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.

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