Sports Illustrated released top five lists of recruiting classes based on position and the Gators came away with three number one classes: wide receiver, defensive tackle, and linebacker, as well as the second ranked defensive back class. The rankings are based on Rivals.com recruiting rankings and considering their top five ranking overall it’s no surprise their positional classes would be so highly thought of as well.
The wide receiver class boasts a combination of size and speed with two big physical receiver in four stars Demarcus Robinson (6-2 195), and Ahmad Fulwood (6-4 200). Robinson is one of the most complete and college ready receivers in the country. He has the size to battle defenders off the line as well as for possession, the speed to stretch the field, and he has great hands and is a great route runner. He dominated the Army All American game practices and was arguably the best receiver all week.
Fulwood has the length that you can’t teach making him a match up concern for smaller defenders. He also has great hands, catching everything in sight and is a skilled route runner. He was the top target on the board for the Gators at wide out coming into this recruiting season and his early committment was very important to this class.
The Gators got a great mid range guy and somewhat underrated player in Marqui Hawkins (6-1 185). Hawkins had a standout senior season which allowed him to move up the rankings finally receiving his fourth star in the ESPN rankings after the season. He can play on the outside and the inside and is a very physical receiver with a good frame to add weight and solid hands.
At the slot position, the Gators got a versatile playmaker in Alvin Bailey (5-11 175). Bailey is somewhat underrated, as well, because he played mostly quarterback in high school, but make no mistake he is a playmaker who will do a lot of different things for the Gators at slot, in the wildcat, possibly lined up in the backfield, and as a returner. He’ll likely play a wild card role in the offense adding the jet sweep and bubble screens to his reportoire as offensive coordinator Brent Pease looks for creative ways to get the ball into his hands.
Finally, Chris Thompson (6-0 167) is a blazing speedster who came to camp and earned his spot in this class. A Muschamp special, if you will, he is a hard-nosed kid who takes coaching well and helped lead his team to the state championship game this past season. He is a burner that will certainly stretch the field for the Gators.
The Gators, who were looking for playmakers at the position after struggling there for a number of years, hit a home run with this class and more than filled their needs to the point that they turned down some really good playmakers who wanted to be in the orange and blue.
At defensive tackle, there was little flash but solid depth with four stars Caleb Brantley 6-2 305 and Jaynard Bostwick 6-4 270 the stars of the class.
Brantley is a solid run stuffer at the nose spot while Bostwick is a taller true tackle with pass rush ability. Bostwick was a signing day decision that Saban really wanted to reel in at Alabama and a great get for Coach Muschamp.
With the loss of top two tackles Shariff Floyd to the draft and Omar Hunter to graduation, the Gators were in dire need of bringing in a couple who are able to compete for playing time and provide depth immediately.
They got that in four star JUCO Darious Cummings, who played two years at FSU, starting as a true freshman, before transferring out to East Mississippi JC.
They also got his teammate three star JUCO Jarran Reed to choose the Gators on signing day over Alabama another one that Saban had pushed hard for. Both guys should be able to come in play from the start and should provide the Gators with solid depth along the defensive line next season.
While the defensive tackle class wasn’t littered with star power, perhaps the linebacker class was. Alex Anzalone, 6-3 220, who was bumped up to five star status on Rivals shortly after the All Star games, headlines the class after famously flipping to the Gators from Notre Dame on the eve of his early enrollment. He had been flirting with the Gators for over a year before finally pulling the trigger.
Four star middle linebacker Daniel McMillan,6-2 220, has great size and a great frame to bulk up further without losing speed or quickness, he also has fantastic natural instincts which are important for a middle linebacker, and he will likely come in and compete for early playing time with the loss of both inside linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins.
Matt Rolin, 6-4 205 with legitimate 4,5 speed, a flip from South Carolina where he was a legacy recruit with many family members who graduated and played football for the Gamecocks, is another solid four star outside linebacker who plays with great speed and instincts and should step in nicely at the SAM linebacker spot.
Finally, Jarrad Davis, 6-2 225, is another flip who was previously committed to Auburn and may be the steal of the entire class. Rated a three star on most recruiting services Davis, like McMillan has great size and speed and fantastic natural instincts for the position. He is a fierce hitter inside and a solid tackler.
The best part of the class is that three of the four are enrolled early and should be able to compete for early playing time next season.
At defensive back, the Gators were ranked second despite having the top corner in the nation in five star Vernon Hargreaves III, and three four star safeties in Keanu Neal, Marcell Harris, and Nick Washington.
Hargreaves (5-11 181) showed at the Under Armour All American game why he is the top corner in the country as he repeatedly shut down the nation’s top wideout Laquon Treadwell and was named the defensive MVP of the game. He has great speed, hips, and reaction time and is as polished a high school corner as I’ve seen in many, many years.
Keanu Neal (6-0 204) is a hard hitter who can play either safety spot but excels up near the line in run support. He is considered a high four star safety with great natural instincts and should excel under Muschamp’s tutelage. He reminds me a lot of Matt Elam with perhaps slightly better cover skills coming out of high school.
Marcell Harris (6-2 200) is another high four star safety who can play either spot as well as at the nickel spot. He has great size and quickness, good cover skills in the slot, and is a solid tackler. He is a very versatile guy, that like Neal will likely come in and compete for early playing time next season with the loss of both starting safeties from last season.
Finally, Nick Washington (5-11 175) is a somewhat undersized but highly versatile player who can provide depth at every position in the defensive backfield. A little slow for corner and a little small for safety he will likely see time in the nickel slot and providing depth at various spots depending upon matchups. He’s also a great baseball prospect that will play for Kevin O’Sullivan and is expected to be drafted in the MLB draft.