Around 11 a.m. on Wednesday, three four-star athletes sat at a table at Lakeland High School with their families standing in the background.
On the far left sat Deyavie Hammond, a burly 350-pound offensive tackle, who is 174th-ranked overall prospect. Next to Hammond, linebacker Lloyd Summerall, a No.128-ranked recruit, clutched a chucky doll in his lap. And on the right, tight end Keon Zipperer, ranked No.63, held another chucky doll close to his neon green shirt.
One by one, the highly touted prospects announced their choices of the colleges they intended to sign with, each declaring that he would join Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators.
The chucky dolls were an omen, a tradition that many Florida recruits have used to announce their commitment to the program.
The “Lakeland Sweep,” as many referred to it, was one of the momentous signings of the Early Signing Day for Florida.
Hammond chose the Gators over in-state rival Florida State, while Summerall and Zipperer signed with Florida over Miami.
“Those guys were nothing but straightforward with me,” Mullen said of the trio. “Everything they talked about and said they were gonna do they did … The whole Central Florida area is major Gator country … and that was really important to us to get the best players from the state of Florida in that area.”
And after adding the Lakeland trio and 17 other new signees, Florida’s standing in the 247Sports 2019 recruiting rankings rose from No. 22 at the beginning of the day to the 16th spot by the end.
Within hours of Wednesday’s 7:00 a.m. start, the Gators had signed all 17 of their 2019 original commits.
And they immediately bolstered a position that has been — and will be — one of their biggest concerns: the offensive line.
Four-star offensive lineman Michael Tarquin was Florida’s first official signing. The 6-6, 275-pound tackle chose the Gators over Clemson, Florida State, Miami and LSU.
Outside of Hammond and Tarquin, Florida signed five more offensive linemen on Wednesday, including four-star tackle Will Harrod and four-star guard Wardrick Wilson from Miami Carol City.
Quarterback Jalon Jones out of Richmond, Virginia, was another big-time Florida signee and is 247Sports’ 11-ranked QB prospect.
The four-star recruit first committed to Mullen at Mississippi State and followed Mullen’s staff to Gainesville.
“Jalon’s a guy I’ve known for quite a while,” Mullen said. “Very athletic, got great size. He’s a guy that’s always worked very hard at the discipline part of being a quarterback.”
Florida also picked up a few highly recruited linebackers in three-star prospect Jesiah Pierre and four-stars Tyron Hopper and Mohamoud Diabate.
Diabate, a 6-3, 219-pound defensive end from Auburn High School was one of biggest defensive pickups for the Gators.
The Alabama native will provide another explosive weapon off the edge, and he’s the 136th-ranked overall recruit and the ninth-ranked outside linebacker in the nation, according to 247Sports. He was a hard-fought get for Florida and chose the Gators over Georgia, Florida State, Clemson, LSU, Miami, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
Florida also signed 303-pound defensive tackle Jaelin Humphries to add more depth to its stout defensive front.
The Gators inked four-star Miami Carol City cornerback Jaydon Hill and three-star corner Chester Kimbrough for more depth in the secondary, as well as a big offensive pickup in running back Nay’Quan Wright.
The Gators could still potentially sign more athletes on Days 2 and 3 of the Early Signing Period. The regular National Signing Day is not until Feb. 6.
And despite some of their big-time signings, Mullen stressed that the Gators’ work in building this program into a juggernaut is far from over.
“Come ask me in two or three years,” Mullen said, “and I’ll tell you if we have a good recruiting class or not.”
Full List of Florida Signings
Michael Tarquin, OT, 6-6, 275, North Marion; Jalon Jones, QB, 6-3, 204, Henrico; Trent Whittemore, ATH, 6-3, 187, Buchholz; Ja’Markis Weston, WR, 6-3, 212, Clewiston; Riley Simonds, OG, 6-4, 328, Buford; Dionte Marks, WR, 5-11, 172, Deland; Kingsley Eguakun, OG, 6-4, 288, Sandalwood; Ty’Ron Hopper, OLB, 6-2, 202, Roswell; Will Harrod, OT, 6-5, 316, National Christian Academy; Jesiah Pierre, OLB, 6-2, 217, Mount Dora Christian Academy; Wardrick Wilson, OT, 6-4, 323, Miami Carol City; Chester Kimbrough, CB, 5-11, 172, Warren Easton; Jaydon Hill, CB, 6-0, 167, Bob Jones; Nay’Quan Wright, RB, 5-9, 195, Miami Carol City; Mohamoud Diabate, OLB, 6-3, 219, Auburn High; Ethan White, OT, 6-5, 390, Clearwater; Jaelin Humphries, DT, 6-4, 314, Mountain View; Deyavie Hammond, OG, 6-4, 350, Lakeland; Lloyd Summerall III, LB, 6-5, 209, Lakeland, Keon Zipperer, TE, 6-2, 242, Lakeland