USA TODAY Sports
Florida's sensational 2013 class is almost full, but a pass rusher is still on Will Muschamp's wish list. Will Elijah Daniel or Chris Jones fill that spot? Who else is in the Gators' sights?
It's silly to start a Florida football recruiting article any other way than this: Will Muschamp is building one of the best recruiting classes of the year, and one of the best recruiting classes in Florida history. Muschamp and his staff are filling needs, stockpiling talent, and creating a foundation that can help Florida win SEC and national titles.
Florida's 2013 class is ranked No. 1 at ESPN — which, given the media blitz the Worldwide Leader puts together on National Signing Day, is the most important recruiting service list to top — and No. 1 at Rivals, No. 3 at 247Sports, No. 6 at Scout (which also has Alabama No. 8), and No. 3 in the 247Composite ranking that averages rankings across the recruiting industry.
And that class is 26 or 27 — it depends on whether you count Tyler Moore in your accounting — players deep, and could still grow. Here's what it looks like right now.
You may have noticed that this class is somewhat thin at defensive tackle (especially with the losses of Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter) and at cornerback (despite Hargreaves' quality making up for it), and that it is heavy on projects at defensive end. Good news: Florida is aware of that, and pursuing several more prospects on the defensive line to make a fantastic class even better: DT Montravious Adams, DT Jaynard Bostwick, DE Elijah Daniel, DE Chris Jones, and DT Jarran Reed.
Of those prospects, the ones most likely to join Florida's class are Reed and Daniel. Reed, an Ole Miss commit, just took his official visit to Florida this past weekend, and he enjoyed it. A lot, apparently.
Reed still has visits to take, to Kentucky — where his coach from East Missisippi Community College, Jimmy Brumbaugh, is now on staff — and to North Carolina, where he was committed before flipping to Ole Miss, but Florida's the big fish in this recruitment, and Florida has the lure of two former East Mississippi teammates, Damien Jacobs and Cummings, waiting for Reed on the defensive line. His decision will likely come down to National Signing Day.
Daniel was one of the best high school players in Indiana this past year, and finally has grades and scores that might get him into Florida. He's also considering Florida, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State ... and only has one scheduled visit left, to Florida on February 1, and says he knows ($) where he's going to go. That could all add up to Daniel ending up at Florida, but there's too much unsettled with his recruitment to think anything is certain.
Adams, a fantastic Georgia defensive tackle, is maybe the best uncommitted player Florida is still in the running for, but the Gators are in an unenviable position: They're the out-of-state team, have already had Adams on campus for his official visit, and either need to make up ground or hold on to a lead, likely without getting him back to Gainesville. Adams is good friends with Demarcus Robinson, and that could be a valuable connection to have, but he still seems more likely to choose Georgia or Clemson than Florida.
Jones is maybe the best prospect the Gators could still land, but his recruitment is either only just beginning or has been over for some time. Jones has been a Mississippi State commitment since last summer, when the Bulldogs were the only SEC team on him, and was excellent at the Under Armour All-America Game Jones might yet visit Florida, but he's very likely to stick with Mississippi State ... unless the departure of the Bulldogs' defensive line coach for Georgia makes Jones' commitment a little less solid.
Bostwick is on the outside of that Big Four for Florida, and no recruiting service seems to know whether his first name is Jay-nard or Jaynard, but he's a load in the middle and will take his final official visit to Florida on February 1. It's unlikely that Florida would take Bostwick with Reed and Adams, likely ahead of him on its board, undecided, but he could end up in Florida's class eventually; dominoes just need to fall to make that happen.
Beyond those players, it's unclear what Florida would even want. New Smyrna Beach wide receiver James Clark is still a possibility, but he's much more a luxury now that Robinson is enrolled, as is Kentucky prospect Ryan Timmons; hulking fullback Kennard Swanson was rumored to be a Florida commit-to-be weeks ago, but he appears to be on the back burner for the Gators, and likely needs to improve his grades or test scores to get off it.
But here's the great thing about what Florida has done so far: The Gators can miss on literally every prospect they are still pursuing and have a consensus top-five class according to every service but Scout, and the prospects that still exist are more luxury than necessity.
And then there's the fact that Florida's already gotten itself in better position for the 2014 class, with Will Grier, Ryeshene Bronson, Travonte Valentine, and Duke Dawson, than it was in with the 2013 class at this point in January. Adam Lane, the first 2013 Florida commit, committed on January 21, 2012; even Dawson, the last player of the core four for 2014 to commit, committed about two weeks earlier than Lane did.
That's testament to Muschamp's recruiting philosophy — get on the prospects you want as early as possible, and stay on them as long as you have to — and testament to his coaches' ability to know what players are Florida-caliber even before their final three semesters of high school and their senior season of football.
The future, near and far, is bright at Florida. Thank Will Muschamp for that: He can see for miles and miles and out-stare everyone else who tries to, and it's paying off for the Gators.