The Florida Gators needed defensive backs in their 2019 recruiting class more than any other players, both to provide needed depth at a thin position and to set up a succession plan for when elite talents C.J. Henderson and Marco Wilson inevitably declare early for the 2020 NFL Draft.
In four-star Long Beach cornerback Chris Steele, the Gators are getting a gem from the Golden State who could very well be a solution to both needs.
Steele committed to the Gators during the third quarter of Saturday’s All-American Bowl, nationally broadcast on NBC.
That commitment was swiftly followed by Steele — or, uh, whomever was controlling his Twitter account, while he plays in the All-American Bowl — sending out a well-done custom graphic on Twitter, and Florida coach Dan Mullen acknowledging Steele’s commitment.
Steele was widely expected to commit to Florida on Saturday, partly because he had been widely expected to commit to the Gators at the outset of the Early Signing Period in mid-December. Though Steele committed to USC over Florida during the summer, the Gators stayed on him throughout his recruitment — and, when Steele decommitted from the Trojans midway through a season of struggles this fall, found themselves well-positioned to reel in a player who has bought what Florida is selling regarding its lineage of fine defensive back play enough to repeatedly assert on Twitter that Florida is the “real” DBU.
On Saturday, he publicly reaffirmed that belief, saying “My heart is at the real DBU” during his nationally televised commitment.
And Steele is well-positioned to add to that legacy. At 6’1” and around 180 pounds, Steele has the size, ball skills, physicality, and mentality to be an elite cornerback at the collegiate level and beyond.
A four-star player who sits just outside of the five-star range in the 247Sports Composite, Steele is the No. 40 player in the country in those same rankings. Steele is also now Florida’s highest-rated commit in its 2019 recruiting class — ending four-star wideout Arjei Henderson’s reign as that player at a long two days.
With Steele in the fold, Florida’s 2019 recruiting class now numbers 22 commits. And if Steele signed with the Gators weeks ago — as has been rumored since he delayed his commitment from the Early Signing Period to Saturday, and as would be backed up by Florida having all of its celebration of him done and ready to go for his public commitment — and is enrolling early, Florida’s coaching staff has been sitting on one heck of a nice holiday surprise since before Christmas.
Steele’s commitment also bumps Florida to No. 11 in the 247Composite team rankings, and gives the Gators a fighting chance of finishing the 2019 cycle with a top-10 class.