The rush to national signing day 2015 is on. With the first of three final weekends left before high school football recruits are allowed to sign their letter of intent now in the rear view, coaching staffs nationwide are playing a game of Fast and Furious on the recruiting trail.
For the Florida Gators new coaching staff, it means endless days and sleepless nights as they try to shore up a weak recruiting class which currently only has eight commitments. Considering the Gators have as many as 28 scholarships to give this cycle, the new staff will have to do more than simply trying to reel in the remaining top uncommitted targets on their board. They’re going to have to flip a few prospects who are committed to other schools. In fact, they’ll likely need to flip quite a bit more than a few.
Let’s take a close look at some of the top prospects that coach McElwain would like to flip to the Gators by signing day 2015 which falls on February 4th this year.
At the top of the coaches wish list would have to be Bradenton, FL IMG Academy quarterback Deondre Francois (6-1 195). The consensus four star qb has been committed to FSU since July, one of three qb commits for the Noles, but was one of the first recruits Jim McElwain visited upon taking the head coaching job at Florida. Coach Mac made it very clear that he needs to take a qb in this recruiting cycle and that the qb he wants is Francois.
He took an official visit to Tallahassee this past weekend and is scheduled to visit Florida this upcoming weekend. If the Gators can persist and get him on campus they have a shot.
While the Seminoles starting qb job is wide open with Jameis Winston turning pro, the Gators situation might very well be more dire with only sophomore Treon Harris, redshirt freshman Will Grier, and fourth year junior Skyler Mornhinweg. Treon played some but didn’t show anything particularly flashy, Grier didn’t play at all, and Mornhinweg is nothing more than a career backup.
The opportunity is certainly there for Deondre and with the Seminoles having two other committed quarterbacks in this class, Coach McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier may have a good shot at flipping him.
With the loss of Mack Brown to graduation and Matt Jones to NFL draft early entry, the Gators are short on depth at running back. With the possibility that Kelvin Taylor could turn pro after next season, it’s imperative the Gators reel in not one but hopefully two talented backs this cycle.
One of the guys the staff is after is Jason Lewis, (6-2 245) from Ocean Lakes, VA, who is currently committed to Arizona State. The four star athlete has already been committed to two different schools, but can the Gators make it three?
He took an official visit to Florida this past weekend and said he was impressed by the visit according to multiple reports.
The staff tried to sell him on early playing time and helping rebuild a winning program.
“Just come in and play early,” Lewis told Luke Stampini of 247 sports. “That’s the main one really. They are ready to win now. He just talked to me about the program and what their plans for the future are.”
While still committed to Arizona State, it does appear the Gators gave him something to think about.
“I’m still Arizona State,” Lewis said. “I just got to talk to my parents and everything, but I’m going to keep that to myself until whenever. I’m just going to keep it to myself. I don’t want anything getting out there.”
This one bears keeping an eye on moving forward for Gator fans.
With the Gators in dire need of offensive lineman, they return only eight scholarship lineman, the Gators’ staff is hard after Brooksville (FL) Nature Coast offensive tackle Christian Pellage (6-7 285) who is currently committed to South Carolina.
The mammoth lineman took an official visit to Gainesville this past weekend and by all accounts came away impressed by Florida and the Gators staff.
It helps that McElwain retained offensive line coach Mike Summers with whom Pellage has built a solid relationship and the Gators lack of offensive line depth gives him the opportunity for early playing time as well.
“Coach Summers said with the lack of offensive linemen, he said they really need me and I have the ability to play early at Florida,” Pellage said in an article by Kassidy Hill of Gatorcountry.com. “It was good to hear that from him. I’ve always thought of Coach Summers as a great coach and a great person. He has great plans for the offensive line.”
While the old staff was unable to secure a commitment from him, did the new staff make a good impression on him?
“Yes, I was impressed with the new staff and the energy they have,” Pellage told Luke Stampini.
Was it enough to convince him to flip to the Gators?
Not yet for sure. He still remains committed to South Carolina with an official visit scheduled there for this Friday. He’ll evaluate after that and make a decision from there.
“I am still committed to South Carolina,” Pellage told Kassidy Hill. “After my official to South Carolina, I will reevaluate the two visits and make sure I’m making the best choice for myself.”
Another player the Gators are hard after to flip is Marietta GA) Sprayberry defensive end Jabari Zuniga (6-3 255). He was one of seven official visitors to Florida this past weekend and he may have come away most impressed out of all of them
He reportedly enjoyed all aspects of the visit.
“It was great, a great time,” Zuniga said according to Kassidy Hill. “We did a lot of things to be honest. We got to stand on the field, go into the press box and eat some food. The food was real good. We got to hang out with some of the players and they treated us well. I also got to meet all of the coaches.”
The staff was also very impressive to him but perhaps the best part was visiting the Swamp.
“My favorite part of the whole visit was getting to walk out of the tunnel,” Zuniga said. “As we were walking out of it, it just hit me that I was in the Swamp. I just looked around and took it all in. It was a good feeling to have. I also liked trying on the Florida jersey.”
His mom, who visited with him, appeared to be impressed with Florida as well, always a very good sign.
So was it enough to convince him to flip to Florida? Perhaps. But he still says he’s committed to the Wolf Pack but will have a tough decision to make after visiting Arkansas next weekend.
“I’m still committed to North Carolina State but that might change, he said. “I’m going to Arkansas next weekend and I think I’ll have a final decision the Monday after the Arkansas visit. Florida has given me something to think about though.”
Another player that came away from this weekend’s visit impressed by the Gators is Hialeah (FL) American corner Jeremiah Dinson (6-0 180) who is currently committed to Kentucky.
“It was a great visit, and a great experience for me,”Dinson said in an article by Luke Stampini. “My favorite part of the whole trip was seeing the campus and seeing the stadium. I’m going into sports management and I went into their building. They got a lot of cool stuff for me. The stadium, it just gave me chills when I went in there.”
The Gators are high on the three star prospect as they seek to add depth to a young, talented defensive secondary. He appears to be high on the Gators as well coming off of his official visit.
“It puts Florida in a good position,” Dinson said. “I didn’t know a lot of things about Florida, but this visit opened my eyes to a lot of things. Florida is making a big push for me right now.”
The visit appeared to have loosened his Kentucky commitment.
“It’s soft, really soft commitment (to Kentucky) to be honest with you,” he said. “I’ll think about it when I come back from my Auburn visit that next week. I’ll sit down with my family and let you know what choice I make.”
The last two weekends before signing day will be huge as the Gators try to fill up this recruiting class by hosting a number of uncommitted prospects and a quite a few more prospects they’d like to flip.