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Florida football recruiting: Gators flip elite LB Derek Wingo from Penn State

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The Gators’ fantastic recruiting weekend got a cherry on top on Saturday.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

By Saturday night, the Florida Gators had already had a great recruiting weekend, picking up commitments from four-star defensive tackle Lamar Goods and three-star defensive back Tre’Vez Johnson.

But they also had a surprise up their sleeve — and that surprise, a commitment from previously Penn State-pledged linebacker Derek Wingo, is clearly the cherry on top of this scrumptious sundae of a weekend.

Wingo is a four-star player like Goods, but he has a pedigree that tends to carry weight: He attends Fort Lauderdale’s vaunted St. Thomas Aquinas High School, which routinely leads all high schools in production of NFL players and has sent stars like Joey and Nick Bosa, Geno Atkins, James White, and former Gators Bryan Cox and Marcus Gilbert to the pro ranks.

Florida appears to be re-establishing Aquinas as a pipeline school, as well. Wingo would follow in the footsteps of recent Raiders-turned-Gators Jordan Scarlett and Trevon Grimes if he follows through on his commitment.

And while Aquinas is known for producing polished prospects, Wingo has raw talent in excess, with the speed and quickness to make his 6’2”, 200ish pounds a force to be reckoned with in the open field. His highlights show him wreaking havoc whether lined up standing up or with hands to the grass, and that versatility is probably part of why Florida could conceivably play him at either linebacker or its hybrid DE/LB Buck position.

Furthermore, Wingo began Saturday as a Penn State commit — and as a recruiting win for former Florida running backs coach JaJuan Seider, who was credited for Wingo’s pledge to the Nittany Lions. Flipping a South Florida standout from a big-time program is surely satisfying for Florida, but flipping one who committed to an excellent recruiter that Florida did not retain as Dan Mullen installed his coaching staff will be proof positive to some that Mullen’s moves were, in fact, the right ones for the Gators.

And regardless of the optics in relation to Seider, Wingo being just the latest big-time linebacker to commit to Florida under Mullen is yet another feather in the cap for Florida linebackers coach Christian Robinson, who continues to cement his status as the Gators’ best recruiter.

Wingo, Florida’s 16th commitment for the 2020 class, is also well-esteemed enough to move the meter for the Gators: After Goods and Johnson joining the class did not change Florida’s overall rank, Wingo’s pledge bumped the Gators up one spot from No. 8 to No. 7 nationally.