Florida Gators Offer Top 2018 QB

  

“Recruit Daily or Die”

Jim McElwain

It’s a mantra first spoken by Florida Gators head football coach Jim McElwain when he arrived in Gainesville which has been repeated often by pundits ever since.

To that end, coach Mac and his large staff of on-field and off-field assistants have proven to be tireless recruiters.

They understand that identifying and recruiting top talent is essential to building and maintaining a top college football program.

Sometimes that requires looking far and wide for under the radar recruits before other staffs can get in on them.

Other times, it simply is going after the best of the best which generally are not hard to find.

The Gators did just that on Thursday when they gave an offer to the top quarterback recruit in the 2018 class Trevor Lawrence. 

With two quarterbacks, Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, enrolled for 2016 and Jake Allen solidly in the fold for 2017, the Gators are set at the position and can focus their efforts on 2018.

And there are none bigger in the 2018 class than Lawrence (6-5 191) from Cartersville (GA) the number one overall recruit regardless of position.

Lawrence is a tall, strong-armed gunslinger who fits the mold at QB for Coach Mac’s pro-style offensive attack.

As a sophomore, he passed for 3,655 yards (233-364, 64%) with 43 td passes and only 4 interceptions leading his Cartersville team to a 15-0 record and a Georgia AAAA state championship.

In two seasons he’s already passed for 6,697 yards (420-674, 62.3%) with 69 td passes and 11 int’s putting him on pace to perhaps surpass 14,000 yards and 140 td’s.

Right now Tennessee appears to be the leader for his services with over two thirds of the 247sports crystal ball picks. He reportedly grew up idolizing Peyton Manning which can’t hurt the Vols chances. Clemson and the home state Bulldogs are also in the hunt.

It’s good for the Gators to be getting in on this recruitment now, however. With two years to build relationships as well as showcase coach Mac’s offense, I like the Gators chances here.

Check out these 8th grade highlights:

Sophomore highlights:

http://www.hudl.com/athlete/3937115/highlights/279193383/v


 

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Two Minute Drill: Florida Gators Seek To Close Strong

  

 The Florida Gators are sitting on 26 commitments for the 2016 cycle with only two visit weekends remaining before signing day.

With an expected class size of 28-29, there’s only a few spots left to fill with a number of recruits still considering the Gators.

While the Gators have already met most of their needs with depth and talent, they still have a few targets left on their board.

And despite fans clamoring for a stronger close (i.e. dramatic, well-publicized commitments), the reality is that with at most 4-5 scholarships remaining to give (with attrition), the Gators aren’t necessarily set up for a big finish. 

Let’s take a look at the remaining board by position.

TE

The staff would definitely like to reel in a tight end in this class with none committed currently. 

Their top target Nick Eubanks is still on the board and is scheduled to take an official visit to UF this weekend. 

Eubanks (6-6 230) from American Heritage high school in Ft. Lauderdale (FL) has been the staff’s top target throughout the process and are the favorites to land him at this point.

This recruitment shapes up to be a Florida-Alabama battle, he visited Tuscaloosa last weekend, with the USC Trojans a dark horse right now. 

Behind Eubanks, the Gators have pursued LSU commit Jamal Pettigrew, a long-shot at best, and Tampa’s Jacob Mathis.

It’s unclear if Mathis is a take right now, most likely a fall back should they miss on others.

For sure, though, the staff definitely wants (and needs) to sign a tight end this cycle and I fully expect Eubanks to be the guy.

DB

The Gators, despite having 7 defensive backs already committed if you include ATH McArthur Burnett, would still like to reel in at least one more.

That guy is recently minted five star cornerback Kristian Fulton (6-0 177) out of Louisiana.

Fulton earned his fifth star with his performance against top talent at the Under Armor All American practices.    

Fulton is a tall corner with length, good speed, and outstanding cover skills. He would be the perfect recruit to replace potential All American Jalen Tabor who is likely to leave for the draft after next season. 

If the Gators are able to land him he’ll add to the Gators recent run of top flight cornerbacks such as Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins, Vernon Hargreaves, and Tabor among others.

