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National Signing Day 2018: Florida Gators live open thread

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The Florida Gators are dealing with their first February National Signing Day of the Dan Mullen era today. Mullen’s inaugural transition class is already off to a fine start, with the Gators signing 13 recruits, including four-star quarterback Emory Jones, during the new December early signing period.

Florida can add up to nine (or perhaps 10) new faces to the program today, including the three presently committed class members who did not sign in December.

Here’s what to watch for on National Signing Day 2018.

Current commitments

The Gators have three current commits in their class that either committed after December’s signing day, or chose not to sign during that early signing period. Those recruits are four-star wide receiver Justin Watkins, four-star offensive lineman Richard Gouraige, and three-star offensive lineman Griffin McDowell. Gouraige was the only one of the three that was committed in December, but he chose to delay signing and take other visits. The 6’5” Tampa native visited Auburn, Clemson, and Ole Miss in January in addition to Florida. Watkins and McDowell pledged to Florida last month and are viewed as solidly committed to the Gators.

Prospects to watch

Florida has been in particularly hot pursuit of four-star wide receiver and former Gator commit Jacob Copeland and five-star offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere, both of whom visited UF last weekend.

Copeland will be deciding between Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M, but the battle is expected to come down to the Gators and the Tide.

For his part, Petit-Frere is deciding between Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. Predictions for his commitment have vacillated, with the Gators, Buckeyes, and Irish all reportedly in the lead at some point - for whatever that’s worth.

Two other targets that Florida has made a priority of — and whom the Gators are largely expected to land — are four-star cornerback Noah Boykin and four-star defensive end Andrew Chatfield. Boykin was once committed to Maryland, but decommitted after visiting UF last month. Chatfield also visited the Gators in January and was complimentary of his time at Florida, but has also been heavily pursued by Miami and Oklahoma.

Other players to keep an eye on today are defensive end/linebacker Caleb Tannor, defensive end Caleb Johnson, defensive end Malik Langham, defensive end Fabien Lovett, defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, defensive end Malcolm Lamar, and JUCO defensive end Dorian Gerald.

Landing Tannor, Langham, or Lovett wouldn’t be totally unexpected, but all three were anticipated to sign with teams other than the Gators. The same goes for Silvera — who, despite having reportedly enjoyed a recent official visit to Florida, is a longtime Miami commit and is expected to sign with the Hurricanes today.

Gerald, a highly coveted JUCO prospect, has announced that he intends to sign with his selected team this Friday.

Commitment schedule

Below you’ll find the commitment schedule for National Signing Day 2018’s potential Florida signees.

National Signing Day 2018 - Florida Gators Prospects

Player Position Commitment time Watch Schools Considering Crystall Ball Prediction Decision
Player Position Commitment time Watch Schools Considering Crystall Ball Prediction Decision
Caleb Tannor DE / OLB 8:45 a.m. Auburn, Florida, Nebraska Favoring Nebraska Nebraska
Justin Watkins WR 9:15 a.m. Florida commit Favoring Florida Florida
Nicholas Petit-Frere OT 10:00 a.m. hour ESPNU Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State Favoring Ohio State Ohio State
Andrew Chatfield DE / OLB 10:00 a.m. hour ESPNU Florida, Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma Favoring Florida Florida
Nesta Silvera DT 10:00 a.m. Florida, Miami (Miami commit) Favoring Miami Miami
Griffin McDowell OL 10:00 a.m. Florida commit Florida Florida
Malcolm Lamar DE 10:00 a.m. Florida, Florida State Favoring Florida State Florida State
Noah Boykin CB 11:30 a.m. Florida, Maryland, Notre Dame, Virginia Florida Notre Dame
Jacob Copeland WR 2:00 p.m. hour ESPNU Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Texas A&M Favoring Florida Florida
Caleb Johnson DE 2:30 p.m. Auburn, Florida, Georgia Slightly Favoring Florida Auburn
Richard Gouraige OL 2:30-45 p.m. (Florida commit) Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Ole Miss Favoring Florida Florida
Malik Langham DE 3:30 p.m. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Notre Dame Favoring Alabama Florida
Fabien Lovett DE Not available Florida, MIssissippi State, Ole MIss Favoring Mississippi State Mississippi State
Dorian Gerald DE Signing on Friday Arkansas, Florida, Louisville, Texas A&M Favoring Florida Arkansas

How will the final pieces of Dan Mullen’s first class shake out? Will there be any surprises? Will the Gators’ class crack the nation’s top 10?

Let’s find out together, shall we?

Keep refreshing and checking this live open thread throughout the day, as we will be updating it with details and linking to our other postings as National Signing Day unfolds.

9:06 a.m.: So: Things have happened!

The most important of those things so far for Florida’s prospects?

