National Signing Day Recap: Gators start slow, finish strong

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It’s been a long and hectic day, but it’s over. And it ended well, too, so we can all sleep well tonight.

First and foremost, I want to thank everybody for following along with us all day on our Signing Day tracker. Our site exploded with traffic, so much so that it crashed the server on multiple occasions and our amazing tech guy, Ryan Moyer, had to install an extra bit of RAM just to keep the site afloat. We had well over 20,000 hits by the time the sun started to set. So again, thank you guys.

I’ll further analyze the entire recruiting class either tomorrow or Friday, but for now, I’m just going to write up my initial impression of the happenings of Signing Day, the most entertaining and hectic day of the year.

So about National Signing Day. The days of everybody freaking out about decommits seem like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Anybody else remember top guys like Adonis Thomas, George Brown, and Jerome Baker jumping ship as Will Muschamp’s Gators saw losses pile up like autumn leaves? Me neither.

That’s what happens when a new head coach comes in, cleans up the mess the previous coach started, and turns a class that draws comparisons with Florida Atlantic and Wyoming into a consensus top 20 class. Golf clap for Jim McElwain.

The day didn’t start off great, though. The first huge announcement of the day was Byron Cowart a little after 9am, and he elected to go to Auburn. It wound up taking him seven and a half hours to finally send in his paperwork- no doubt raising blood pressures in Auburn, Alabama- but he announced he would be a Tiger, and he did eventually sign his LOI there.

So that sucked- I had really thought he would be a Gator as recently as 24 hours ago- but it was immediately counterbalanced by the receipt of four star receiver Antonio Callaway’s LOI. The wide receiver position is a big need for Florida, with DeMarcus Robinson as the lone proven threat. I guess Ahmad Fulwood could count as a second if you want to put so much stock into his 86 yard catch and run in the Birmingham Bowl. But receiver was definitely a need for Florida to fill, and they filled it adequately with Callaway It made the subsequent (and surprising) failure to land similarly talented receiver Ryan Davis a lot easier to take.

The signing of Callway kick started the day for Florida. Other than guys I (and most recruiting analysts/fans) knew the Gators would never get, like Deondre Francois and Jeffrey Holland, Florida proceeded to land every single remaining target on their board.

First up among the really big fish was Martez Ivey, the consensus #1 offensive tackle in the country and a unanimous five star recruit. He’s a tremendous athlete, and very well could play right away with the Gators losing three starters on the offensive line. Talk about filling a need.

Next, Florida snagged consensus three star defensive end Keivonnis Davis, a former Oregon State commit. Truth be told, he was pretty much a backup plan in the event that Florida couldn’t get either Cowart or Jefferson- or both- but it was pretty cool to be able to just flip somebody like that so late in the game.

Davis was followed up by one of the best uncommitted players remaining, five star defensive end Cece Jefferson, who spurned Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama and a slew of others to be a Florida Gator. His announcement was probably the best of the day- he was surrounded by his family, and when he announced his intention to be a Gator, his mother burst into tears. It’s a joyous occasion, right? But Cece turned to his mom and abruptly told her to stop crying, drawing laughs from Rece Davis and the ESPN crew that was filming his announcement ceremony. Interestingly, he still hasn’t sent his LOI into Florida, but he’s reportedly told the coaches he would do it tomorrow morning. I guess I’ll have to believe him. Anyway, Jefferson was another gigantic pickup. He doesn’t necessarily fill a need- Florida’s front seven appears to be the team’s strength- but he’s an incredible talent nonetheless, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t play some sort of role on the team next year.

Perhaps Jefferson should really be the one to get credit for opening the floodgates, because after he committed, the letters of intent started pouring in. Less than a half hour after he committed, Florida received letters of intent from ATH D’Anfernee McGriff, RB Jordan Cronkrite and OL Nick Buchanan.

McGriff is a sort of hybrid multi-purpose guy, a wild card, if you will. The best comparison I can think of is Trey Burton. He’s extremely versatile and athletic, and can line up in up to four different positions- running back/fullback, tight end, QB (for Wildcat packages) and wide receiver. It never hurts to add a consensus four star Swiss army knife to any offense, particularly one that has been utterly abominable since 2010.

Cronkrite was the biggest get of the three, and he declared his desire to be a Gator some 90 seconds after Jefferson. Florida has exactly one running back that has consistently proven to be dangerous, so adding two big time backs- Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett on Monday– in this recruiting class was huge for McElwain.

And then there was Nick Buchanan, closing out the day with a bang. Buchanan was down to Florida and Georgia after recommitting from California. He’s not nearly as hyped as Ivey, but he’s a big pickup nonetheless. And hey, if nothing else, it was nice to walk into the Peachtree State and walk out with one of the locals’ top remaining targets. Woof woof to you too. That’s a great sign for Florida under McElwain- winning recruiting battles in 90% of the Sunshine State is one thing, but importing guys from a rival school’s backyard is quite a feat for a first year head coach, even if Buchanan was a three/four prospect.

So that was all that happened today. Again, we’ll more fully analyze everything for you tomorrow and/or Friday, but for now, know this: McElwain is 1-0 as Head Gator. This class was a resounding McElwin.

2 thoughts on “National Signing Day Recap: Gators start slow, finish strong

  1. The best way to measure a coach is what you do with what you have. That works for recruiting too. Mac was put in a horrible position and wound up with a solid class. Horrible start+solid class=fantastic job.

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