coaching instability, Jackson remained committed to Florida throughout his recruitment, never wavering, despite the poor season and coaching changes.
He’s very raw and will likely be a project but will certainly get a leg up on any other receiver recruits in this cycle by enrolling early and going through spring practice. Perhaps his best attribute is his size. You can’t coach 6-5.
Of the uncommitted prospects the top guy on the board has been there for a while: Ryan Davis from St. Petersburg Lakewood high school. Davis is a smallish receiver at 5-9 167 but very versatile able to line up inside or outside. He has good speed and quickness and is a playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Many analysts have long penciled him in to Gainesville with the 247sports crystal ball showing Gators lead with 53% of the CB’s. It’s not a slam dunk however with Auburn (1/16 visit date) and Florida State squarely in the mix.
Interestingly, Auburn hadn’t been a major player in his recruitment until a few weeks ago when they turned up the heat and now very well could be the biggest threat to the Gators efforts to land him primarily because of some faces very familiar to Gator fans.
“Yes, most definitely [Auburn has his attention],” Davis said. “Especially now with [Will] Muschamp and [Travaris Robinson] there. Those are familiar faces I know I could trust. And with the offense they run, they’re trying to get the ball in their players’ hands.”
With a new staff in place having had zero opportunity to build a relationship, there’s a very good chance Florida could lose this long time Gator lean. This could explain why we’re seeing some new names popping up on the WR board.
If Davis is considered the Gators top WR target, then Antonio Callaway from Booker T. Washington in Miami is 1-A. He’s a little bigger receiver at 5-11 185 with good hands and, like Davis, is a playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Callaway has been a major focus of the Gators WR recruiting efforts but the new staff will have to kick it into high gear with him once the dead period is over.
“I talked to coach [Jim McElwain], that’s about it,” Callaway said in a 247sports article by Luke Stampini. “It was when he first got the job.”
They must overcome the hometown team [Miami] who he says is recruiting him the hardest, and up and comer Auburn who has the luxury of having Travaris Robinson, his old recruiter from Florida and Muschamp, and like with Davis, familiar faces.
He is visiting the final weekend before signing day (1/30) which means Gators get the last shot but he will also visit hometown Miami (1/16), Auburn (1/19), and Alabama (1/23). Miami is likely the favorite here, but don’t discount the Gators’ chances once they’re able to put on the full court press.
Finally, Van Jefferson (6-2 190) is a consensus four star receiver who is currently committed to Georgia. In fact, he originally intended to enroll there last week but due to the change in coordinators and some untimely doubting on his part, he decided to wait and take some visits before making a final decision on signing day.
He is expected to visit Oklahoma on January 16th and then the Gators on January 30th. A couple unofficial visits to Ole Miss and Georgia in between and those are the teams he says are his final four and will make his choice from among them.
What does Florida have to offer a kid who hadn’t previously had the Gators at the top of his recruitment? Besides the obvious opportunity for early playing time, there is the old real estate adage: location, location, location. Jefferson is the son of former NFL receiver Shawn Jefferson who is originally from Florida.
“I’m actually from Jacksonville,” he said in a 247sports article by Barton Simmons. “That’s only 45 minutes from my home. That’s where I was born and raised. All of my family is down there. My parents went to high school there. I talked to the new head coach and the new OC they hired. It seems like a great staff. That’s my home town, born and raised. That’s always what’s attracted me to Florida.”
I still think that Jefferson is a long shot but this staff appears primed to show their recruiting chops down the stretch and he very well could be one they flip to Florida.
Of the others, my feeling is that Dillon won’t stick with the Gators, Davis is a lock for the Gators, and Callaway is a 50-50 split with hometown Hurricanes.
It will certainly be a fun ride to signing day this year for the Gators. Hold on to your hats.