If they are to sign him, however, they face an uphill battle having to overcome the home state LSU Tigers, who not only have distance and state pride on their side, but also his father who reportedly is pushing him to go to Baton Rouge.

He is scheduled to visit Florida January 29th giving the Gators staff the last shot at landing his commitment and I’d give the Gators a better than average shot here. He reportedly is personally leaning to Florida, but it’s unclear how much, if any, effect the firing of DB coach Kirk Callahan will have on his decision.

He publicly stated the firing would not affect his commitment status but we’ll see how he feels after the Florida visit.

While, this is most likely an LSU-Florida battle with the Tigers in a slight lead, Arkansas is also in consideration and is a dark horse.

Undoubtedly, the staff has done a bang-up job staying in this recruitment to the end, but ultimately, I believe distance to be the deciding factor and he ends up at LSU.

Another out-of-state corner who received a late Gators offer is Chris Brown from Houston (TX). He visited UF last weekend and reportedly left impressed. 

He’s down to three Florida, Texas, and Michigan. And regardless of whether or not he’s a fallback option in case they don’t get Fulton, there’s a good possibility he makes it in this class.

I, however, won’t pencil him in just yet.

LB

The Gators have been lacking in depth at linebacker since before coach McElwain took over due to a failure to sign numbers the last few years. 

The numbers crunch was mitigated somewhat with MLB Jarrad Davis returning for his senior season but it’s still imperative the Gators get numbers and talent this cycle.

With three already committed including early enrollee David Reese who physically should be ready to contribute next season, the Gators have depth but still lack a bell cow at the position.

The top guy on their board is a good one, five star Lyndell “Mack” Wilson out of Alabama, who has long listed the Gators as his leader. 

Wilson (6-2 220) has good size and great instincts and will likely be an All SEC performer wherever he lands.

The problem for Florida is most experts, as well as recruitniks on Twitter and message boards, do not expect him to sign with the Gators.

This one shapes up as a Florida-Alabama battle with Georgia a dark horse due to former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart becoming the head coach in Athens.

With the Tide winning yet another national title, having a longer-standing relationship with him, and considering the typical in-state pressure, I’d say Bama is the leader out of the clubhouse despite what he says publicly.

The Gators do have some positives in their favor including linebacker coach Randy Shannon, who has a solid relationship with him and an impressive resume, as well as good friends, Jeawon Taylor and Antonio Nelson, who are already committed to UF.

He’s scheduled to visit on the 29th with Taylor so the Gators have a solid chance to nail down a commitment but I believe in the end he’ll sign with the Tide.

After Wilson, there’s a few remaining targets including Georgia commit Jaleel Laguins who visited UF last weekend and reportedly came away impressed, Houston (TX) Dontavious Jackson who also visited last weekend, Elysee Mbem-Bosse, a Georgia LB whom the Gators offered late and is visiting this weekend, and Dee Walker another Georgia linebacker who may not yet have a committable offer.

Laguins will likely stick with Georgia and Jackson is all over the map but Gators are long-shots here. 

Their best option may be Bosse (6-3 232) who was intrigued after receiving the Gators offer and postponed a scheduled announcement back in December. 

Walker is surely a fall-back and it would take them missing on a number of targets at multiple spots before getting the green light.

OL

The Gators struggles last season along the offensive line depth-wise and performance-wise are well publicized.

So it’s no secret offensive lineman are a big need in this cycle. With three lineman already committed the Gators would like to add one more.

With top in-state tackle Marcus Tatum, long considered a Gator lean, strong in his commitment to Tennessee, the Gators have had to push for some out-of-state targets.

Their top target is five star Landon Dickerson (6-5 300) from Virginia who visited last weekend and by all accounts had a good time. The staff got an assist from Gator center commit Brett Heggie who also visited and helped in their recruiting efforts.

Unfortunately, though, Dickerson remains a long-shot to sign with the Gators with rival FSU his likely destination.

Another target who also visited last weekend is John Simpson (6-4 290) from South Carolina who previously was considered a Clemson lean.

