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Florida football recruiting: Gators take nation's first 2019 commitment from Jaleel McRae


Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Florida held a Junior Day of sorts over the weekend — a second for the classes of 2017 and beyond, I think, following one held at the end of January — and came away with one commitment. Or "commitment." Or something?

Happiness for the player aside, are we really supposed to interpret 2019 defensive back Jaleel McRae's pledge to the Gators on Saturday with anything other than skepticism?

McRae, from New Smyrna Beach, is a defensive back at the moment, but he's also a big human, listed at 6'2" and 190 pounds by the Orlando Sentinel and his Twitter bio. Even if he's somewhere between there and the 6'0", 185 pounds that 247Sports lists, McRae isn't a shrimp, and could change positions.

Also, he's a high school freshman, and he could change a whole lot.

And, frankly, that's part of why there's next to no reason to get excited for McRae's commitment: The odds are very strongly against it sticking. Florida, under Will Muschamp, took commitments from rising sophomores Tyler Byrd and Tre Jackson in 2016, and neither made it to Jim McElwain's spring game, with Jackson decommitting and Byrd flipping to Miami on consecutive days in February 2015.

Byrd and Jackson were both compelling takes at that point. Byrd, then, looked like an elite athlete who could be one of the best in the 2016 class; Jackson is the son of Jack Jackson, a Florida legend. With Muschamp coming off what would be his only 10-win season in Gainesville, and leading a defensive staff that had just lost a future NFL head coach and promoted a future college head coach to replace him as defensive coordinator, there wasn't a lot of reason not to trust those coaches' evaluations of defenders.

Byrd, though, never quite cracked the "elite" tier of 2016 corners over the next three years, staying relatively unknown to a degree that a star turn at the 2016 U.S. Army All-American Bowl was a bit of a surprise. And while he was the best-regarded defensive prospect in Miami's 2016 class, Mark Richt couldn't hold on to him, either: Tennessee, eventually, did, and flipped Byrd away from the Hurricanes along with teammate and close friend Carlin Fils-Aime, partly by hiring former Miami tight ends coach and interim coach Larry Scott.

Jackson, meanwhile, didn't develop like some (Florida coaches included, perhaps) thought he would, and after committing to South Carolina under Steve Spurrier in 2015, he found himself once again committed to a school coached by Will Muschamp in late 2015. Again, he'd end up decommitting from the school: Jackson parted ways with South Carolina, maybe after minimal contact from Muschamp's staff, and eventually picked Tulane, close to his Louisiana home.

On the other hand: To the best of my knowledge, McRae is the first enrolled freshman to commit to Florida ever, and doesn't have either the documented athletic feats of Byrd or lineage of Jackson. He's got highlights on Hudl, and I guess they're good?

All of that is to say this: With more than 1,000 days between McRae's commitment and his projected National Signing Day or a January 2019 enrollment, I think there's far too much time left in McRae's recruitment to consider him anything other than a very soft commit. Even if Florida is his dream school, too much could change between now and then — the coach Byrd and Jackson committed to got fired, you may recall — to be worked up about this.

McRae could become the No. 1 prospect in the 2019 class. He could decide to play soccer. He could develop a heart condition — and while that last bit sounds absurd, recall that Florida parted ways with Rodney Adams over that sort of unforeseen circumstance. There's just too much flux here to react with more than a shrug.

But, hey: Florida is currently No. 1 in the 2019 class rankings!

Sure, it's only because literally no other teams have recorded 2019 commits.

Who cares! WE'RE NO. 1 (at something that doesn't matter!)