With a school-record 12 mid-year enrollees already in the fold, Florida capped National Signing Day with a solid but hardly spectacular finish Wednesday.
The Gators reeled in dynamic four-star wideout Tyrie Cleveland, who flipped to UF from Houston, but they also whiffed on several five-star targets (defensive end Brian Burns, Florida State; cornerback Kristian Fulton, LSU) and saw two players decommit and choose rival schools.
Still, coach Jim McElwain wasn’t sweating over who Florida didn’t sign Wednesday, saying: “We addressed some of our position needs.”
The Gators beefed up their quarterback depth, highlighted by four-star Army All-American early enrollee Feleipe Franks (Wakulla). They also added a number of playmakers (namely junior-college tailback Mark Thompson and wideout Freddie Swain), another headliner pass rusher (four-star end Antonneous Clayton) and re-stocked the cupboard with a bevy of athletic defensive backs.
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“I think you can sort of tell what we were trying to do in this class. We were trying to restructure some of the rooms, get some new blood in there and some more competition as we move forward, ” said McElwain, as Florida officially signed 25 prospects.
“Last time I checked that’s pretty much a full class, so I feel pretty good about it.”
Cleveland, who was late to his own signing ceremony because he was reportedly still undecided, was a particularly important coup, giving the Gators a blue-chipper at a position of need and a potential complement to sophomore receiver Antonio Callaway, a former star at Booker T. Washington.
Cleveland was a top-50 recruit and the No. 4 wideout in the 2016 class. The 6-2, 190-pound Houston native actually grew up in Jacksonville and was a big Florida fan as a kid.
“It’s a little bit of a homecoming for him,” McElwain said.
“Here’s a guy who grew up wanting to be a Gator, to play in The Swamp.”
The Gators also flipped junior-college cornerback Joseph Putu from Arkansas and managed to hold onto several South Florida prospects (Southwest cornerback C.J. McWilliams and Norland linebacker Vosean Joseph) who flirted with other programs until officially putting ink to paper.
“It’s kind of interesting; you start a marathon and then a bunch of people jump in with a quarter of a mile to go and hand them the cup of water and you’re still hanging on,” McElwain said.
“That’s part of recruiting.”
The Gators couldn’t fend off a pair of rivals from poaching two key prospects, however, as All-American defensive tackle Shavar Manuel (IMG Academy) flipped to Florida State after visiting Tallahassee over the weekend. Meanwhile, Deerfield Beach cornerback Aaron Robinson switched his commitment from UF to Alabama. The three-star prospect told the Miami Herald he decommited because McElwain did not make time for an in-home visit.
In the end, Florida failed to sign a single top-10 player in the state, finishing with just four prospects ranked inside the top 50. In comparison, Miami signed nine such recruits with a new coach.
After entering Signing Day with a class positioned just outside the top five, the Gators ended up with the nation’s 13th ranked class, per 247Sports.
“We’ve got a long ways to go,” McElwain said, specifically referring to UF upping its in-state recruiting.
“It’s something we still need to get better at, and we’ll keep working at it.”
Feleipe Franks, QB
Kyle Trask, QB
Mark Thompson, RB
Dodge City CC (Kansas)
Lamical Perine, RB
Joshua Hammond, WR
Freddy Swain, WR
’Dre Massey, WR
Holmes CC (Miss.)
Rick Wells, WR
Brett Heggie, OL
Stone Forsythe, OL
Jawaan Taylor, OL
Jordan Smith, DE
Antonneous Clayton, DE
Dooley County (Ga.)
Jachai Polite, DE
Jeremiah Moon, LB
David Reese, LB
Vosean Joseph, LB
Jeawon Taylor, DB
Park Crossing (Ala.)
Chauncey Gardner, DB
McArthur Burnett, DB
Quincy Lenton, DB
C.J. McWilliams, CB
Eddy Pineiro, K
ASA College Miami
Tyrie Cleveland, WR
Joseph Putu, CB
N.D. State College of Science