The Florida Gators have fallen outside of the top 30 in the 2017 recruiting class rankings and are stumbling ahead of National Signing Day.
(Dwayne Johnson voice)
Fiiiiinally … National Signing Day … has — come — back!
Corny as that may have been, I’m legitimately excited for this cycle to end. My mind right now is warped from the amount of tweets, flips, commitments, decommitments and rumors that are circulating.
A mini-vacation in Boston next month is about all that’s holding my sanity at the moment. I’ve never been to Beantown before, and I’m looking forward to a nice lager and some clam chowder (my bucket list is so cliché).
But some time away will be nice, because I need to refresh and build up some momentum before setting up to tackle the 2018 recruiting cycle.
Speaking of momentum, there are a few teams compiling it right now, and Florida certainly isn’t one of them.
The Slump In The Swamp
This isn’t how it was supposed to go. By his second full recruiting cycle, Jim McElwain was supposed to have returned the Gators back to the prominence they experienced under Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier — at least on the recruiting trail. That hasn’t happened. From what I’ve been told, the staff in Gainesville is lacking that killer instinct to both secure commitments and retain them.
On Wednesday night, 4-star cornerback Elijah Blades backed off his pledge, and now it looks like he’ll either end up in Nebraska or at USC. Florida still has Marco Wilson and Shawn Davis on the way at cornerback, but the position was already thin, and now the next shipment to DBU(?) is going to be a little lighter than it was supposed to be.
And with the Gators’ lack of an offensive line coach, they missed out on 4-star offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert, who, rightfully, wanted to know who his position coach would be at Florida. So, he opted to commit to Miami instead. Fans in Gainesville are not happy right now.
Now, things could certainly turn around. I projected the Gators would have a big finish, and I still believe they will. They could land as many as 8-10 players by or on National Signing Day. Even though they fell outside the top 30, the Gators could certainly work their way back into the top 15 with a strong close. Optimism is at a premium right now.
As mentioned, Mark Richt’s Hurricanes are heating up at the right time. Getting Herbert on board was a big deal. Miami already managed to stave off Florida from flipping 4-star offensive tackle Navaughn Donaldson. Now, the ‘Canes can pair him with Herbert. But that isn’t the only recruiting battle Richt’s staff is about to win against the Gators.
Four-star cornerback Christopher Henderson decommitted from Miami on Oct. 3 and was considered to be a lock for Florida. Then Alabama entered the picture after realizing it needed to fill another slot in the class with a cornerback. But even after Henderson officially visited Tuscaloosa, it looked like the Gators would win out for him — especially after his official visit to Gainesville last weekend.
However, things have dramatically changed. Henderson has a few pro-Miami voices in his ear, and one is 4-star safety Trajan Bandy, who committed to the ‘Canes in August. If Henderson ends up in Coral Gables, Richt will have a ton of momentum heading into National Signing Day.
Marvin Wilson Saga
Well, this will continue to be a headline until Marvin Wilson physically announces his commitment on Wednesday. LSU has been the hot team in his recruitment, and the Tigers certainly have their own momentum building right now. But Tate Martell made it clear a couple months ago when he said Ohio State would be adding to its 5-star collection. And Jeffrey Okudah hinted at Wilson’s impending decision with a semi-cryptic tweet that foreshadowed Wilson’s future in Columbus.
If Wilson did choose the Buckeyes, he’d be their fourth commit out of the state of Texas. But it won’t be easy to fend off LSU and Florida State. Oklahoma and USF are merely for show at this point.
Flip Flop Frenzy
I briefly touched on it, but LSU has been picking up steam as well. It hosted 4-star inside linebacker Jacob Phillips for an unofficial visit last weekend, and the Nashville native made it official on Thursday by flipping his commitment from Oklahoma to the Tigers.
LSU isn’t the only SEC team looking to flip a few kids, though. As mentioned, Florida has a the chance to add a few commits via flips, and three of them are currently committed to Maryland. Defensive tackles Cam Spence, Breyon Gaddy and Brandon Gaddy are all walking the line for a move to the Gators’ class. Spence simply wants to see who the Terps will hire as their defensive line coach, but the Gaddy brothers will likely flip if their grades are in order.
Florida would like to flip defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt from Georgia, but if the 4-star recruit does change his mind on the Bulldogs, it’ll be South Carolina who will likely benefit from it.
Unreported Scouting Report
Every now and then, I like to break down the film for a recruit who isn’t as highly touted as the “blue-chip” prospects listed on the varying recruiting sites. We all love to cycle back to past classes and look at guys like Antonio Brown and say, “Man, I can’t believe people slept on his game back then.” There will always be guys like Brown or 2-star players like J.J. Watt. So, I’m going to occasionally give a little shine to some of them.
The first recruit I’ll push into the spotlight is Jalen Mackie. He’s an unranked inside linebacker from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a well-known powerhouse program. At 6-foot-1, 225 lbs Mackie made great strides from his sophomore season to his junior campaign, and he should continue that progression into his senior year.
Mackie is built to stop the run, flows down line the quickly and smoothly, and he attacks the ball. He reads and reacts in the decisive manner you want to see from your Mike linebacker. He also sees holes open before the tailback can hit the lane. Right now, his only D-1 offer is from Akron. If he improves his footwork and recognition in pass coverage, more offers should be rolling in – something you can expect.