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Florida football recruiting: Elite defensive tackle Shavar Manuel commits to Gators

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The Gators reel in a whale.

SB Nation Recruiting

Defensive end Shavar Manuel of IMG Academy in Bradenton committed to Florida on Tuesday night, as first broken by Florida head coach Jim McElwain...

...and then confirmed by Manuel, in a tweet sent just one minute after McElwain's.

The hilarity of his usage the hashtag #ChopChop — rather than the customary #ChompChomp — aside, Manuel's commitment to Florida has been seen as increasingly likely in recent weeks. Manuel's ties to the Team Tampa 7-on-7 team that was founded by Woodrow Grady (father of Florida quarterback Josh) and coached by Florida quality control coach Marquel Blackwell were likely significant in his decision, but the Gators had also built a relationship with Manuel since McElwain's hiring.

And that may be telling, because Manuel's production has waned despite his prodigious talent remaining, leading some to wonder whether weight put on after an injury had dulled his ability as a pass-rusher. Manuel led Florida with 20 sacks as a sophomore at Tampa's Blake High School. but MaxPreps shows him with just two sacks for his senior season. He slipped from being in discussions about being the nation's top prospect to his current slightly lower rung: He's a 247Sports Composite four-star, and only a five-star player per Scout, the most ... eccentric of the major recruiting services.

Comparing his sophomore highlights and video of him doing drills before his senior season at IMG, the differences are clear.

But that doesn't mean Manuel can't be a difference-maker on the defensive line — mostly, it just means that where he does so might change. Manuel was thought of as a pass-rusher more in line with Dante Fowler two years ago; now, he's more like Jonathan Bullard.

Florida, like virtually every school in America, would take either one. And if Manuel can lose some weight or change some of his bad weight into muscle with the aid and discipline of a collegiate strength and conditioning program, he might just get some of that quickness and speed back.

Manuel's commitment brings Florida to 26 commitments for the Gators' 2016 class, and he's only behind quarterback Feleipe Franks in 247Composite rating or ranking. Florida's class is also now up to No. 6 per the 247Sports Composite rankings.