Kan Li / Scout

Florida roster with increased south Florida flavor

There is something to be said for winning football games and having a roster with a healthy amount of players that played their high school ball in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Of course top players come from other parts of the state as well, but there are more NFL players from that geographical area than anywhere else. The Gators under Jim McElwain are doing their part to take advantage.

Florida just fished off a top 10 recruiting class and in so doing signed 10 players from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. To talk about how significant that number is, When Jim McElwain inherited the Florida roster in 2015, there were just six total players from those two counties, part of the richest and most fertile recruiting grounds in the country.

It has never been easy for Florida to recruit South Florida like that. Even with Travaris Robinson, a highly thought of recruiter who McElwain tried to retain from Will Muschamp’s staff and was well known in South Florida recruiting circles, the Gators couldn’t do what they are now doing in South Florida, and it should only get better.

In 2015, McElwain’s first roster consisted of just two players from Miami-Dade County. Quarterback Treon Harris and receiver C.J. Worton were it for Florida. In 2017, the Gators signed six. They signed six others Miami-Dade in the first two recruiting classes Jim McElwain has brought in. Eleven of those will be on scholarship in the fall, nine more than he inherited.

Most of the ones on roster are already playing. Antonio Callaway was signed to McElwain’s first class and is the team’s leading playmaker at receiver. Keivonnis Davis, also with the 2015 class, has started a couple of times at defensive end and is used quite often. Rayshad Jackson is a special team’s player that saw action on defense in the Gators’ Outback Bowl win over Iowa and played well at linebacker.

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The 2016 class saw three players signed from Dade. Linebacker Vosean Joseph was a top backup at linebacker and starred late in this, his freshman season when injury occurred. He is expected to make huge contributions in 2017. Eddy Pineiro came from Dade, via junior college and is the kicker Florida desperately needed this past season who received some all-conference recognition. C.J. McWilliams was an underrated corner coming out of high school that was set to see the field before an ACL injury sidelined his season before it got started.

Florida signed six from Dade in 2017. Corners C.J. Henderson and Brian Edwards should make their mark in year one as Gators and both will compete for starting spots and immediate playing time. Safety Shawn Davis was recruited by everyone and their brother and looks to make an impact as well. Offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort comes to Florida at a position in which he can see early playing time and he arrived early on campus and will compete this spring. Lacedrick Brunson is the linebacker sleeper in the class, if you are going to get a sleeper, get one from this area of the country.

While Dade is where they made their biggest mark, working Broward County has also been a task they were pushing. McElwain inherited four players from Broward County on the roster in 2015. Defensive tackle Khairi Clark, defensive end Bryan Cox, receiver Brandon Powell, and corner Quincy Wilson. Two of those return again in 2017, Cox and Wilson will both likely be playing in the NFL in 2017.

In his first year McElwain added guard Richerd Desir-Jones and running back Jordan Sherit to the roster. Scarlett is the current starter at his position while Desir-Jones is a top reserve at guard. Joshua Hammond was added in 2016 from Broward and is a top reserve at receiver heading into the 2017 season after making several big plays as a freshman in 2016.

The 2017 class saw the additions of the American Heritage trio of defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton, corner Marco Wilson, and linebacker James Houston IV. Slaton and Wilson are earmarked for early playing time with a chance to start for each as freshmen. Houston is recovering from an ACL tear and could be ready by the start of the season, but they won’t rush it.

The last Broward County prospect on the list is quarterback Jake Allen. is a guy the staff got on really early with several camp tryouts that he performed well. They have coached him up in that setting and are excited to have him. Though he will compete in the fall with the other quarterbacks, it is expected he will redshirt.

So McElwain inherited four from Broward County and will have seven on the roster in 2017. Just this past year, the Gators signed 9 of the top 16 prospects from Dade and Broward combined. They aren’t just taking prospects down there just because of the location. They are mining the area for the best.

If you remove IMG Academy from the mix of Florida high school prospects because they recruit nationally for prospects and an overwhelming number of their players are form out-of-state. 11 of the top 37 players in the state of Florida (other than IMG) came from Dade and Broward counties… nearly a third of the entire state.

Florida assistant Randy Shannon has had the biggest impact in his two plus years in landing all of these South Florida prospects. Along with on-campus recruiting coordinator John Herron they stepped it up big time in 2017.

In 2018, the Gators look to make an even bigger impact. Florida already has a commitment from corner Divaad Wilson out of Miami. The Gators also added secondary coach Corey Bell who has a major influence in South Florida among recruiting circles along with assistant Ja’Juan Seider, who has will bring more influence down there.

Seider is expected to open the doors a little better in Palm Beach County as well. The Gators missed on Palm Beach standouts this past cycle. They have landed two in the time that McElwain has been on campus in offensive lineman Fredrick Johnson (2015) and cornerback McArthur Burnett (2016).

It wasn’t a great year for Palm Beach, but the area can be a gold mine of talent at times and Florida looks ready to make their move.

In all 23 of the possible 85 scholarship football players on the University of Florida football roster will hail from Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties. The South Florida influence on the Gators has become real and only going to become more real. 


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