After hinting at a big announcement on Twitter on Wednesday, St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Jake Allen made it early Wednesday evening:
He's a Gator now.
Allen is rated as a consensus four-star quarterback by the 247Sports Composite, and is a four-star player according to 247Sports and Scout, a three-star player according to Rivals, and currently unrated by ESPN. He is also just a rising junior, so there's plenty of time for him to rise in the ranks; he might yet do so this summer, as the services re-rank future prospects with performances from summer camps (which Allen has excelled in, notably winning the Rivals Challenge) to factor into evaluations.
Allen has good size at 6'3" and about 195 pounds, and plenty of time to add more weight. And Aquinas, which is in Fort Lauderdale, is one of the premier high school programs in the country, renowned for not only churning out FBS players, but for sending them to school well-prepared to make impacts early on in their collegiate careers. (Allen spent his first two years of high school at Cardinal Gibbons, another South Florida power, but transferred to Aquinas earlier this spring.)
Allen might not be asked to make an immediate impact at Florida, not with either Will Grier or Treon Harris likely to be entering a third year as a full-time starter in the fall of 2017, but he provides the Gators with a massive leg up on quarterback recruiting in the 2017 cycle — a far cry from the situation they sit in for 2016, after target Dwayne Haskins committed to Maryland in May.
The single most important commitment in any recruiting class is the quarterback — quarterback remains the most important position in football — and the Gators have a player who could be the cornerstone of that class on board with about 20 months to go to National Signing Day. Allen could fall out of the class, but that's rare for big-time quarterbacks barring a coaching change — something that almost certainly won't happen to Jim McElwain in his first two years at Florida — and it's far more likely that he'll be one of the voices urging top prospects to commit to the Gators for almost two years.
Much like Grier's December 2012 commitment to Florida, this is potentially seismic for the program — but it's even better. Allen is a Floridian, so he's local to the state's top talent; he will be more rigorously tested at a higher level of competition in South Florida than Grier faced in North Carolina; and, maybe most importantly, he is now committed both a full season earlier than Grier embarked and a full year earlier in the tenure of the program's head coach.
Will Muschamp inherited Jeff Driskel from Urban Meyer, and got Jacoby Brissett via the work of Charlie Weis, but only found a prep quarterback looked at as a future multi-year starter for his fourth year in Gainesville — and Grier obviously won't make any starts for the Gators with Muschamp as his head coach. McElwain has Allen in the fold just seven months into his time as the Gators' head man.
If a college football program's fortunes largely rest on its quarterback play, the recruiting and development of quarterbacks is the greatest test for any program. With Allen, McElwain (and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier) is submitting his work for the former part of the project early.
And it looks very strong.