  • Malcolm Lamar inking with Florida State. (“The ‘Noles steal one from in-state competition,” translated from Tomahawk Nationese, is “FSU lands a player who had previously been committed to its head coach at Oregon after landing his similarly situated teammate” for what it’s worth, though it’s also interesting that FSU has broken through at Seffner’s Armwood High, long considered a Florida stronghold, for the first time in what seems like decades.)
  • Justin Watkins signing with Florida as expected.
  • Fabian Lovett indicating he will not sign until Friday, in a tweet that technically happened late Tuesday, and then reversing course as of moments ago.

Additionally, Caleb Tannor’s announcment has obviously now slipped past the expected 8:45 a.m. time frame, and is only now beginning.

I’m not considering Lamar or Watkins making their respective decisions a surprise, and I think Lovett — possibly stuck waiting on how things shake out at multiple schools in addition and/or his father’s blessing — calling multiple audibles on his signing is largely unremarkable. But Tannor’s decision being delayed is interesting because of how many recruiting reporters suggested he was telling all of his finalists the right things, and could be an indication that the very late momentum Nebraska seemed to have is no more.

We’ll see what happens there. — Andy

9:12 a.m.: Hmmm. Is a Chucky doll a beloved symbol in Miami’s program? — Andy

9:57 a.m.: After an hour-long ceremony in which we all learned more about the Miller Grove High football program than we really needed to know, Caleb Tannor — the “unofficial official point man of the Sniper Gang,” per his high school coach — selected Nebraska over Florida, in unsurprising news that reinforces the importance of Florida landing other defensive line targets on this National Signing Day.

More worryingly, perhaps, there is now smoke from national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell about big-time Florida target Jacob Copeland and Tennessee.

The rap on Farrell is that he’s not as plugged-in as he was five or 10 years ago, and I wonder whether “some worry in Gainesville” is actually Florida personnel telling the world what they want it to hear, but that tweet’s not going to make folks feel more comfortable, right? — Andy

10:08 a.m.: No hour today is more significant for Florida than this 10 a.m. hour, which should feature the commitments of Andrew Chatfield, Nicholas Petit-Frere, and Nesta Silvera on ESPNU. (Florida commit Griffin McDowell is also likely to confirm his signing this hour.)

Of that trio, I think Florida’s likely to end up with Chatfield — but while it has a significant chance of picking up Silvera, I am not expecting him to ultimately flip from Miami, and all the late movement for Petit-Frere is pointing toward Ohio State.

If Florida were to make a clean sweep of all three, it would become perhaps the story of National Signing Day. But, again, I’m not anticipating that. — Andy

11:05 a.m.: So: That hour went about as expected.

Chatfield to Florida was widely expected as of last week. Silvera keeping his commitment to Miami despite Florida making a run can’t be considered a surprise. And Petit-Frere picking Ohio State, while contrary to conventional wisdom, was in keeping with the tight-lipped big man keeping everything close to the vest over the course of his recruitment.

Of the three, Silvera is probably the most likely to make an impact in 2018 — Chatfeld and Petit-Frere each need to add weight, in all likelihood — and Petit-Frere was the player at the position of greatest need for the Gators, so it’s easy to be a little disappointed with batting .333. But it’s also true that expecting the world from a transitional recruiting class is probably expecting too much, and that Dan Mullen’s tenure — like those of every college coach in America — is going to be defined more by fall Saturdays than a winter Wednesday.

Also:

“Due to always controversial NCAA rules” is a good catch-all excuse for many things.

11:59 a.m.: As we wait for Noah Boykin’s commitment, it is becoming clear that we’re waiting for disappointing news: A very late run of Crystal Ball predictions suggests Boykin will spurn Florida and sign with Virginia.

That would be a shock, given the arc of Boykin’s recruitment — decommitting from local school Maryland to give Notre Dame and Florida long looks, and then ending up with Virginia suggests that Boykin did a lot of traveling just to end up at home, rather than upgrading from Maryland to a “bigger-name” school, as was the suggestion of his motives as of his decommitment.

But that’s recruiting: You never know until you know. — Andy

12:06 p.m.: “You never know” was certainly the right sentiment. Boykin spurned both Virginia and Florida and decided to sign with Notre Dame. — leli

3:20 p.m.: The Gators landed their biggest fish of the day when blue chip wide receiver Jacob Copeland committed (again) to Florida. His commitment was not without some (real or manufactured) “controversy” as his mother briefly left the staging area of the announcement when Copeland revealed his choice. - leli

3:52 p.m.: In another bit of good news for the Gators, defensive end Malik Langham committed to Florida, picking the Gators over Alabama and Auburn. - leli

5:19 p.m.: Dan Mullen’s press conference is available, should you want to watch Florida’s head coach discuss the Gators’ new signees. - leli