With the 2017 class on its way to filling up, we don’t think it is ever too soon to look into the future and the 2018 class that is loaded with talent and potential for Florida. Here is a look at our projected top 22 prospects on the Gators recruiting board for 2018.
Five-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence resides just north of Atlanta and in Cartersville, Georgia. His size, strong arm, and smarts with the football have all the college scouts knocking on his door and have been for quite a while now. A recent trip to Gainesville for Lawrence went better than expected and the Gators appear to be up there now with Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee for his services. This early in the process for the 2018 class, Lawrence is the clear top target for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and head coach Jim McElwain.
Running back Justin Watkins has moved on from North Marion and to Ocala Vanguard and lives just 40 miles south of the Florida campus. He’s been to multiple games in Gainesville, but the former LSU commitment has Florida State at the top of his list at this time. The Gators will continue to work on the speedy Watkins, who is as good of an athlete as you will find in high school in any class this year.
Four-star running back Lorenzo Lingard is the nephew of former Gator linebacker Howard Lingard. Originally Lingard shied away from anything Florida, but recently the interest has picked up for the state’s 110 meter hurdle champion. A terrific athlete, Lingard says he is now 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. This looks to be a Florida-Florida State battle with a decision possibly coming sometime this summer.
Jacob Copeland got his first offer after he camped with the Gators last June. Quick as lightning, but strong in every sense of the word, Copeland went up against the best defensive backs they had to offer at camp and beat them all. His camp experience was on the way home to Pensacola from Miami and a day after the Gators offered, the Canes followed suit. Needless to say, Florida has made him a big target of theirs ever since and he’s visited a few times since that camp experience as well. With over 20 offers including every major program in the south, the Gators stand in pretty good shape with Copeland.
After receiving an offer this spring, coveted four-star receiver Brian Hightower has maintained that the Gators are his leader. From California, Hightower moved to Bradenton, Florida to play football and go to school at the IMG Academy. With over 30 offers, this one is going to be a battle to land his services, but he’s one the Gators plan on battling for.
Tampa Jefferson big receiver Jermaine Eskridge was really high on the Gators at one point, then abruptly committed to Kentucky last year. He has since dropped that commitment and opened things back up. Eskridge is tall and rangy and currently likes Miami a lot, but doesn’t appear to be pulling the trigger any time soon. His size is exactly what Florida is looking for in a receiver and so they will stay on top of him.
Speedy Miami receiver Mark Pope has been to Gainesville a couple of times in the last couple of months with his teammates. With offers from the likes of Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and others, he will only continue to rise up the charts. The Gators are in there, but Alabama is his leader at this time. He could be a slot receiver type at Florida, so look the Gators to possibly turn up the heat some as time moves on.
Tampa Plant tight end Judge Culpepper is the son of Gator Great defensive tackle Bruce Culpepper and the clear top target right now at the tight end position in the 2018 class. With 24 offers under his belt including many of the top schools in the south, Culpepper has become a hot commodity on the recruiting trail. The Gator staff has already gone to see him this spring and he also visited on campus.
Four-star offensive tackle Richard Gouraige got the offer from Florida last month. He sports more than a dozen Power-5 offers and comes from the talent rich Tampa area that Florida is trying to make a priority. Gouraige says he talks to Florida assistant Chris Rumph every week, which certainly tells us the interest is there. The offensive line is always a position where Florida has to recruit numbers, and this is a big one.
With double digit offers and more coming, four-star Peach State offensive tackle Christian Armstrong is a busy guy in terms of talking to coaches and visiting programs. He’s visited Florida a couple of times and visited for the spring game. He’s pretty wide open with offers from the Gators, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU and others.
The Gators continue to mine the Yellow Hammer State for top talent and they have been on massive offensive lineman Marcus Jenkins for a while now. Jenkins goes by the nickname ‘Tank’ and has taken many visits including a couple to Florida. It has been a while, but the Gators are definitely looking to get him back on campus as soon as they can. He’s got offers from most of the major powers in the south and will certainly add more before all is said and done.
With six major offers already as a soon-to-be junior, Nick Petit-Frere has a big time upside that will draw dozens of offers before all is said and done. Another Tampa native, he is a priority for the Gators as well. No favorites yet and he will likely take his time as more offers come flowing in.
Talented athlete Amari Burney really could go to either side of the ball as a collegian. Yet another Tampa area prospect that is really starting to catch fire in terms of offers, he has offers from Florida, Auburn, Louisville, Kentucky, and others already. The Gators are in the thick of this right now, but he really is looking for an offer from Alabama. We will see if that comes.
With offers from Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, NC State and others, Stacy Kirby has turned his long, lean pass rushing frame and ability into one of the quietest hot prospects in the state of Florida. The Orlando native has been a target for Gator defensive line coach Chris Rumph for a while and will continue to be. Certainly he is one to watch moving forward.
Another Orlando area defensive end that Rumph has been after is Dennis Briggs in nearby Kissimmee. A little bigger than Kirby he hasn’t garnered the Gator offer yet, but everything about this guy says that offer is coming.
A Tennessee native and another player for IMG in Bradenton, safety Mike Jones is one of the top players in the country for the 2018 class. The Gators travelled to IMG a couple of weeks ago and saw enough of Jones that they offered the very next day. His father played at NC State so they will be a factor, but so will many of the other top programs that come calling before all is said and done.
With a growing offer list that sits at about 10 now, Jacksonville safety Chamarri Conner got the offer from Florida in the last couple of weeks and called it his “dream offer”. Part of the Trinity Christian plethora of talent, Conner looks to be a big target for the Gators moving forward.
Another 5-star on the list and another big timer from Trinity Christian in Jax, Tyreke Johnson is on everyone’s wish list. His brother signed with Florida State out of high school but has transferred; right now the Noles don’t seem to figure into the equation. His size and athleticism make him elite at the corner position and this past week says that Florida, LSU, UCLA, USC, and Stanford are the programs that are recruiting him the hardest.
Cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. is an NFL legacy where his father shined at both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins. His father just recently became the head coach at American Heritage where he attends. Surtain has liked Florida State a lot in the process, but maintains that he is open and says he has a group of five schools in LSU, Clemson, Florida State, Florida, and Alabama that are his top group at the moment. He’s another big time prospect from a school that keeps producing them and has the physical intangibles to be elite.
The Gators certainly are looking at size at the corner position and Derrik Allen has that. The four-star defensive back from Marietta, Georgia is pushing 20 offers now and that number changes all the time. The Gators have an uphill battle in terms of getting Allen and he really likes Clemson, North Carolina, and the home-state Georgia Bulldogs.
Yet another 6-foot corner the Gators like and also from a hotbed of talent that the Gators have been recruiting hard lately, Jalyn Armour-Davis has begun to take off in terms of attention and offers. He’s got seven SEC offers in hand, but really isn’t set on naming any leaders right now. He’s a talented player that we need to continue to follow.
The tallest corner prospect on the board, 6-foot-3 Isaiah Boldin is from nearby Jacksonville. He already has 16 Power-5 offers and doesn’t really have a list of favorites at this time.
More to watch…
Tampa Tech defensive end an Jonathan King and Tampa Hillsborough corner Ken Montgomery are two more prospects that are just on the cusp of this list and could be moved in at any time. We will continue to monitor their recruitment.