With the dead period now over, recruiting will begin to pickup for the Florida football program in the coming weeks.
Friday Nights Lights takes place July 25, and the start of fall training camp and football season next month will only bring more prospects to campus.
The Gators have nine verbal commitments and 12 more scholarships available at this time, excluding walk-ons. Potential transfers and early departures could make room for around 25 signees.
UF’s class is not ranked in the top 25 by Rivals, Scout or 247Sports, but ESPN is much higher on the group. The four-letter network ranked the Gators No. 14 prior to Deontai Williams’ decommitment Saturday, and seven of their nine pledges are ESPN300 members.
Florida’s last three commits (Derrick Dillon, Sheriron Jones and Jerome Baker) are big-time prospects in the eyes of every website. ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill isn’t surprised by the recent additions.
“Here’s what people don’t understand: Florida is the type of program that has enough clout and established viability that one down year doesn’t alter their fortunes in recruiting, certainly not long term,” Florida said. “They resurrected the 2014 class in January when they added Jalen Tabor, Thomas Holley and some others, and that momentum I think kicked right into spring football. Then they get on the road, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm.
“You go and get a guy like Derrick Dillon who everybody is real high on. He’s an offensive weapon. I think they need to continue to add offensive firepower at skill positions, and I believe you’re going to see them go after some quality defensive ends. You’re going to lose Dante Fowler early to the NFL draft, so they have to continue reestablishing that depth.”
The Gators are currently considered the team to beat for four ESPN five-star recruits — wide receiver George Campbell, offensive tackle Martez Ivey and defensive ends Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson. They won’t be making their decisions anytime soon, but Luginbill thinks that could work out in Florida’s favor.
“You don’t want to lock everybody up too early,” he said. “It’s like having a big marlin on the line. If it’s 500 yards away, then you got all these sharks in the water trying to nip at it. So you want to take things down the stretch and be able to utilize official visit weekends in December and January. That’s not a bad thing because you can gain momentum in recruiting off of positive results on the field.
“I’m one of the people that thinks Florida will have a phenomenal year, and everybody’s been laughing at me. I think if they don’t get injured again from a talent standpoint, they’re going to have a season like they had two years ago with the new offense and a defense that’s going to be outstanding. All that’s going to do is help them close strong in recruiting, which could be pretty dangerous.”