(Photo via Jaden Rashada, Instagram)
The recruitment of Jaden Rashada will go down in history as yet another example of why you never give up on a recruit, no matter how secure he seems to be at another program.
Back in June, Billy Napier’s program was considered to have suffered a catastrophic defeat on the recruiting trail when four-star QB prospect Jaden Rashada (Pittsburg, CA) chose to commit to Miami, not Florida. Rashada was, after all, the top QB on Florida’s board once Arch Manning was out of the fold. The Gators did rebound and wrestle Marcus Stokes away from Penn State, but with Rashada being the more polished and less-of-a-project QB, it still stung to lose him.
So Florida stayed in hot pursuit of Jaden Rashada despite his commitment to the Hurricanes. As rumors began to build that Rashada was growing unhappy with his prospects at Miami, the Gators applied an all-out blitz. And in the wee hours of Friday morning (ET, at least), the Gators finally got their man.
Let’s make sure we’re on the same page here. Every single Gator commit who becomes a Gator signee will have to prove himself on the field before his value as a recruit can be truly assessed. But from a flex-your-might standpoint, this flip of Jaden Rashada is easily one of the top ten recruiting victories in Florida Gators history. It might just be a program-defining moment.
Just for good measure, let’s lay the scope of this out again. This is a massive deal.
Rashada, a unanimous four-star QB prospect, had offers from a wide variety of major Power Five school. Among his other offers: Oklahoma, LSU, Texas A&M, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Mississippi, Auburn, Penn State, and UCLA. You can watch his high school hihglights here.
Rashada is a pocket passer by trade, but by no means is he a statue in the pocket. He’s not exactly Anthony Richardson-level elusive, but he’s crafty and nimble enough to buy time in the pocket and extend plays with his legs. He’ll need to grow into his frame more before he can ggo 1-on-1 with defenders in the open field in the SEC (he’s 6’4, 185) but a full twelve months with Mark Hocke should take care of that.
The thing I like most about Jaden Rashada’s tape- and scouts confirm this is how he usually operates, as opposed to just on the playd he chose for his highlight tape- is that he’s a poised, confident passer. He steps into every throw from the pocket, displaying his quick, compact, almost effortless throwing motion. And most of his throws are absolute bullseyes- Rashada has a way of placing the football into spots where only his teammates can get it.
Another excellent trait he has is tthat he knows when to throw different kinds of passes- rainbows, lasers, and half-and-half balls- and he’s deadly accurate with each of them. Some of this is his anticipation of what kind of throw will be needed a second oor two before he lets the ball go, and some of this is his pure intelligence. And it’s all a part of Jaden Rashada’s allure; he’s a very talented player with an extremely high football IQ and basic athletic instincts.
With the flip of Rashada, Florida takes away a consensus top-ten QB from Miami in the class of 2023. The flip also resulted in Florida jumping Miami in the 247Sports Composite rankings; Florida’s class now sits at #8, while Miami’s falls back to #9.
And on top of the rankings boost that resulted from the flip of Jaden Rashada, Gator fans now have the biggest piece of proof yet that Billy Napier can indeed do what he came to Florida to do- recruit at the top level.
Never mind the Signing Day flips of Deviin Moore and Kamari Wilson; never mind taking Kelby Collins away from his childhood and in-state team, which just so happens to still be in the midst of one of the most dominant dynasties the sport has ever seen; never mind repairing and the relationship with Shemar James after he decommitted from the Dan Mullen administration. Those all have to take a backseat to what Napier just did. This one rides solo in its own tier.
This was undoubtedly the biggest recruiting victory in Napier’s time at Florida. To not only go get the top QB on your board, but to win him back- after many Gator fans felt confident in landing him the first time, too- tells me that Billy Napier isn’t just a great recruiter, but he’s a relentless one, too. Florida may not land every recruit it wants, but after flipping Jaden Rashada back, there is legitimate evidence to state that it is not wise to count Florida out in any of those recruiting battles, either.
All of this was why I wanted Billy Napier in the first place. He wasn’t hired to simply clear the bar of being a better recruiter than Dan Mullen. He was hired to make precisely these types of monstrous splashes on the recruiting trail, so that the Gators have a feasible path to competing for championships again.
And now, Florida is one small step closer to doing just that.