If you somehow aren’t familiar with college football and are reading this site, here’s your first lesson: recruiting just never stops.
Florida wrapped up their 2016 recruiting class by flipping wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland from Houston. The general consensus is that the Gators pulled in a good, not great class.
But… recruiting never stops. And so while National Signing Day of 2017 may be 364 days away, Jim McElwain is already beginning to assemble his class for next year. So it’s really not too early for us to take what some might call a way-too-early look at the Gators’ Class of 2017.
Florida currently has three commits in its 2017 Class, but the high quality of the players they’ve got committed far outweighs the small quantity for now. And it starts at the most important position on the field.
Quarterback Jake Allen, from powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School, was the first to commit, back in July. He promptly began his junior season by throwing four touchdowns in a 35-3 curb-stomping of Booker T. Washington, one that unceremoniously snapped BTW’s 41 game winning streak. He took that momentum and ran with it, capping a tremendous season by leading Aquinas to a state championship. The goal may be to sign a quarterback in every recruiting class, but Florida’s getting more than just a quarterback in Allen. They’re getting a winner.
Allen already stands 6’3, and in the year and a half before the Gators begin their 2017 season against Michigan, he may grow bigger still. A traditional pocket passer with excellent touch is exactly what Jim McElwain is looking for with the offense he runs, and Allen can check that off. And while I’m rattling off traits Allen can check off, let’s add mobility/speed and intelligence to that list. If he just bulks up a little bit, he has a real shot to make an instant impact.
Five days after Allen committed, he was joined in the Class of 2017 by Kadeem Telfort, an offensive tackle from Miami. Telfort may only have three stars, but brings the ideal frame (6’6, 335) and packs quite a punch off the snap. He needs to work a little bit on his footwork, but he too has the chance to make an immediate impact if he continues to develop in his last year of high school ball.
Rounding out the Gators’ 2017 Class is big time playmaking receiver DaQuon Green from Tampa. Green has already accepted an invitation to the 2017 Under Armour All-American Bowl. (Maybe this is why.) He combines his 6’1 frame with a 4.58 40 yard dash, tremendous natural athleticism and excellent ball skills. Of the three commits, Green probably has the best chance to start right away, although if QB Feleipe Franks struggles I reserve the right to take that back. But Green appears to be ready to play in the SEC right now, even with one more year of high school still to go.
So now the logical question is: with only three commits, where are the rest of them? And who are they?
Luckily for us as fans, Allen is a master at befriending recruits- particularly potential pass-catchers. He’s become friends with several wide receivers in the 2017 class, including Jerry Jeudy (Deerfield Beach, FL), Bruce Judson (Cocoa, FL), Donovan Peoples-Jones (Detroit) and his own high school teammate, Trevon Grimes. This, when translated to Gator fan lingo, equates to: he’s trying to get them all to become his future teammates in Gainesville. And he feels as though Florida has a real opportunity to grab each of them. Definitely keep your eyes out for these four as the recruiting cycle progresses.
However, not signing Shavar Manuel, plus the impending loss of Caleb Brantley, has created and will further create a need for a big time DT in next year’s class. Expect that to be an area of focus for McElwain and his staff this year. To repeat the general question, who are they?
Ryan Johnson could be one. He’s from Mobile, AL, and many think he’ll be headed to Auburn. But he’s friends with incoming Gator freshman running back LaMical Perine, and he’s said that he was extremely excited to get offered by Florida in December. Another DT Florida will be pursuing is Aubrey Solomon, from Leesburg, GA. Solomon enjoyed the Gators’ junior day so much last Saturday that he declared the Gators were his leader. Of course, that means precisely zero other than that Florida has an opportunity to get him, but it’s nice to know that he at least thinks that much of the Gators’ program right now.
But the big need for Florida to fill in this next class is the offensive line, and luckily, there’s an abundance of them. Some names to watch for include Isaiah Wilson (Brooklyn), Calvin Ashley (Orlando), Tedarrell Slaton (Plantation, FL) and Robert Hainsey (Bradenton). Of the four, Ashley seems to be the least likely to pick Florida, as he’s been a longtime Auburn commit. Then again, he did seem to enjoy himself on a visit to Gainesville in November, so it’s worth keeping an eye on him. And Wilson, Slaton and Hainsey (all consensus four stars) have each expressed interest in the Florida program within the last month or two. And again, interest comes and goes, but at this early stage in the process it’s worth throwing their names out as primary targets.
And of course, there are literally dozens of other recruits that I could logically foresee signing with Florida for various reasons. Top defensive back Marco Wilson is the brother of Florida DB Quincy Wilson, and even though Quincy would be gone by the time Marco gets to college, it wouldn’t exactly be farfetched that he’d follow in his brother’s footsteps. Running back Kyshaun Bryan was thrilled with Florida because they offered him a few days after last year’s Signing Day. Running back Michael Carter got to be friends with Allen when they met at Florida’s Friday Night Lights last July. Same with offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert. Same with tight end Tre McKitty. And so on.
To say that things, however you want to define them in the wild world of recruiting, can change is an understatement of Herculean proportions. But while Florida’s got a decent start on their 2017 class, there’s also a lot more work that’s still left to be done. And so it’s up to McElwain and his staff to get going, change those things regarding recruits’ feelings about the Florida program for the better, and watch that work pay off next February.