A year ago, Florida coach Jim McElwain capped his inaugural recruiting class with a flurried finish.
The Gators’ 2015 class was considered the weakest in the SEC heading into National Signing Day, but McElwain & Co., inked a pair of five stars and closed with a cornerstone class ranked No. 21 nationally, per 247Sports.
Tuesday’s NSD will be much less eventful, though.
The Gators have already welcomed a school-record 13 mid-year enrollees, as McElwain used UF’s momentum from a surprising 10-4 season — including a trip to the SEC Championship game — to secure as many early commitments as his roster would allow.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys coming in here. Just know, we’ve got some good guys coming. Lots,” McElwain said, as Florida currently has 26 commits in a class ranked No. 6 in the country. “Believe me, I’m excited as heck.”
Florida entered the offseason with a specific recruiting checklist: find a quarterback, some playmakers, restock the defensive line and add a kicker. Aside from some several public whiffs targeting blue-chip receivers, the Gators have cleared the board.
They signed their quarterback of the future in four-star early enrollee Feleipe Franks. They added additional depth at the position, too, with freshman project Kyle Trask and Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby.
Meanwhile, several of UF’s mid-year enrollees are considered instant impact performers, offering immediate upgrades at multiple positions of need. The influx of talent includes the program’s next potential headliner at corner (four-star Cocoa standout Chauncey Gardner), JUCO playmakers ‘Dre Massey (slot wideout, returner) and Mark Thompson (tailback), four-star wideouts Freddy Swain and Joshua Hammond and ballyhooed kicker Eddy Pineiro, a social media star who routinely posts videos drilling 60-yard field goals.
“You fit the pieces to the parts and the parts to what we’ve got to do,” McElwain said. “And change the carburetor a little bit and clean out the exhaust. … I can’t talk about anybody yet, I just know we got some good guys coming. Good things for the Gators.”
Although Florida ended the season on a dispiriting three-game skid, it hasn’t derailed much of McElwain’s recruiting momentum.
With just a few spots remaining in the class, Florida hopes to land a couple big-fish on NSD, notably American Heritage tight end Nick Eubanks, five-star cornerback Kristian Fulton and four-star wideout Tyrie Cleveland.
“I’ve got to think some of those shortcomings in some of those games, there’s probably some recruits [who] saw an opportunity to maybe come in and play at a pretty darned good place,” McElwain said on the Paul Finebaum Show earlier this month. “That momentum as we move forward, got to tell you, it’s a great time to be a Gator.”
2016 FLORIDA COMMITMENTS
▪ Feleipe Franks (QB) , Wakulla, 6-5, 210
▪ Kyle Trask (QB) , Manvel (Texas), 6-5, 211
▪ Mark Thompson (RB), Dodge City C.C. (Kan.), 6-2, 230
Lamical Perine (RB), Theodore (Ala.), 5-11, 210
▪ Joshua Hammond (WR), Hallandale, 6-0, 180
▪ Freddy Swain (WR), North Marion, 6-1, 188
▪ ‘Dre Massey (WR), Holmes C.C. (Miss.), 6-0, 185
Rick Wells (WR), Raines, 6-0, 185
Brett Heggie (OL), Mount Dora, 6-4, 300
▪ Stone Forsythe (OL), West Orange, 6-7, 325
Jawaan Taylor (OL), Cocoa, 6-5, 330
▪ Jordan Smith (DE), Lithonia (Ga.), 6-5, 220
Antonneous Clayton (DE), Dooley County (Ga.), 6-3, 218
Jachai Polite (DE), Mainland, 6-3, 250
Shavar Manuel (DT), IMG Academy, 6-4, 290
Jeremiah Moon (LB), Hoover (Ala.), 6-4, 205
▪ David Reese (LB), Farmington (Mich.), 6-1, 235
Vosean Joseph (LB), Norland, 6-2, 210
Aaron Robinson (DB), Deerfield Beach, 6-1, 178
Jeawon Taylor (DB), Park Crossing (Ala.), 6-2, 192
▪ Chauncey Gardner (DB), Cocoa, 6-0, 194
▪ McArthur Burnett (DB), Pahokee, 5-10, 175
Quincy Lenton (DB), Meridian (Miss.), 6-0, 190
Antonio Nelson (DB), Carver (Ala.), 6-2, 175
Christopher McWilliams (CB), Southwest Miami, 5-11, 164
▪ Eddy Pineiro (K), ASA College Miami, 6-1, 180
▪ Denotes mid-year enrollee