The Florida Gators entered Wednesday with four commitments in the last five days.
They left it with five in the last six — and their highest-rated commit in ESPN’s rankings — thanks to the public pledge of Virginia defensive end Antwaun Powell.
It takes exactly 13 seconds of Powell’s highlights — in which he roars around end for a sack and then bends under a tight end on an inside move to knife inside and blow up a running play — to see why Florida, or any other school, would want him.
But the Gators managing to get a commitment from Powell, the No. 28 player in ESPN’s rankings for the Class of 2020 and the No. 136 player in the 247Sports Composite, is maybe as impressive for them as Powell’s tape is for him. They began the spring well behind a slew of other teams that got in early on Powell, including the Michigan program thought to be his leader, but managed to secure the last official visit in a string of four over a recent three-week period. And after scrubbing a Michigan visit, Florida clearly stayed on Powell’s mind over the week between visit and commitment.
Probably, most of the credit for that feat should go to area recruiter Torrian Gray, whose name rings bells in the DMV.
But it’s also worth noting that taking Powell is a bit of a risk for Florida, and would have been for any school. He’s spent this spring recovering from a shoulder injury — Powell’s 247Sports profile picture is, somewhat amusingly, him in a sling — and is listed both at 6’3” and 234 pounds (by 247Sports) and at 6’2” and 215 pounds (by ESPN), disparate measurements that could be the difference between Powell’s fate as a collegian being at a rush linebacker position or as a defensive end.
If Powell appears to be near full strength this fall, Florida may have gotten in at the right time on a prospect whose stock was artificially deflated by injury concerns. If Powell doesn’t appear quite right, the Gators may have to figure out how to bring him along slowly and hope that he can contribute down the line. And if Powell’s shoulder injury prevents him from ever reaching his potential, he could end up as a miss for Florida.
Either way, though, Powell’s spot in the rankings is another feather in the cap for Florida right now, which has built a narrative of recruiting momentum by taking five commitments — nearly a third of its 2020 class — within a week. And Powell’s the best of them not just by ESPN’s sights but by the industry’s, as he barely pips linebacker Derek Wingo (No. 169 nationally) to be tops on the list of recent commits per the 247Composite.
Of course, even this recent flurry has only gotten Florida to No. 6 nationally in the 247Composite’s team rankings — and being No. 6 nationally means being No. 4 in the SEC, and Florida’s “average” per recruit for its 18 commitments is actually only seventh-best in the conference.
But the Gators following a spate of decommitments, uncertainty, and scrutiny with a spree of commitments and good feelings shows at minimum that Dan Mullen and staff know at least a little bit about how to manage recruiting in 2019.
And though there is still a valid argument that Florida is not yet recruiting at a championship level, it’s hard to argue against the Gators at least making progress toward that plateau.