Another official visitor weekend in January has come and gone for the Florida Gators. Here’s what you need to know about what’s going on on the recruiting trail.
The visitor list
Once again, Twitter user Alfredo Rodriguez has some cool graphics for you.
Last weekend’s official visitors are best split up into commits and targets. Six Florida commits — quarterback Jake Allen, defensive lineman Zachary Carter, running back Malik Davis, wide receiver Daquon Green, offensive lineman T.J. Moore, and cornerback Marco Wilson — all took their official visits to Gainesville this weekend.
All of those commits save Moore — who I was told had his family in tow — have been pledged to the Gators since October, and there’s next to no risk of any of them flipping to another school or falling out of the class. And with Moore telling Scout that he’s 100 percent committed to Florida and won’t take another official visit ($), it seems very likely that all of those commits will remain Gators.
So what they probably did on the weekend, apart from enjoying all of the perks of an official visit...
Thinking I may play basketball next year. pic.twitter.com/TALcgxOfAa— Jake Allen (@Jakeallen_14) January 21, 2017
Doing everything they said I couldn't do but how about that orange, white, and blue pic.twitter.com/Gwb3M8eheW— Zachary L Carter (@_ZachAttacks) January 22, 2017
...was recruit the other players in attendance.
This is Your SWAMP17‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/rmC3BUgKPa— DaQuon Green (@iamDG7) January 22, 2017
Florida had four other prime targets — defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe, defensive back Chris (C.J.) Henderson, linebacker Nick Smith, and two-way lineman Tedarrell (T.J.) Slaton — on campus for official visits, and you can bet that all four heard some pitches from their potential teammates.
Could Florida sweep those targets?
That quartet of uncommitted official visitors consists of three four-star players — Conliffe, Henderson, and Slaton — and a three-star player, Smith. And it would seem possible, if unlikely, that Florida could reel in all four.
The two most likely commits are probably Henderson, whose relationship with Florida has been touted for months since a decommitment from Miami, and Slaton, whose interest in playing defensive line seems to mesh with Florida’s need at defensive tackle and willingness to at least allow Slaton — who might have a higher ceiling as an interior offensive lineman than as a defender — to begin his collegiate career as a defender. Florida still has all 16 of the Crystal Ball predictions for Henderson, and has 83 percent of the 29 for Slaton.
Conliffe, meanwhile, is a longer shot: Florida has none of his current Crystal Ball predictions, and he’s seen as a Tennessee lean. But he already visited Knoxville on January 13, and the recruiting maxim of “Follow the visits” indicates that Florida might well have a shot at Conliffe. (An alternate theory: Florida bringing in Conliffe a week after having fellow DMV-area tackle Cam Spence visit suggests the Gators may be gauging the interest of those prospects before a final weekend that could feature a handful of defensive linemen, so as to know how hard to press that final weekend’s visitors.)
And Smith — predicted to Florida by 18 of 20 Crystal Ballers — may be waiting on a spot to become his alone. While he’s one of only two linebackers Florida is still pursuing, he may have to wait for Texas linebacker Levi Jones to commit before being given clearance to join the Gators.
Green, Florida’s longest-tenured commit in the class of 2017, told SEC Country that Florida will land Henderson, Slaton, and Smith, which agrees with my gut. But I think that not securing a somewhat surprising public commitment from Conliffe in the immediate wake of his visit foretells him heading elsewhere.
Did the Gators’ biggest news happen off-campus?
When I wrote about James Robinson last week, he had Alabama and Ole Miss official visits scheduled for the last two weekends of January. Just seven days later, Robinson is coming off a visit to Ohio State — and doesn’t have another scheduled.
Robinson’s had a laundry list of other schools interested throughout his recruitment, but Florida has remained the one constant for him — and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Cox Media Ohio State site Land of 10 reported Monday that Ohio State is no longer pursuing Robinson, with writer Jeremy Birmingham citing multiple sources close to his recruitment to say that. And Robinson’s last visit to his other finalist, Oklahoma, came in early December.
Now more than ever, Robinson appears to be Florida’s prospect to lose.
And Robinson wasn’t the only prospect whose weekend away from Gainesville may have portended good tidings for the Gators. Kai-Leon Herbert began the weekend as a Michigan commit, visited Miami, and is now uncommitted, having decommitted from Michigan late Sunday. Herbert hails from the same Fort Lauderdale school — American Heritage — that is home to Florida commits James Houston and Wilson and Florida target Slaton, and has long been thought of as a potential flip for Florida and/or Miami. The Gators hold a very slight edge in the Crystal Ball for him at the moment, though Miami has gained ground in recent days.
But Herbert is also scheduled to visit Florida this weekend — and one important corollary to “Follow the visits” is the idea that final visits matter most.
Speaking of final visits: Florida is set to receive a slew of them for the weekend of January 27, and SEC Country’s Zach Abolverdi notes that two are from five-star defensive ends K’Lavon Chaisson and LaBryan Ray. Florida has long been seen as the underdog to Alabama in the quest to reel in the Alabama-based Ray, but the Gators were nowhere at all for Chaisson, a spindly Texas native, and ESPN’s Hamilton reporting on Monday that he was scrapping a scheduled official visit to USC to head to Gainesville ought to be seen at minimum as a victory for Florida in regards to hustle down the stretch.
I don’t think Florida is particularly likely to land either Chaisson or Ray, but final visits for both could obviously change that.
Florida’s continued effort to up its tonnage at defensive tackle will also continue next weekend, as Georgia commit Devontae Wyatt and Maryland commits Brandon and Breyon Gaddy will all officially visit the school. None is seen as more likely to flip to Florida than Slaton or Georgia defensive tackle Tyrone Truesdell are to commit to the Gators at this point, but Florida is in the mix for so many defensive tackles — the aforementioned five (including Slaton) and DMVers Conliffe and Spence — that it’s hard to truly discern what will come of that.
I imagine the ultimate goal is nabbing no fewer than two defensive tackles to go with early enrollee Kyree Campbell, as depth is almost as important as quality for Florida at the position at this moment. Whether Florida can meet that quota — and whom it might nab to do so — is one of the burning questions of the next week.
One of the other such questions: Why is Florida not picking up commits right now?
The simple answer seems to be that those players left on the board who might commit to Florida are almost all going to hold out until National Signing Day instead of committing before the spotlight glares next Wednesday. Of Florida’s more than a dozen remaining targets, only Conliffe is scheduled to commit sooner than February 1 — and he’s set to do so on January 31.
That sets up Florida for what could be a colossal Signing Day haul. If Henderson, Robinson, and Slaton — all at 83 percent or better for Florida in the Crystal Ball, mind — alone were to commit, that would give the Gators three players among the nation’s top 135, and would bump Florida’s “team score” in the 247Sports Composite to No. 11 nationally.
And it’s far, far more likely, of course, that Florida will end up with several commits between now and Signing Day and/or on the day itself than that the Gators will finish this 2017 recruiting class with just 18 signees.
In other words: Buckle up. Florida’s road to National Signing Day is about to be one without speed limits.