Official Signing Day Guide: Can the Gators finish strong?

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Let this be your official guide for National Signing Day.

Last Wednesday, I published my Signing Day Predictions. It was meant to be a sort of concrete guide to NSD for Gator fans. But of course, college football recruiting is never concrete until Signing Day itself- things have happened since- so I made some updates. We’ll be here for you tomorrow and of course all day Wednesday to keep you updated and informed, but let’s take one last look at it all before things get wild:

1) RB Jordan Scarlett

High school: St. Thomas Aquinas (FL)

Scouting report: Scarlett is literally a terror for opposing defenses. While he doesn’t have the most amazing juke moves that some of these top backs have, he’s shifty enough on his feet to never let defenders get a clean shot at him, reducing their efforts to arm tackles; thus, he’s near impossible to bring down. Combine that with his 4.3 40 and ability to get to the edge and turn the corner, and you’ve got one of the best running backs in the country. Plain and simple.

Why Florida needs him: Kelvin Taylor provides the Gators with one dependable running back, but after that, the depth chart drops off like a continental shelf. Adam Lane had a big game in the Birmingham Bowl, but one impressive performance in a third tier bowl against an also-ran from the AAC does not convince me that he’s an elite back. He very well may turn out to be one, but we don’t know that he will- and that’s where Scarlett comes into play.

Currently: Uncommitted

Offer list: Florida, FSU, Alabama, Miami, Auburn, Wisconsin, LSU, Ohio State, Georgia, others

Announcement time: Monday 7:00pm

Prediction: Though Scarlett has been a longtime Cane commit (and before people noticed him, a Florida Atlantic commit), I expect him to flip to Florida. He enjoyed his visit to Gainesville, and I think his desire to play a key role in the offense immediately will make him want to call the Swamp his home.

2) OL Martez Ivey

High school: Apopka (FL)

Scouting report: Ivey is a tremendous athlete, something that’s extremely coveted at the offensive tackle position in the SEC. He’s a little under 300 lbs. right now; if he bulks up just a little, he could be the best lineman in the entire class when it’s all said and done. Ivey displays the pure quickness and explosive first step off the snap that can’t be taught. The only question mark on Ivey is that his high school team ran the ball a lot, so he’ll need lots of reps in pass protection. But again, with his natural ability, I don’t think this will be too much of a problem.

Why Florida needs him: The Gators’ offensive line is in shambles. Three starting linemen will need to be replaced in Max Garcia, Chaz Green and DJ Humphries. Oh, and the Gators also lose Trenton Brown and Tyler Moore, key reserves who each started in six of the Gators’ 12 games last year. So Florida really has five key contributors to replace on the offensive line. Even if Ivey goes through the growing pains in 2015 that most freshmen go through, this is a must get for the future.

Currently: Uncommitted

Offer list: Florida, FSU, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Auburn, Clemson, Notre Dame, Ohio State, others

Announcement time: Wednesday, 11:35am

Prediction: It’s a tossup between Florida and Auburn for Ivey’s services, and I believe Ivey picks the Gators due to wanting to play immediately. Auburn’s offensive line is in much better shape than Florida’s, especially with their star tackle Avery Young returning. But I wouldn’t be shocked if Ivey goes to Auburn, either.

3) DL Cece Jefferson

High school: Glen Saint Mary (FL)

Scouting report: You can flip-flop Jefferson and Byron Cowart as the third and fourth most needed prospects for Florida. They are similarly dominant, but Jefferson is even more explosive as a pass rusher, and possesses outstanding intelligence and recognition of plays. Few high school players in the country can simply run around offensive tackles and diagnose a play like Jefferson can. I can see him having an immediate impact on Florida’s defensive line. Or FSU’s defensive line. Or Auburn’s defensive line. Or Mississippi’s defensive line. You get the picture.

Why Florida needs him: Because of Will Muschamp’s long-running offensive ineptitude, Scarlett and Ivey are needed more, and thus listed ahead of him, but that doesn’t mean Jefferson wouldn’t be a gigantic catch for McElwain, especially in a class that’s not likely to completely get filled out. Even though the Gators’ defense appears to be in pretty good shape right now (particularly in the front seven), it’s always nice to grab a player of consensus five star caliber.

Currently: Uncommitted

Offer list: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio State, Auburn, Clemson, LSU, FSU, others

Announcement time: Wednesday, 2:05pm

UPDATED prediction: A week ago, I was fairly certain that Jefferson would follow Will Muschamp to Auburn. But oh, how the pendulum swings. Jefferson has since visited UF, loved it, and from what I know, his parents really want him to go there. I’ll reiterate that Jefferson is a difficult one to call, but I think he’s a Gator.

