National Signing Day preview: where will the Gators’ top targets go?

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Last week, we published Joey Vizzi’s predictions on where Florida’s biggest prospects would sign their letters of intent. Today, I’m going to expand upon his analysis and add my own as National Signing Day looms one week away.

So, in order of need for the Gators, here we go:

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: Committed to Miami

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

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

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

Prediction: Jefferson is a tough one to call. He has claimed that he, Byron Cowart and Jeffrey Holland are a “package deal”, which is what makes him very tough to predict- this is the word of a high school kid with a gigantic ego. He may be telling the truth, or he may just be talking for headlines. At the end of the day, though, I say he goes to Auburn because of his relationship with Will Muschamp- but it wouldn’t totally stun me if he picked Florida, either.

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

Prediction: Publicly, it’s down to Florida and Auburn for Cowart, but he’s probably going to Auburn. He left his Florida visit early, and even though I don’t doubt that this was because his mother really had to go back to work, it just doesn’t leave me with a good feeling about him. His relationship with Will Muschamp was what made Florida so appealing to him in the first place, and even though he likes the current UF staff, I believe he’s going to follow Muschamp and Jefferson to the Plains.

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

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

Prediction: It’s going to be very hard to pull Francois away from FSU with the departure of Jameis Winston. Given the current QB situation at UF, it’s worth a shot, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up here. Then again, I didn’t expect the Gators to be able to flip Treon Harris, either….

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

Prediction: Cronkrite appeared to really enjoy his visit to Florida this past weekend. He is down to Florida and West Virginia, and I believe he’ll elect to remain in state and sign with Florida.

8) LB Adonis Thomas

High School: Central Gwinnette (GA)

Scouting report: Thomas is a top linebacker that combines impressive athletic ability and instincts with a high level of intelligence, something that separates him from most other linebackers in this class. He’s exceptional in pursuit, and once he gets there, he’ll make the tackle in the open field. He’s also extremely versatile, and can play a number of different positions at a very high level (he played inside linebacker his senior year at Central Gwinnette).

Why Florida needs him: It’s more of a depth issue with Thomas, and the rich getting richer, as opposed to filling an immediate need. Sure, it’d be nice to land such a talented linebacker, but Florida’s linebacker corps is loaded with talent between Antonio Morrison, Alex Anzalone, Matt Rolin and Daniel McMillian. Thomas is a solid prospect, but it wouldn’t kill the Gators not to land him.

Currently: Committed to Alabama

Offer list: Florida, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, FSU, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, others

Prediction: Not happening. He’s been solidly committed to Bama for awhile, and though he still likes Florida, I highly doubt McElwain will be able to get him to flip.

9) 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: See this same section under Adonis Thomas.

Currently: Uncommitted

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

Prediction: Holland was a Gator until Will Muschamp got (righteously) fired. Now, all accounts point to Auburn for the vicious linebacker because of his relationship with Muschamp… and his desire to play with Cowart and Jefferson. I believe he’s an Auburn Tiger.

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

Prediction: Here’s your dark, dark, dark horse potential flip that nobody saw coming. I don’t know if Florida can actually get McGriff to flip from his firm commitment to Auburn, but he did seem to enjoy his visit to Gainesville this past weekend. I say Auburn, but don’t be shocked if he flips. There’s a real possibility.

25 thoughts on “National Signing Day preview: where will the Gators’ top targets go?

  1. Love, love, love, love, love this. Fantastic piece, Neil. But…

    Something tells me we’re not going to get the two Jordan running backs. We do already have Kelvin Taylor, and Adam Lane will certainly start out ahead of the incoming freshmen on the depth chart. As a freshman, you have to expect to have to beat out one, maybe two guys for a starting spot, but three seems like too tall a task for these kids, most of whom want to play immediately. Maybe Cronkrite is actually OK with redshirting or playing in a limited reserve role, or maybe Scarlett is, or whatever. But I just don’t see us landing both of them. I think one of them will go to a school where they can play, probably Cronkrite to West Virginia.

    1. remember if it is a package deal, i haven’t seen where Holland took an OV to UF yet. i’m I wrong about this.

