Yes, it’s Early Signing Day — again. And yes, this year’s version is wedged between the end of the abbreviated and renegotiated regular season and the SEC Championship Game.
But don’t think that’s significantly disadvantaged the Florida Gators. Dan Mullen’s program enters the early signing period with a top-10 class and few surprises or outstanding prospects to worry about, with the lion’s share of their 2021 class expected to make things official today.
As such, this open thread is likely to mostly be a record of which players are officially signed and when, not which players are deciding between Florida and another school at the 11th hour or extending their recruitments into calendar 2021. Expect frequent updates that more or less consist of linking to tweets from Dan Mullen’s official Twitter handle.
And relax, too. Florida’s 2021 class is set to address some of the Gators’ major needs, and represents a smallish step up in overall talent that could be significant on the field.
8:45 a.m.: Florida’s format for today appears to be a tweet from @CoachDanMullen announcing a signing followed by a retweet from @GatorsFB with a short video from the signee. Here’s how that worked for the first signee announced, center Jake Slaughter.
Excited to welcome @JakeSlaughter5 to the Florida Family! A leader up front! #ChompDown21 pic.twitter.com/xOT3vPPEOk— Dan Mullen (@CoachDanMullen) December 16, 2020
Welcome to the fam, @JakeSlaughter5 #ChompDown21 https://t.co/eyXTwg8sky pic.twitter.com/bjsldw18Mg— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) December 16, 2020
Is it Jake Slaughter’s name or being from Ocala that makes him sound like a 35-year-old country singer as a high school senior? Discuss.
In addition to Slaughter, Florida’s reported the signings of Pennsylvania safety Donovan McMillon, long snapper Rocco Underwood, North Carolina offensive tackle Yousef Mugharbil, Florida tight ends Gage Wilcox and Nick Elksnis, and trench mauler Desmond Watson, who has the only ALL CAPS description from Mullen’s account (“MONSTER”) thus far.
11:15 a.m.: Florida is now up to 10 signings reported on the day, with most of its wide receiver class joining the fold in the last two hours. Defensive tackle Chris Thomas joined wideouts Daejon Reynolds and Marcus Burke in getting announced.
The potential best recruit in the class, five-star cornerback Jason Marshall, is likely to be one of the next signees announced, as he was set to be signing at 11 a.m. Eastern.
12:55 p.m.: In terms of star power, Florida’s round of signings on either side of noon certainly leads the way on this Early Signing Day.
Five-star corner Jason Marshall, four-star defensive ends Justus Boone and Jeremiah “Scooby” Williams, and Texas quarterback Jalen Kitna all got their @CoachDanMullen announcements, while four-star defensive back Corey Collier and longtime Florida commit and JUCO star Diwun Black each put pen to paper in the same timeframe.
Marshall, a rangy corner, is the headliner of that group and perhaps of Florida’s class, but it’s probably Black — who fought like hell to get into Florida’s 2019 recruiting class, failed to qualify, went to junior college, and is a rare player taking such a path who will seemingly end up where he wanted to be all along — who is going to be the sentimental favorite in this cycle for nearly anyone who follows Florida recruiting.
Black’s persistent faith in himself and his Gators has been a fixture on Twitter for years now, and finally getting to see what his versatility looks like for Florida — which will seemingly begin the one-time linebacker’s career as a defensive back, if Black’s Twitter bio is any indication — is going to be the culmination of a whole lot of hard work and patience on his part and a fair bit of anticipation and well-wishing from fans.
3:05 p.m.: With the day drawing to a close, so, too, are Florida’s expected signings.
Black and Collier are officially in, as are linebacker Chief Borders, defensive back Jordan Young, edge rusher Tyreak Sapp, and the offensive centerpiece of this class, quarterback Carlos Del Rio.
The only outstanding and expected Early Signing Day signature for Florida, then, belongs to Winter Park safety Dakota Mitchell, who was anticipated to sign in the 4 p.m. hour. The Gators’ five remaining commits — wideouts Travonte Rucker and Charles Montgomery, tackles Javonte Gardner and Adrein Strickland, and JUCO offensive lineman Deyavie Hammond — are all likely to sign in February, for one reason or another.
And when Mitchell signs and is announced, it will cap perhaps the most boring Signing Day of either stripe — Early or National — for Florida in quite some time.
There’s good and bad to that: The Gators couldn’t pull off 11th-hour magic with top linebacker Xavien Sorey, who announced a commitment to Georgia, or a flip of former Florida commit Brashard Smith from Miami’s class, but they also kept Scooby Williams from forestalling a decision until February, which could have caused a headache at minimum and a class shakeup at most. For the most part, though, a quiet Early Signing Day is a reflection of good work that has been done for months and years leading up to it, and a confirmation that the relationships built between coaches and recruits are strong enough to not be frayed on the biggest days of those recruits’ lives.
7:30 p.m.: With Winter Park safety Dakota Mitchell officially signed and announced, Florida is done for the day.
Dan Mullen indicated in his Early Signing Day presser — watch it below, and steel yourself for the very not good hoodie he’s wearing — that the Gators got what they wanted and no other surprises, with all of the Letters of Intent they sent out getting returned. Mullen also argues — correctly, I think — that the Gators’ class is going to be one low on hype but that proves to be surprisingly solid over time.