He appeared to have a great visit and gave some good vibes. The Gators seem to have leveled the playing field with Clemson here and Simpson is trending towards the Gators at this point.

The Gators best shot at a fourth lineman in this class, however, may be JUCO OT Malcolm Pridgeon from New York. 

The massive offensive tackle (6-8 303) visited Florida back in December and came away impressed.

The Gators are battling Virginia Tech for his services with Baylor in the mix as well.

Beyond those three, the Gators have tossed out a number of late offers including Mississippi State commit Greg Eiland.

The staff definitely would like to add a fourth lineman and my guess is Pridgeon is the best bet.

WR

The all important wide receiver position which had been a weak spot for the Gators for a number of years, has three really good players already enrolled and a fourth committed.

However, they’d still like to add another.

Unfortunately, all of their remaining targets except one, Houston commit Tyrie Cleveland (6-2 190) have virtually eliminated the Gators. 

And with Cleveland an unlikely pull out of the state of Texas, the Gators have once again seemingly struck out with their top targets. 

No worries, as the staff reportedly feels the ones they have enrolled are as good or better than all of the other targets with the exception of Cleveland and Tampa wideout Nate Craig-Myers.

Cleveland is still scheduled to visit Florida on the 29th giving them the final shot to flip him and with friend and Gator commit Rick Wells visiting as well they certainly have a shot.

If they are unable to persuade Cleveland, the staff will likely call it a day. Florida is loaded with top flight wide receivers next year and the Gators are in good with a number of them so they won’t reach in this cycle.

DE

The Gators are fairly well set here with three really good commits but still have their sights set on a couple more good ones in Brian Burns and Josh Uche.

Burns (6-4 209) is a more of a luxury for the Gators with top 50 recruit and Under Armor All America beast Antonneous Clayton and four star Jordan Smith already committed.

However, you can never have enough edge rushers and Burns is a talent you don’t turn away.

Burns recruitment is a three horse race between Georgia, FSU, and Florida. Florida was thought to be leading for a while but recently it appears they’ve fallen back behind the other two.

He is scheduled to visit UF this weekend along with Gator commits Antonneous Clayton and Shavar Manuel. The Gators could get back in with a good visit this weekend.

Personally, I believe the Gators still have a great shot but this one is still wide open.

Uche (6-2 212) a former Miami commit, is listed at DE but projects at outside linebacker in college.

The Gators are likely the favorites to land Uche with Miami no longer in contention.  He’s down to Auburn, where he visited last weekend, Michigan, where he visits this weekend, and Florida who gets his last visit on the 29th.

Gators look good here to land Uche. 

Do the math

There are a number of scenarios to make the numbers work within a 28-29 member class.

With a few Gator commits receiving some late offers and looking at other schools there could be some direct attrition.

LB Vosean Joseph was offered recently by Alabama and he took an official visit there last weekend naming Bama his top school after the visit.

His offer is likely conditional, a fall-back in case they miss out on either Ben Davis or Mack Wilson, and, as such, he likely sticks with the Gators. I could see a scenario, however, where Florida picks up Wilson and Joseph ends up in Tuscaloosa.  

Gator CB commit Aaron Robinson picked up a rash of late offers and is considering his options as well. However, his is a curious case as he hasn’t taken the SAT/ACT and, as such, hasn’t taken any official visits. 

Without a qualifying test score there’s a chance he doesn’t get to sign anywhere on signing day. The Gators staff loves the kid so my best guess is that they take a chance on him and he sticks with the Gators. 

Gator safety commit Jeawon Taylor is another who is looking around. A late offer from Georgia got them a visit last weekend. 

He came away impressed and, for this reason, he is a real threat to flip particularly with his good buddy Mack Wilson strongly considering the Bulldogs as well.

While those recruits are voluntarily seeking an out from this class, a few others are at risk of being “processed”, or pushed out to make room for recruits higher up on the staff’s board.

Some have long felt that CB commit Christopher McWilliams would be pushed out but with coach Mac himself shoring up this recruitment in-home last week, it appears he will remain in this class. 