4) DL Byron Cowart

High School: Armwood (FL)

Scouting report: Cowart, like Jefferson, is a freak of nature. He’s big (250 lbs.), he’s fast (4.58 40 yard dash) and combines an explosive first step with great closing speed to make tons of tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Cowart pretty much dominated every camp or workout he participated in, and as long as opponents didn’t devise a game plan specifically aimed to avoid him (which happened on multiple occasions this past year), he dominated every game he played in, too.

Why Florida needs him: Same reason Florida needs Jefferson. The departure of Dante Fowler to the NFL leaves a void on the defensive line. It’s a void that Alex McCalister or Bryan Cox is probably going to fill anyway in 2015, but having a deeper stable of ferocious defensive linemen never hurts, particularly when Cox and Jonathan Bullard- both seniors- leave for the NFL. And even next year, Cowart would likely contribute in a key reserve role if he didn’t beat out the incumbents for the starting position.

Currently: Uncommitted

Offer list: Florida, FSU, Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Mississippi, Oregon, others

Announcement time: Wednesday, 9:10am

UPDATED prediction: Last week, I wrote that Cowart was “probably going to Auburn”, but now he’s starting to trend back toward the Gators. It’s come down to a coin flip, but I still say Auburn. Just a feeling.

5) WR Ryan Davis

High School: Lakewood (FL)

Scouting report: Davis earned his spot as one of the top receivers in the Class of 2015 as an explosive playmaker with excellent ball skills. He isn’t the biggest receiver you’ll find (5’11), or even the fastest (4.74 40 yard dash), but he has big play ability that you just can’t teach. He was actually a QB in high school, and thus got to show off his athletic ability on QB runs; his ability to make defenders miss in the open field almost overshadows the vertical threat he poses.

Why Florida needs him: Uh, because UF doesn’t really have any dependable receivers other than Demarcus Robinson? Davis could make a huge impact on what’s been an anemic Gators’ offense since Muschamp took over in 2011. Losing Quinton Dunbar and Andre Debose leaves Robinson and Latroy Pittman as the only two receivers who possess a threat to burn a defense. I guess Ahmad Fulwood makes three if you count his big play in the Birmingham Bowl. But yeah: Florida would be thrilled to get Davis.

Currently: Uncommitted

Offer list: Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Miami, FSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Mississippi, others

Announcement time: Wednesday, 10:00am

Prediction: I’m pretty certain Davis is a Gator. He’s quickly built a strong relationship with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and I don’t think he really wants to leave the state. Pencil him in as a solid late addition to the Gators’ small recruiting class.

6) QB Deondre Francois

High School: IMG Academy (FL)

Scouting report: Francois looks like a classic dual threat QB. But while he is fairly mobile, he’s going to be strictly a pocket passer at the next level. He has a very good arm, makes good decisions and is capable of making just about every throw you can ask him to make. Essentially, he’s not the best in the class in any of those categories, but he’s well above average in each of them, and doesn’t have any glaring deficiencies in his mechanics.

Why Florida needs him: You can never have too many quarterbacks. If you disagree with this, just remember what happened to the Gators in 2013. Remember Skyler Mornhinweg? Me too. It wasn’t pretty. The current QB situation features a battle between Will Grier and incumbent Treon Harris, but after that, there’s a huge gap. Francois would be a more than adequate way to fill it.

Currently: Committed to FSU

Offer list: Florida, FSU, Miami, Auburn, Michigan State, Clemson, Ohio State, Oregon, Nebraska, others

UPDATED prediction: Francois had a very interesting day on twitter last Thursday. That said, I still don’t think the Gators are able to flip him from his longtime FSU commitment- but now, it wouldn’t shock me as much. It’s worth keeping an eye on him on Wednesday, that’s for sure.

7) RB Jordan Cronkrite

High School: Westminster Christian (FL)

Scouting report: Cronkrite reminds me a bit of Chris Rainey. He’s a little small, but hits his top speed (4.58 40 yard dash) immediately. Like Rainey, he’s best used running the ball outside, because although he wasn’t afraid to lower his shoulder and initiate contact in high school, he won’t be able to do that at the highest level of college football. He could also play a little slot receiver, as he has decent hands.