  2. I have a feeling we get Cece Jefferson. His parents really want him at Florida, he likes it, and he visited last night. Only way we don’t land him IMO is if he’s serious about that whole package deal thing…

    1. I wrote this up before Jefferson visited Florida last night. Right this second, I’m a little more confident he’ll pick Florida. Bump me up from like 35% to 40% sure he’ll choose UF.

      1. I’d still be a little more confident than that. And I don’t really think Auburn will get him. I say coin flip between Florida and Ole Miss

        1. Cece still likes Muschamp, and he’s built a solid relationship with Travaris Robinson. Those two were the reason he was so interested in Florida to begin with. Auburn may not land him on Signing Day, but they have be considered a player in the Jefferson sweepstakes.

  3. Good read. I enjoyed this.

    I’m pretty sure Neil has already said this, and probably dozens of other recruiting analysts have too, but: this class means nothing at all. McElwain is playing the damage control game. However bad this class winds up being, either in quality or in quantity, is because of Muschamp.

    Earmuffs, kids: he fucked us over on the field, which by some strange coincidence fucked us over in recruiting. Can you really blame Jerome Baker, Adonis Thomas and George Brown for jumping ship as our latest season went down the toilet? It was so bad not even clobbering Georgia could save us, and recruits recommit either based on the feeling that Muschamp wouldn’t be at UF for long (which was obvious) or they didn’t want to play for a losing program which Florida has absolutely become since Muschamp took over, and particularly since 2013. Oh, and once Muschamp left after turning UF into a dumpster fire, he then started to negative recruit against that same dumpster fire he created. As much of a douche as I know he is, the kids can’t all see that, believe his insane recruiting pitches, and follow him to Auburn. Watch Cowart/Jefferson/Holland all switch to Auburn.

    Anyway, the point is: don’t expect much from McElwain, and don’t blame him when the class finishes outside the top 25. We have a decent enough core of players to get by in 2015, and we already have a good start on the Class of 2016.

      1. Sorry, Muschamp’s various failures as a head coach drove away so many recruits I can’t even keep track anymore.

  4. Still feeling the Muschamp effect right now. Only ten current commits. We’ll never fill out this class, and it’s probably not even a good idea to try. Thanks Chump for giving McElwain an even worse starting point than Urban gave you.

      1. So you disagree that Muschamp’s awful excuse of a head coaching tenure has completely shot this recruiting class? Is my viewpoint that Muschamp is a bumbling buffoon and that his bumbling buffoonery continues to hurt the Gator program such a ridiculous one?

        Trust me. I want nothing more than to forget that this fuck face ever existed, let alone set foot on the UF campus, let alone led the team as the head coach for one year, let alone four. But I can’t because his complete and utter failure to assemble even a respectable football program throughout his four year tenure is absolutely killing us in recruiting. Oh and if that’s not bad enough, now he’s negatively recruiting AGAINST UF, and telling kids it’s a dumpster fire? Think about it. He creates the dumpster fire, then he’s either incapable of or too much of a pussy to fix it, or both, and then as soon as he walks away with the $6.4 million or whatever it was we paid him to essentially get the fuck out, he tells kids specifically NOT to go to UF?

        Fuck Muschamp. He’s a classless douche, and still hurting the program as I type this. Tell me that I’m wrong.

        1. I AGREE

          Our problem is we fired him a year too late… Charlie Strong would be coaching today if we did possibly… but just be grateful we FINALLY got rid of this cancer… I feel new life in this program and it’s been years since I felt good about us… We will get to Atlanta this year and that will get us back to where we belong…

          GO GATORS!

          1. Not so sure about Atlanta this year; we have to go through LSU and Missouri, and we draw Ole Miss as our rotating team from the West. But 10-3 overall with a bowl win is a real possibility.

            1. We have enough players to beat LSU,OLE MISS Missouri..Not saying we will but what we lacked was coaching not talent. If the players can buy in and execute Coach Mac offense our defense should be top 15 with or without Cowart or Cece…If we can sure up the offensive line we can compete with any team on the schdule. Also Ole Miss has to replace a Qb and Im not sold on Hugh Freeze as a coach. That is why I wasn’t high on him as a candidate during the search or Les Miles for that matter..Better recruiters than coaches in my opinion

        2. No, it’s not a terrible viewpoint. But it’s also not the main theme of the next week. You do realize that Neil makes friends/talks with a ton of recruits, right? And they come on here and check out his site and see his readers bashing the coach that initially got them interested in UF (in most cases, anyway). That’s a bad look, dude. Muschamp is gone and you can curse him out all you’d like, but nobody benefits from throwing vitriol at him. Not recruits, not Neil, not me, and no, not even you.