WR commit Rick Wells is another name bandied about as possibly being pushed out but with them likely missing top targets, his spot is secure. 

While not likely to be pushed out, he is also a threat to flip as he took an official to South Florida last weekend and will visit Virginia Tech this weekend before visiting by UF next weekend.

I believe, though, that he sticks and signs with Florida on signing day.

The most likely to be processed in this class is CB Antonio Nelson.

A project-type player, there were a lot of groans when he committed, who is a great basketball point guard but low rated as a corner, Nelson is likely a trade-off to reel in the big fish Mac Wilson.

If the Gators lose out on Wilson and need a spot, don’t be surprised if Nelson doesnt receive a letter-of-intent from the Gators. Especially if they lose out on both Wilson AND Taylor.

Florida Gators Recruiting State of the Nation: The Sky Isn’t Falling

  
The Florida Gators are sitting on 26 commitments in its 2016 recruiting class, head coach Jim McElwain’s second class but the first in which he’s had at least a full cycle to recruit.

It’s a consensus top ten class according to every major recruiting service ( #2 on Scout, #5 on Rivals and 247, and #7 on ESPN). 

In spite of this lofty status, the grumbling and whispers on recruiting message boards and social media have become groans, whines, and downright angst for many in Gator Nation who follow recruiting.

Why so much fear and loathing by fans for what most experts agree is a stellar bump year class?

Two reasons: stars and expectations.

Ever since the evolution of the Internet and the creation of recruiting websites which rank players individually using a star system (3,4,5) based on a recruit’s potential to contribute on the college level, fans have become star-struck.

For almost all fans, their only knowledge of recruits comes from what they’ve read from “experts” or by watching a crudely made highlight video. 

As a result, they become overly enamored with players star ratings. Winning a mythical recruiting championship becomes as important as wins/losses on the field.

The problem with this approach is simple.

Recruiting rankings are as subjective as the color of tie one chooses to wear.

Not to diss on the recruiting “experts” who decide these star ratings, that’s the subject for another article, but opinions vary greatly and the old saying about opinions and arses holds true.

One mans “can’t miss” prospect or “lock” is another mans overrated recruit.

Take Gator defensive end commit Antonneous Clayton. 

After dominating the Under Armor All American game practices, he shot up to 5* status on both Rivals and Scout and is the overall #10 player nationally on ESPN but barely cracks the top 100 on 247sports.

The problem with many Gator fans on message boards is they’re too caught up with stars and became concerned early in the cycle when the Gators appeared to be loading up on lower-rated players (3 stars) and unknowns. 

What they don’t realize is the coaching staff, which includes a large contingent of off-field staff who’s primary job is evaluating and targeting recruits, don’t look at recruiting rankings and star evaluations. 

They do their own evaluations based on the tangibles and intangibles they identify that fit what they wish to accomplish based on scheme.

The good news for Gator fans is that the early evaluations of this staff have proven to be strong as 11 of the 26 commits (according to Andrew Spivey of Gatorcountry.com) have been bumped up in star rating and a number of the Gators lower rated recruits are being pursued late by other premier programs.

What this means is that Gators staff evaluations are ahead of the curve. 

Last cycle Antonio Callaway was a consensus three star and the #68 rated receiver in the nation according to Scout. He wasn’t listed among their top 300 recruits.

He was an afterthought to the previous staff who slow played him while they chased other recruits. 

Many Gator fans, even those who follow recruiting, knew little of him and likely thought little of him even after Mac’s staff began to pursue him immediately upon their arrival. 

We all know how he did as a true freshman.

That’s the key. Every school has to take some three star guys. There’s not enough top recruits to fill everyones needs.

And recruiting lower rated recruits is a lot like picking upsets during March Madness. You know you need a few in your bracket to be successful but figuring out which ones are the right ones can be tricky.

Diamonds-in-the-rough.

Callaway certainly was one.

The other major issue for fans is unrealistic expectations.

