Jim McElwain and staff seem to live for the scramble, approaching signing day with a number of spots to fill whether they get filled or not. Last year, they came up empty more often than not down the stretch, this time around, and despite national scrutiny over a lackluster January, they were ready with a plan to really make an impression on signing day and did well when it mattered... on signing day.
“Even the five guys that are joining us early for spring practice, there's a lot of things that go into it,” McElwain said to lead off his post-signing day media session. “A lot of relationships, a lot of things to be built. Things are still trending so fast upward I can't believe it. We're getting there with the facilities, which has been a huge asset for us as we continue to move forward collecting future Gators.”
Florida seemed to gain a little momentum early this week when several Gator Greats chimed in on social media to let prospects know just how important their time at Florida was. Names like Danny Wuerffel, Kevin Carter, Keiwan Ratliff, Jon Bostic, Brandon Spikes, and many more touted their time at Florida as the best of their lives and one of the, if not the best decision they ever made.
“One of the things that I would really like to say how excited I am about the former players who got behind what we were doing in recruiting and believed in the direction we're headed, have been so supportive in everything that we're doing,” McElwain said about the outpouring over Twitter.
The Gators came into this recruiting class with three primary needs to fill with numbers. They had to have at least three defensive tackles. They needed to load up in the secondary. They also needed to add linebackers. All three units were depleted on the roster
“Part of the needs, some bigger bodies,” McElwain said. “Obviously the secondary is big. As we looked at it, we tried to stay balanced throughout each position group so we don't get that big turnover in certain spots. Moving forward, I know these guys are excited about the direction we're headed, the direction the university has allowed us to go. Those are some fun things.
Florida signed a very nice defensive tackle class. Five-star Tedarrell Slaton, four-star Elijah Conliffe, and early enrollee Tyree Campbell are all bodies that should come in and immediately see time on the depth chart.
The Gators had the nation’s number six defensive class while going heavy into south Florida for several prospects. The group was highlighted by cornerback C.J. Henderson (who is not included in the ranking and listed as an athlete), Shawn Davis, Marco Wilson, and Brian Edwards, all from the south Florida area. The Gators went out of state for Houston, Texas safety Donovan Stiner and Louisiana native Brad Stewart
“Just look at the numbers,” McElwain said of the secondary. “If we wouldn't have hit on a couple of those it could have been like our O-line was the first spring I was here. We weren't just trying to fill with bodies, we got some quality. That's what's exciting.”
The Gators have been playing catch up with numbers at the linebacker position for a few years, and they finally have done that. Four newcomers in Lakeland native Ventrell Miller, Ft Lauderdale’s James Houston, Orlando’s Nick Smith, and Miami’s Lacedrick Brunson will be asked to get ready when they arrive on campus to work their way into the two-deep.
Bay Area and Dade-Broward dominated the class…
The Gators signed 17 players from the state of Florid and 16 of those came from two different geographical areas in the state. Florida worked hard to land 10 prospects from Dade and Broward counties in south Florida and came up almost equally successful in Tampa Bay with six. Orlando’s Nick Smith was the lone player that signed from out of those two areas.
“The class itself, as we looked at it when we got here, one of the key areas we needed to do was to make sure we took care of areas that we felt were always big to the Gators,” McElwain said. “We started those inroads in that Tampa area. We spread throughout the state. We focused on the fact that we got a number of guys that were highly rated in the state of Florida, and those numbers will continue to rise as we move forward. That's something that's exciting.
In In the Bay area, Florida signed four-star defensive end Zachary Carter, four-star receiver Daquon Green, four-star receiver James Robinson, three-star linebacker Ventrell Miller, three-star running back Malik Davis, and three-star running back Adarius Lemons.
In south Florida, Florida added three-star quarterback Jake Allen, four-star tight end Kemore Gamble, four-star offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort, five-star defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton, three-star linebacker James Houston, four-star corner Marco Wilson, four-star corner C.J. Henderson, three-star safety Shawn Davis, three-star cornerback Brian Edwards, and two-star linebacker Lacedrick Brunson.