The Florida Gators got their QB. Say hello to Marcus Stokes, Gator Nation.
Stokes, an Elite 11 finalist and a consensus four-star product out of Nease High School in Jacksonville (yes, the same high school that produced Tim Tebow) has flipped from Penn State and committed to Florida. He also had offers from Utah, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Indiana, and others. In his flip announcement today, he declared that his recruiting is “completely shut down.”
Marcus Stokes was rumored by some to be Florida’s go-to plan after the Gators missed on Jaden Rashada, who went to Miami. And the offer list is solid, albeit not eye-popping (although some schools that might have liked him may have said, “he’s already committed elsewhere, why bother?”)
But then you watch the tape, and you see that Stokes is more than merely a backup plan for the Gators.
In today’s world of college football, the quarterback has to be able to run at least somewhat. He doesn’t have to be an elite runner, but he has to be an adequate one so that if the pocket breaks down, there’s at least a nonzero chance that the QB can get out of there and avoid a monster loss in the form of a sack. Marcus Stokes checks that box. He’s what I would call a slightly-above-average runner.
Stokes, though, shines as a passer, which is why most recruiting services won’t give him the “dual threat” label. The arm strength is very good, although perhaps not at that top tier. But it’s plenty good enough for him to be a reliable deep-ball thrower, and that as much as anything else sums up Stokes’ game. He is deadly accurate when given a clean pocket, and even on the run, he’s capable of making some nice things happen by fitting the football into tight spaces.
Of course, being from the same high school that Tim Tebow came from, Stokes mans the controls of a spread offense that utilizes a lot of run-pass option. The running will slow for him considerably in college, I’d imagine, as that’s just not his strength, but he’s going to make teams have to respect his legs at the very least. If he adjusts to the speed of the SEC and can learn to make decisions accordingly, Florida will have gained the ideal quarterback for Billy Napier’s system.
I don’t know that I would say that Marcus Stokes is ready to go right away. Some of the mistakes that scouts warn about, like throwing balls into double coverage on the run, will have to be cleaned up. But with time in the system and some live reps, Stokes should develop into a game-ready quarterback by 2024- and possibly a very good one, at that.
The commitment of Stokes is simply the latest wave in a tsunami train of hits on the recruiting trail.
It all started on June 21, when defensive lineman Isaiah Nixon dumped Central Florida and flipped to Florida. Four days later, fellow defensive lineman Gavin Hill joined him. Two days after that, cornerback Sharif Denson completed the hat trick. And then on Monday, a third defensive lineman, TJ Searcy, filled out the grand slam by making it four commitments in the span of two weeks.
Now, with the addition of Marcus Stokes, Florida now has five commitments in the last sixteen days- and all four of them are of consensus four-star caliber.