Why Florida needs him: Same reason Florida needs Scarlett. There’s a need at running back due to the lack of experience behind Kelvin Taylor, and even though Cronkrite is a different type of back, he could certainly play a role in the Gators’ offense. It’s always nice to be able to terrorize defenses outside the hashmarks, especially with the inside threat that Adam Lane poses.

Currently: Uncommitted

Offer list: Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, FSU, Wisconsin, Clemson, Miami, Oregon, Texas, others

Announcement time: TBA

UPDATED Prediction: Cronkrite is down to Florida and West Virginia, and I believe he’ll elect to remain in state and sign with Florida. I’m even more certain of it now than I was last week.

8) LB Jeffrey Holland

High School: Trinity Christian (FL)

Scouting report: Holland is an animal, put bluntly. He’s an outstanding natural athlete, and has made himself known for delivering big time hits that often cause drops and fumbles. He’s already big enough (230 lbs.) to play at the college level, and his experience as a tight end on offense speaks volumes of his versatility and ability to play different positions. He could eventually step in and become that psycho that every defense loves. He’s also a master twitter troll.

Why Florida needs him: Purely for depth reasons. But it wouldn’t kill the Gators to not land him.

Currently: Uncommitted

Offer list: Florida, Auburn, Alabama, FSU, Oregon, Ohio State, Mississippi State, LSU, USC, others

Announcement time: Wednesday TBA

UPDATED Prediction: While pretty much everybody else on this list appear to be trending towards the Gators, I believe Holland is an Auburn Tiger. He’s done an excellent job trolling the Gators on twitter over the past few days, but that’s just for show. He’s more likely than not headed to Auburn.

9) ATH Chris Williamson

High School: Gainesville (GA)

Scouting report: This guy has ball skills. Let’s just say that. He’s officially listed as an ATH, but plays the most at CB. He has great leaping ability and does an outstanding job high pointing the football (which may also be useful as a receiver). He also hits his top speed immediately and is at his best in press man… but he has developed solid cover skills over the past year, too. Maybe this is why he’s suddenly shooting up the rankings.

Why Florida needs him: The only reason he’s listed this low is because Florida already has several top corners in Vernon Hargreaves, Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor. But when you have a chance to reel in supreme talent, you go after it. Williamson would be an excellent late addition to this class.

Currently: Uncommitted

Offer list: Florida, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina, California, Auburn, Notre Dame, BYU, Cincinnati, others

Announcement time: Monday 10:00pm

Prediction: The Gators were trending the right way with Williamson before he even set foot on campus last weekend. Now, the expectations to land him are through the roof. Florida got the last official visit he took, so he’s all but assumed to be a Gator. Pencil him in as a fantastic pre-Signing Day present for the Gators.

10) ATH D’Anfernee McGriff

High School: Leon (FL)

Scouting report: McGriff, as one could tell from his ATH label, can play a variety of positions, including running back, linebacker and safety. He’d probably be best utilized on offense at the college level because he has all the traits needed from a running back: he has good hands, he can block well, and he’s got good quickness and acceleration as a runner. He wouldn’t be a prototypical tailback like Kelvin Taylor, but he’d make a good wild card that lined up at several positions, a little like Trey Burton once did.

Why Florida needs him: Well, why not? Florida’s offense sorely lacks offensive playmakers, and McGriff could make those plays in several different facets of the game. His broad range of skills make him an outstanding addition to any team, particularly one that uses each of them.

Currently: Committed to Auburn

Offer list: Florida, Auburn, Alabama, FSU, South Carolina, Louisville, Mississippi, Cincinnati, North Carolina, others

UPDATED Prediction: McGriff has decommitted from Auburn and reopened his recruitment. I said he was a dark horse to flip last Wednesday, but now I’m officially changing my prediction: he will flip to Florida.

4 thoughts on “Official Signing Day Guide: Can the Gators finish strong?

  1. My predictions, to compliment Neil’s- and yes, I’m already 0 for 1 (being wrong from time to time is part of life!)

    Scarlett- FSU

    Ivey- Florida

    Jefferson- Ole Miss

    Cowart- Auburn

    Davis- Florida

    Francois – Instagram and Twitter theories or whatever, but I’m sticking with the Noles

    Cronkite- Florida

    Holland- Auburn

    McGriff- Florida

    I’ll also add Derrick Dillon, who I expect to sign with LSU tomorrow, despite being committed to Florida.

  2. 90%. That’s about as good as anybody can do, including Rivals/247/ESPN. Great job Neil. What happened with Davis though?

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