  5. I don’t know about Cece going to Auburn. I get the sense it’s between Florida and Ole Miss. I tend not to believe the “package deal” type things these kids say. They just want their names in the headlines, is all. 17 year old kids like getting their names in the headlines.

    I will agree on one thing, though: if Cowart/Cece/Holland are indeed a package deal and will play together, I think it would be Auburn.

    1. That seems to be the one criticism this article has received, so I’ll explain in further detail:

      The main reason Cece Jefferson was so attracted to Florida in the first place was because of the relationships he built with Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson. Now that they’re both at Auburn, he has transplanted his love for those ex Florida coaches northwest to the Plains. I still think he likes UF as a school and as a program, and I think he likes the current UF staff as well, but those were the two guys that really sold him on developing him into an NFL player someday. And he liked Auburn before we even fired Muschamp, anyway.

      I’m not saying Auburn is a lock to land him. Last night’s visit to Gainesville may have changed everything. But as of right now- 6:28pm on Wednesday, January 28- I still think Auburn has the best chance to land him. That may change, of course. We’re talking about recruiting 17 year old kids, remember. I just think if he had to pick right now, he’d pick Auburn

  6. Well, I understand the pessimism, but I’d have to say our chances look stronger than we think with the big 3… Holland is coming in today, Ryan Davis loves it, and CeCe was in yesterday… if Muschamp had so much of an effect in relationships, why didn’t they commit to UF already prior to October?

    Great article Neil…

    Scarlett is the one I wish we’d get but due to Frazier decommitting from FSU and going to NC State, I believe he’s always wanted to be a Seminole aka Criminole…

    Francois is probably a lock for FSU but I hope we can flip Jackson, the Louisville recruit..

    Williamson is a possible flip and can be huge for us

    Ivey’s trip was all about his mom meeting the coaches and he’s said that…. Auburn has been quiet as of late… These are some kids who want their shine so the UF ESPN thing is probably a reason… I am expecting a top 20 class and hopefully we get these linemen… I love the small names we sealed… we have great coaches to develop and that’s going to show in the next year…

    If this was the BCS, I’d say no…

    Hopefully my comments are received in love, and I appreciate my Gators!! Best school in the world!!!

  7. Thanks for the honest write-up Neil. It’s been a frustrating recruiting cycle with the royal boning we’ve been receiving via Muschamp, but I’d like to provide a different (and more optimistic) perspective on how to view this mess:

    Anyone who watched the FL/ECU bowl game (I know its one game but…) and saw Adam Lane’s runs, Alex Anzalone’s violent hits, and also big Ahmad Fulwood (who I never knew was that fast) outrun an entire defense for 86 yards may have been thinking the same thing as me- Where was this production from these underutilized talents this whole season? What if our previous coaching staff neglected a whole lot of hidden talent and failed to A) coach them up and B) to give them more chances to succeed in game scenarios? Why have some people written off the highly-praised Will Grier before he’s even taken a snap? It’s time for a shift in mindset and that starts with having faith that our new coaching staff can make these guys into something they weren’t under the Muschamp regime- ballers, winners, and unexpected starters. Call it a repackaging or a rebranding or whatever but instead of worrying so much about who we’re adding with this class, lets get stoked on who we’re adding from our previous classes that haven’t had a chance to shine. To all the Griers and the Lane’s, the redshirts, the J.C. Jacksons, the Anzalone’s, and the CJ Wortons. Welcome to Gator Nation…for a 2nd time. It’s a new day.

  8. If Cowart, Jefferson, Ivey and Holland read this they need to know that if they go to Auburn that Muschamp will be there at max two years same as Kiffen at Bama. Don’t go because of a coach go because of a program, education and establishing a relationship in the state you will live when football is over.

  9. My only concern is the O-Line. I am hoping we can pull a few of these who want to play now. With only two QBs, Two or Three RBs, and lack of WR’s I would think these kids would be all over this.


    What do you think our final number will be? 17 or 20? We have 27 available. We should carry over at least 5-7.

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