While many coaches were assuredly struggling through a nervous, caffeine fueled signing day eve, Florida Gator head football coach likely rested easy. With a 25 member class that was as solid as any in the country and loaded with talent, Muschamp and company were only awaiting a handful of guys to make their decision on signing day.
Unlike last year when they were in on 8 top level recruits which would make or break the class, going 0-fer in the process, this season the recruits were all mostly just sprinkles on an already iced and ready to feast cake. Out of the five left on the board coming into signing day the Gators picked up two and missed on three but of the three only one had any sense of sting to it: DE Tashawn Bower who spurned the Gators for LSU after being reported to have already faxed in a LOI to Florida earlier in the day. That was quite a messy situation for Gator beat writers who were fooled and looking silly in the end.
The Gators 27 member class, which previously had been top rated on a few services, will certainly be considered a top five class at the end of the day but more importantly met the Gators many needs on both sides of the ball. The class was split between 12 offensive players and 15 defensive players with 5 wide receivers and 5 offensive lineman, two of the biggest team needs overall. They also signed two top flight running backs a necessity in Muschamp’s downhill running attack. On defense, they signed 7 defensive lineman and four linebackers which were priorities with them losing five of their top lineman and both starting inside linebackers after last season. Perhaps the gem of the class, was the defensive back class which recruits aptly named “The Gators No-Fly Zone” with three safeties and the top rated corner in America in Vernon Hargreaves III.
Offensively the star of the class is running back Kelvin Taylor, son of Gator legend Fred Taylor, who finished second all time nationally in career rushing yards with over 10.000 and an early enrollee who is already attending classes. While not the biggest or fastest running back, he is likely the most complete running back coming out of high school this season with great patience and vision as a runner, good blocking skills, and soft hands. The Gators also signed running back Adam Lane, 5-7 220, who is built a lot like Maurice Jones-Drew short but built, particularly in the lower body and was the first to commit in this recruiting cycle. The two backs should be very complimentary and will likely make a strong one-two punch the next few years in Gainesville.
At quarterback, the Gators signed Max Staver, 6-6 235, out of Brentwood, Tennessee who was given an opportunity to throw for the coaches back in July and was given an offer at that time. He wasn’t highly rated coming into his senior year but after having a solid season he was moved into the final ESPN 300 list of the nation’s top recruits. He’s a raw, strong-armed qb with good athleticsm outside the pocket. The staff is very high on him as a prospect and he’ll come in and compete for the back-up spot behind Jeff Driskel immediately with the transfer of Jacoby Brissett.
Arguably the biggest team need this offseason was receiver’s and more specifically playmakers at the receiver position. The staff signed five players at the position and all five bring different skills to the table and all should be productive during their careers in Gainesville. The cream of the crop might be Demarcus Robinson, 6-2 200, out of Peach County high school in Fort Valley, Georgia. He had one of the more interesting recruitments in recent memory for the Gators and certainly took quite a circuitous route to Gainesville as a long time commitment to Clemson who went back and forth between them and the Gators before finally enrolling at UF. Robinson is a big physical wide receiver who can get off the ball good, runs great routes, has fantastic hands, can use his body well to shield defenders, and can stretch the field vertically. He’s one of the most complete wide receiver’s in the nation and was arguably the best receiver at the Army All American game practices
Another strong wide receiver is Ahmad Fulwood out of Jacksonville, Florida Bishop Kenny high school. He was the first wide receiver to commit in this cycle and was the staff’s original top target at the position. Fullwood has great size at 6-4 200 and is another physical receiver who can stretch the field with deceptive speed and the ability to get open. He runs great routes and has tremendous hands catching everything in his vicinity. Marqui Hawkins is an underrated receiver out of Carver high school in Columbus, Georgia who is another physical receiver with good size at 6-1 180 pounds and good speed. He is another who was slightly underrated by recruiting services coming into his senior year but after having a solid season he was included in the final ESPN 300 recruiting rankings.
Alvin Bailey might be the the most underrated receiver prospect in the nation because he played quarterback for most of his high school career. At 5-11 175 he will be a slot receiver who will likely run jet sweeps, bubble screens, and take some snaps at wildcat qb. Bailey is a playmaker who will do a lot of things for the Gators. Chris Thompson, 6-0 170, is a speedster from Gainesville who came to camp ready to compete and earned his spot in this recruiting class. He will give the Gators a vertical threat they have not had thus far under Will Muschamp.
Perhaps the second biggest need for the Gators in this recruiting cycle was along the offensive line and Muschamp certainly hit a home run here. With five offensive lineman and a transfer who came in before the start of last season in Max Garcia the Gators certainly upgraded the talent level here and improved the depth which had been lacking under Muschamp. Outside of Garcia, who transferred in from Maryland last season, the star would have to transfer Tyler Moore who attended St. Petersburg College last fall after leaving Nebraska following his freshman season. He became the first freshman in Nebraska history to start the first game of his freshman season and one of only a handful to start as a freshman there.
Roderick Johnson, 6-5 320, out of Delray Beach is the first recruit that offensive line coach Tim Davis had his eye on when he took over the position and they patiently recruited him after he decommitted from the Gators eventually bringing him back in the fold. He is a mauler with great hands and feet and is may see time at tackle and guard. Center Cameron Dillard, 6-3 280 from Canton, Michigan is another mauler type with good smarts and instincts and is exactly what Muschamp is looking for in a center prospect.
