Florida Football: Ricky Pearsall should be recruiting ammo for Billy Napier

Even after going 5-7, the Gators wound up with a first round pick for the fifth straight season
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun / USA

2023 was a season to forget for Florida Football. The Gators went 5-7 for a vast array of reasons and the once heralded recruiting class Florida had fell apart in December.

But for all the gloom and doom, Ricky Pearsall should be proof of concept Billy Napier can point to as proof Florida still provides a pathway to the NFL better than some in state rivals.

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It was a possibility, but it was also a bit of a surprise when the San Francisco 49ers drafted Pearsall with the 31st overall pick in the NFL Draft last night. But by being drafted in the first round, Florida can now lay claim to having a player drafted in the first round for five straight seasons, with Anthony Richardson (2023), Kaiir Elam (2022), Kyle Pitts (2021), Kadarius Toney (2021), and CJ Henderson (2020) preceding him.

More importantly moving forward, Napier is able to look recruits in the eye and lay claim to a plan to get them to the pros. When Pearsall came to Florida, he was seen as a nice pick up but no one thought he would emerge as a first round pick two years later.

For example, when five-star receiver Caleb Cunningham is in town for his official recruiting visit, the pitch should open with "If we can go 5-7 and still get Pearsall drafted in the first round, imagine what we can do with you."

Likewise if going head-to-head with someone FSU is going after the pitch is "If you go to Tallahassee you could go 13-0 but you still won't be invited to the playoffs and you still won't get drafted in the first round."

Of course NIL plays a much larger role in the modern day and can override this pitch with some prospects, but if Miami is in the mix Napier can say "You can get a check now that is going to bounce or get drafted in the NFL and get an even larger check that won't bounce."

Ultimately Pearsall is one guy on a 2023 squad that at best is going to have one more player drafted from it. But in the world of recruiting, one needs to take every angle they can take.