Most fans who follow recruiting subscribe to at least one or more of the major recruiting services. As such, they are led along hand and foot at times by experts or insiders who claim certain recruits are locks to their school or leaning to their school.

Fans who buy these subscriptions want this type of info. They want to know who their school “leads for”. They want to know who of the uncommitted or committed elsewhere might sign with their school.

There’s nothing wrong with this as long as fans understand that these are merely educated guesses in the highly fickle and extremely fluid world of recruiting. 

There are no locks and a guy leaning towards one school today could eliminate that school tomorrow.

When this happens, fans expectedly react with trepidation and concern about the staff’s recruiting ability especially newer staffs with little track record together. They cry out on message boards that the staff is “getting killed on the recruiting trail”.  They fill social media with accusations that this staff can’t “close”. 

Closing is a sales term which rates a salesmans ability to “seal the deal”. In recruiting, however, it’s come to mean how well a particular staff or recruiter does in the last few weeks before national signing day. 

Many of the top (4-5 star) recruits wait to decide or announce until late in the cycle often at All Star games or on signing day. 

Some wish to put off until after their season in order to better focus on their season. Some wish to postpone trips until January in order to get a more inclusive experience where they can see more than the football offices and the stadium. Many, however, simply wish to create drama and enjoy the notoriety and attention that comes with being a top uncommitted prospect late in the cycle.

As such, fans have become accustomed to buying into this drama hoping to enjoy the notoriety their school gets (called a recruiting bump) when they land these prospects. 

As such, they lose focus on the recruits already in the fold, focusing primarily on the late commits and how well their schools staff “closes”. 

Gator message boards and social media are awash in posts about all the supposed Gator leans that are trending away and the typical concerns that this staff can’t close.

Chicken Little’s to the left, Chicken Little’s to the right. 

Are they going to miss on some top targets? 

Certainly.

But what many fans are forgetting is all the bad juju beyond the staff’s direct control that they’ve had to deal with making it easy for others to negative recruit against them and, thus, making their job as recruiters that much tougher.

A bare cupboard at receiver and offensive line along with inexperience and poor depth at quarterback made it difficult to showcase much offensively in year one. 

Then you add in Grier’s unexpected suspension which effectively shut down everything they were trying to do offensively and you have the makings of a recruiting nightmare.

Hard to recruit top guys to an unproven system with zero experience at QB. 

Still they’ve got three pretty good ones already on campus (Freddie Swain, Josh Hammond, JUCO Dre Massey) and a fourth (Rick Wells) committed that could be a sleeper. 

Add in there’s a good likelihood they get their top choice at TE (Nick Eubanks) and that’s a solid receiver class. 

So fear not Gator Nation, the sky is not falling.

Florida Gators Nab Huge Commitment

  
The Florida Gators have a huge pair of shoes to fill with defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard, a likely NFL first round draft choice, graduating. 

Today they found someone big enough to potentially fill those shoes when Under Armor All American DT Shavar Manuel gave his verbal pledge to the Gators. 

Manuel (6-4, 300) is a former top rated defensive end who has grown, literally and figuratively, into a three technique defensive tackle.

The former strong side defensive end enrolled at IMG Academy for his senior season and played with extra weight forcing him to move inside.

While he struggled somewhat with the added weight and position change, he showed strong potential as a tackle during the Under Armor practices. 

He’s very strong and athletic with a quick first step and plays with good pad level.

Once he figures out how to play with the added weight he’s expected to be a force in the interior for the Gators similar to Bullard who moved inside and excelled. 

Manuel has long been considered a Gator lean always mentioning his strong relationship with Gator defensive line coach Chris Rumph.

He was rumored to announce a decision at last weekend’s Under Armor game but decided to wait until after taking official visits to Florida and Florida State, his final two schools.

On Tuesday, however, he chose to give the Gators his pledge. 

He’s a huge pick up for Rumph and the Gators who are quietly putting together what could turn out to be the top defensive line class in the nation.

His commitment brings the Gators total to 26 in the 2016 class and moves them up to number six overall in the 247sports team rankings and number one in the Scout rankings.