During a first-half timeout in the Florida men’s basketball team’s 68-66 loss to Vanderbilt last week with about a dozen recruits in the stands of the sellout crowd, UF football coach Jim McElwain and six of his top returning players took to half court.
Fresh of a second straight SEC East title — and subsequently a second straight loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game — McElwain proclaimed Year 3 will be the year the Gators break through on the gridiron.
“When we get back to Atlanta,” McElwain said, “we’re going to kick the door down.”
In order to do that, though, McElwain will likely need a strong finish on the recruiting trail ahead of Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
Right now, Florida’s 2017 class is just 15 members strong, is without a five-star recruit for the second straight year, and ranks 28th in the nation. That puts the Gators at 10th in the SEC — fifth in the East.
UF is at risk of finishing with a class that falls outside of the top 20 for the second time in three years.
The class took a major blow when Elijah Blades — a four-star cornerback prospect from California — decommitted from the program on Wednesday.
But what Florida currently lacks in quantity, it hopes to make up for in the quality of the prospects it is bringing in.
Only two schools ranked ahead of Florida — Clemson (11th) and Stanford (17th) — have the same number or fewer commitments than the Gators, meaning Florida’s low ranking can at least in part be attributed to the size of the class.
“They’re aware of the direction we’re heading,” McElwain said a week after the SEC championship game, “and really there are a lot of people, a lot of those recruits see the opportunity here based on where we’re at from a numbers standpoint and yet this Florida brand is something special.”
In two years, McElwain has amassed a 19-8 overall record and has won the SEC East each year, the first coach to do so in his first two seasons.
Five members of the class are already enrolled and expected to participate in spring practice.
Three of the early enrollees hail from South Florida: four-star offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort (Booker T. Washington), four-star tight end Kemore Gamble (Miami Southridge) and three-star outside linebacker James Houston (American Heritage).
Headlining Florida’s nine oral commitments are defensive end Zachary Carter, a consensus four-star prospect from the Tampa Bay area and the third-ranked strongside defensive end according to 247sports.com’s composite rankings.
Three members come from South Florida: Marco Wilson, a four-star cornerback out of American Heritage and the younger brother of former UF cornerback and potential first-round draft pick Quincy Wilson; quarterback Jake Allen out of St. Thomas Aquinas; and three-star cornerback Shawn Davis out of Miami Southridge.
Oral commitments are non-binding until the player sends in his letter of intent.
And Florida is working up to the final minute in an attempt to shore up the recruiting class. Florida is hosting more than a dozen recruits this weekend.
FLORIDA 2017 COMMITMENTS
Position Name, Height/Weight, School
OT: Kadeem Telfort, 6-7, 300, Miami Booker T. Washington
TE: Kemore Gamble, 6-4, 216, Miami Southridge
ATH: Kadarius Toney, 6-0, 177, Eight Mile (Ala.) Blount
OLB: James Houston, 6-1, 225, Fort Lauderdale American Heritage
DT: Kyree Campbell, 6-4, 320, Wyoming Seminary Prep
DE: Zachary Carter, 6-4.5, 250, Hillsborough
CB: Marco Wilson, 6-0, 180, Fort Lauderdale American Heritage
WR: Daquon Green, 6-1, 185, Tampa Bay Tech
OT: T.J. Moore, 6-5.5, 290, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
RB: Malik Davis, 5-11, 190, Tampa Jesuit
CB: Shawn Davis, 5-11, 190, Miami Southridge
QB: Jake Allen, 6-3, 200, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
OLB: Ventrell Miller, 6-0, 227, Lakeland Kathleen
TE: Zech Byrd, 6-6, 235, Millbrook (Ala.) Stanhope Elmore