The Florida Gators have made significant recruiting headway during Dan Mullen’s tenure by mining college football’s ranks of transferring players for talented athletes who might want a second shot at big-time college football in the Sunshine State.
The Gators have had their most success in pulling players from the transfer portal at wide receiver, though, with Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson and Ohio State transfer Trevon Grimes each opting to come to Florida in 2018 after making their first stops and Texas wideout Jordan Pouncey following suit — to join his brother Ethan, a corner in the 2020 recruiting class who has signed with Florida — late last year.
And now comes the crown jewel so far: Penn State wide receiver Justin Shorter, a former five-star prospect, announced Sunday that he is committed to the Gators.
Officially Committed ‼️ pic.twitter.com/LmExRIf4GW— Justin Shorter (@JustinShorter15) January 26, 2020
Shorter, who took a visit to Gainesville this weekend — hence the pictures in the icy all-white uniform that many believe is used exclusively by commits — left Penn State this fall, transferring after a redshirt season in 2018 and an underwhelming 2019 in which he had just 12 catches for 137 yards.
But those stats are significantly better than what Grimes posted with Ohio State in 2017 — three catches, 20 yards — before leaving Columbus, and Shorter, like Grimes, was a highly-touted prospect as a recruit. He finished the 2018 cycle as the nation’s No. 8 player and No. 1 wide receiver, with his 6’4” frame and solid build helping many to project him as a perennial No. 1 target in the Nittany Lions’ offense.
Grimes, in comparison, was merely a four-star prospect in the same 247Composite rankings for the 2017 class, and only a top-50 player whose own great size and speed had evaluators dreaming big dreams for him.
It is unclear whether Shorter will apply for immediate eligibility at Florida, though it would seem unlikely that he would get it if not for some unknown mitigating circumstance. As he’s originally from New Jersey, it’d be hard to sell a move to Florida from Penn State as one meant to get him closer to family in the NCAA waiver process.
But it’s possible that Shorter, whose conditioning was questioned while with the Nittany Lions, is better off sitting a year and going through Florida strength coach Nick Savage’s offseason workouts — and possible, too, that Florida could use him more in 2021, when it might not have a logical No. 1 wideout available, than in 2020, when Grimes seems more than capable of filling that role.
Shorter also joins a recent lineage of five-star transfers to Florida, following in the footsteps of former Miami running back Lorenzo Lingard and Georgia edge rusher Brenton Cox. While Mullen and his staff nearly made it through three full recruiting cycles without landing a 247Composite five-star — a fate that the late and deserved rise of defensive tackle Gervon Dexter appears to have averted — they had already landed two five-star transfers prior to Sunday, and now have two of those and a player who was in the top 10 in his class.
We’re obviously a ways off from seeing what Shorter, Lingard, and Cox do on the field for Florida. But the Gators’ track record with transfers under Mullen — notably, with Jefferson, Grimes, and edge terror Jonathan Greenard — should have fans quite optimistic about their chances of contributing positively.