On Thursday, I wrote briefly about Suwannee High offensive tackle Joshua Braun decommitting from Georgia, and the tea leaves pointing to his likely impending commitment to the Florida Gators.
That commitment came on Friday — except it’s more than a commitment, and will be followed by Braun joining the Gators even earlier than expected.
Per long-time Florida beat writer Zach Abolverdi, now writing for the Lake City Reporter, Braun graduated early from high school on Thursday and is now enrolled at Florida, making him a fully-fledged collegian eligible to join the Gators for practices leading up to the 2019 Orange Bowl, something he will do beginning this afternoon.
That ability to enroll early is likely a reflection of Braun’s exceptionally excellent work in the classroom to date — Abolverdi reports that he’s a National Merit Scholar semifinalist, which is a feat I’d bet anything very few FBS-level football recruits achieve. And it should set up Braun to contribute on the field as early as next fall, while also allowing him to get a significant early start on his collegiate academic career. (Given that NMS semifinalist status, I wouldn’t be shocked if he is carrying enough college-equivalent credits on his transcript to shorten his path to a bachelor’s degree to two years or less.)
Braun is also close to college-ready as a football prospect, with great size at a listed height of 6’6” and a listed weight of north of 300 pounds and agility that shows up on tape and readily explains his ability to play tennis as well as football.
And getting Braun on the field even before Early Signing Day is an extension of Florida’s already creative efforts to get early enrollees to practice, one that had commit Richie Leonard hinting Thursday evening on Twitter that Friday would be a big day for him.
Everything’s about to change for me tomorrow..— Richie Leonard IV™ ♕ (@RichieLeonardIV) December 12, 2019
The practice of getting early enrollees initiated as early as bowl practices isn’t a Florida original — former Tennessee quarterback Quentin Dormady did so as far back as 2014, and some Georgia enrollees did so last year. And as with early enrollment in general, getting athletes who can handle the transition to collegiate-level coursework and collegiate-level preparation to play football into the early stages of that transition as soon as possible should generally be regarded as a net positive, as it should serve as an accelerant for their careers in either football or the working world, with its drawbacks mostly related to missing a final spring semester of high school.
Florida managing to swipe Braun from Georgia — a program that would also have been able to facilitate what he is doing for the Gators — is thus a coup of coups as recruiting goes.
Braun’s commitment/enrollment pushes Florida to 23 verbal commitments in the 2020 recruiting cycle, and the consensus four-star prospect also boosts the Gators’ ranking from No. 8 to No. 6 nationally.
With time and spots left before both Early Signing Day on Wednesday, December 18 and National Signing Day in February, Florida seems very likely to haul in a top-10 class, and like it has a chance to make that collection of signees a top-five group.