Octavius Jackson, 6-4 275 from Colquitt, Georgia, is likely the least heralded offensive line prospect if only because he simply doesn’t make noise. He is certainly the most underrated offensive lineman in this class. He is very athletic for a big guy who runs a sub 5 second forty yard dash with a 31 inch vertical and a 9-6 broad jump unheard of numbers for an offensive tackle. Finally, there’s JUCO transfer Trenton Brown. He is massive at 6-7 345 pounds, and will be a monster in the jumbo packages the offensive coordinator Brent Pease likes to utilize.
On the defensive side of the ball, where the Gators had glaring needs after losing the bulk of their starting lineup from last season’s top five ranked defense, Will Muschamp cleaned up. Starting on the defensive line where the Gators lost 5 of their top 7, Muschamp made it a priority this cycle and added two on signing day to finish with seven overall. The staff brought in two JUCO’s from the same school that last year’s tackle recruit Damien Jacobs came from in Darious Cummings and Jarran Reed. Cummings, 6-2 305, formerly played at FSU as a freshman and partly as a sophomore before an injury sat him and he transferred out before this past season. Reed, 6-4 305, was previously committed to Ole Miss but decommitted and was down to Alabama and Florida with him settling on the Gators after agonizing over the decision. He and Cummings should team with Jacobs to fill in for the departed Shariff Floyd and Omar Hunter.
Jaynard Bostwick, 6-4 270 from Port St. Lucie, Florida, who officially visited Florida this past weekend and waited until signing day to make his decision is a solid pass rushing defensive tackle with a frame to put on another twenty to thirty pounds without losing his quickness. The staff has been high on him from the start there were just some questions if he could make it into this class academically. Those issues were handled and he is a Gator. Joey Ivie is a smallish defensive tackle who has a great motor and good strength. He will certainly need to add some weight to play on the inside in the SEC but there is no questioning his ability and determination. He simply brings it every play.
Perhaps the most interesting defensive line recruit is Caleb Brantley, 6-3 310, a big strong trench guy who has the size to be a run stuffer at the nose and the skills to be a great pass rusher as well. His recruitment was nothing less than humorous as he committed early than decommitted late only to recommit a week later and has been a twitter superstar with his attempt to build drama. He’s the player that went to the Florida-Florida State game in Tallahassee on an official visit wearing Gator gear and was booted for actively rooting for the Gators. This guy should be fun to watch for the next four to five seasons.
Finally, defensive end Jordan Sherit, 6-3 245 from Tampa Hillsborough high school, rounds out the defensive line class. An early enrollee he is rehabbing from an ACL injury his senior season and will likely redshirt this season. He is a smallish end and will certainly need to bulk up during his redshirt season but possess great speed, hands, and technique. He has a great frame to add bulk and is expected to become a great player for the Gators down the road.
At linebacker, where the Gators lost their two starting inside linebackers, the staff added four of the best in the nation. At inside linebacker the top recruit is Daniel McMillan, 6-2 230 out of First Coast high school in Jacksonville, Florida. He has good size and speed as well as great natural instincts for the position. He already has the size to come in and compete right away for playing time and will be given every opportunity to do just that but he also has a good frame to bulk up and will likely play around the 250 pound level before he’s done.
Jarrad Davis, 6-2 235 from Camden County high school in Kingsland, Georgia, is another big strong inside linebacker with the size to come in and compete for playing time right away. Davis is somewhat underrated but has great natural instincts with good speed and playmaking abilities at the position. Look for both he and McMillan to provide depth next season.
On the outside the star is Alex Anzalone, a former Ohio State and Notre Dame commit, who flipped to the Gators one day before he was to early enroll. He had flirted with the Gators throughout the process and grew up a Gator fan but never could quite seem to pull the trigger until it came time to enroll. Anzalone, 6-2 220 from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, is the top rated outside linebacker in the country on some recruiting services and will likely come in and compete for early playing time at the Sam linebacker position. He has great speed and natural instincts as a linebacker and impressed as one of the top prospects at the Under Armour All American game practices.
Finally, Matt Rolin, 6-4 205 from Ashburn, Virginia, is a speedy outside linebacker who is a South Carolina legacy and former Gamecock commit who is one of six guys Muschamp and company flipped from other schools this cycle. He has great speed and instincts and plays very fast and physical and should fit in well in the style of defense the Muschamp likes to run.
The defensive back class, affectionately known by the recruits as “The Gators No-Fly Zone” rivals the linebacker class for one of the best in the country. Led by top rated cornerback and number three overall recruit according to ESPN Recruiting Nation Vernon Hargreaves III, 5-11 181 from Tampa Wharton high school, who was the top player hands down in the Under Armour All American game. Matched up against number one wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, he consistently shut down his side of the field and kept Treadwell from making any plays in the game. Despite having their top three corners returning, Hargreaves will likely come in and compete for immediate playing time providing solid depth in nickel and dime packages.
At safety, the Gators picked up three of the best in the country. Led by Keanu Neal, 6-0 205, a hard hitter who plays very physical in the run game and Marcell Harris, 6-2 200, who is also a hard hitter and is great in coverage this is likely the best overall safety class in the country. Nick Washington, 5-11 180, is a versatile player who can play either safety spot and fill in at corner or in nickel and dime packages.
Overall, this recruiting class, the first one where Muschamp had the requisite two years to build relationships and adequately get to know the recruits, is exactly what the Gators need depth and talent wise. This class, which is likely to be considered the number two overall on ESPN before signing day is over with, ranks up there with the top classes the Gators have brought in in the past and, more importantly, is filled with character guys that should work well within the system that Muschamp employs. While there were a couple of misses, there always are in recruiting, overall this team should be a solid foundation for championship competing teams in the future for Florida and should keep them at the elite status that Gator fans have become accustomed to .