University of Florida

The Florida Gators could make another Signing Day splash by landing these top linemen

American Heritage defensive lineman Andrew Chatfield (9) is a top target for the Florida Gators. Chatfield is rated No. 211 in the country.
American Heritage defensive lineman Andrew Chatfield (9) is a top target for the Florida Gators. Chatfield is rated No. 211 in the country.

The name to know is Emory Jones.

He’s the most important player in Florida’s 16th-ranked recruiting class and will remain as such regardless of what happens on National Signing Day, which is coming up on Feb. 7. Jones, along with the majority of Florida’s class, already signed with the Gators back in December during the inaugural early signing period.

He might not be the highest-rated player headed to Gainesville when most recruits decide their future homes, but he did address quarterback, the team’s neediest position. So now it’s up to coach Dan Mullen to try and fill other positions of need, of which there are basically two: Offensive and defensive line.

The team’s main targets at offensive line are four-star tackles Richard Gouraige, Nicholas Petit-Frere and William Barnes.

Gouraige, who committed to Florida under the Jim McElwain regime, is the only one among the trio who appears headed into signing day pledged to Florida. A 6-5, 271-pound tackle, Gouraige is rated the No. 81 high school player in the nation by the 24/7Sports Composite and comes from Tampa.

Petit-Frere is also from Tampa, though if he signs with Florida, he’ll be its highest-rated recruit by a wide margin. The 6-6, 272-pound tackle is rated the No. 7 player in the nation as well as its best offensive tackle.

Barnes is the biggest of the group at 6-4, 325 pounds, and he actually attended the same high school (Apopka) as Martez Ivey. He’s rated as the country’s 53rd-best player.

Apopka’s Ed Montilus, a three-star guard, is another possibility.

Any players UF signs at the position will join early enrollees Chris Bleich and Noah Banks, a pair of three-star signees.

Andrew Chatfield and Malcolm Lamar are two top targets along the defensive line.

Chatfield, a soon-to-be American Heritage Plantation alumnus, is rated No. 211 in the country while Lamar is rated No. 220.

Junior college defensive tackle Noah Jefferson is another name to watch.

Like its offensive line, Florida’s defensive line didn’t lose much to graduation or the NFL Draft this offseason aside from starting tackle Taven Bryan. Recruiting the position is about building strong depth capable of frequent rotation.

The other position to watch is wideout, where four-star Justin Watkins joins Gouraige as the only other player committed to the Gators heading into signing day. Watkins is a speedy 5-11, 172-pound slot guy who, for what it’s worth, committed and decommitted from three separate schools — LSU, Florida State and Texas — before picking Florida.

The Gators are also still targeting Pensacola native and former commit Jacob Copeland, a four-star pass-catcher touted as the 12th-best receiver in the class. Copeland tweeted a picture of Mullen and his staff visiting his home on Thursday night.

Receiver could be considered a position of need depending on how the NCAA rules in the cases of Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes. Jefferson transferred to Florida from Ole Miss after the Rebels were slapped with sanctions and Grimes, a St. Thomas Aquinas alumnus, transferred from Ohio State to be closer to family.

If they’re granted waivers and are deemed eligible to play immediately, that fortifies Florida’s receiver depth.

If not, Copeland and Watkins become even more valuable.

UF Class of 2018

Already enrolled

Position, player, height, weight, school

QB: Emory Jones, 6-3, 195 pounds, Heard County (GA).

S: Amari Burney, 6-1, 215 pounds, Calvary Christian.

S: Trey Dean, 6-2, 180 pounds, Dutchtown (GA).

RB: Dameon Pierce, 5-11, 205 pounds, Bainbridge (GA).

ATH: Iverson Clement, 5-11, 200 pounds, Rancocas Valley Regional (NJ).

OT: Noah Banks, 6-7, 305 pounds, Iowa Western Community College (JUCO).

OT: Chris Bleich, 6-6;,305 pounds, Wyoming Valley West (PA).


TE: Kyle Pitts, 6-6, 235 pounds, Archbishop Wood (PA).

LB: David Reese, 6-3, 213 pounds, Vero Beach.

S: John Huggins, 6 feet, 200 pounds, Mainland.

TE: Dante Lang, 6-5, 220 pounds, Boca Raton.

K: Evan McPherson, 6 feet, 165 pounds, Fort Payne (AL).


OT: Richard Gouraige, 6-foot-5, 271 pounds, Cambridge Christian School.

WR: Justin Watkins, 5-foot-11, 172 pounds, East Ridge.