Jim McElwain wanted to make sure he signed immediate impact players for key weaknesses that existed on the Florida roster in 2015. The kicking problems were obvious from the first half of the season and only got worse. Behind Kelvin Taylor at running back, the Gators didn’t decide much this fall. They continually searched for speed at the receiver position.
All three spots were filled on junior college signing day last week with the additions of athlete Dre Massey, kicker Eddy Pineiro and running back Mark Thompson.
“Mark, Dre and Eddy are all guys that we are excited about getting in here,” McElwain said. “We're going to have a real competitive spring. It's going to be fun."
Massey, a four-star recruit, brings game-changing speed that can help the Florida offense in 2016. He’s originally from Greenville, S.C., where he became a high school legend who scored 11 touchdowns in one game. Massey played at Holmes (Miss.) Community College while posting 452 rushing yards and 21 catches for 548 receiving yards.
"Dre is a guy that can hurt you in a lot of phases of the game because of his flat-out speed,” McElwain said. “He's fun to watch. They play him in multiple positions as well. He has an opportunity to be a return guy. I see him in a receiver-back slash sweep -- a lot of different ways to get him the football because obviously he's got some juice."
Florida signed Pineiro out of Miami (Fla.) ASA Junior College, and he was committed to Alabama for most of this year. McElwain and his staff didn’t back away, recruiting him throughout the process and ultimately flipping him to play his four years of eligibility in Gainesville. The Gators had a glaring need at kicker and offer a clear path to a starting position if Pineiro has a good offseason and wins the job.
"Eddy, he can kick,” McElwain said. “So that's a good thing."
Thompson is the lone five-star recruit currently in the Florida recruiting class. He signed with Florida out of Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. Thompson, a second team NJCAA All-American, ran for 1,298 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.
With Taylor leaving early to pursue a career in the NFL, Thompson will spend the spring battling with sophomores Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett for the starting position to replace Taylor. Lamical Perine will join the team in the summer and compete for immediate playing time.
Thompson’s blend of a 6-2, 220-pound frame with his speed makes him a factor to be heavily involved from day one.
"Mark is a guy, he's an SEC back. He's good size obviously. You guys will see when he walks through the door you'll know -- you know what I'm getting at? He runs behind his pads and he has really good speed. We're excited about that."