Just as was the case for Early Signing Day in December, the Florida Gators enter National Signing Day for the 2020 recruiting cycle expecting a relatively quiet day.
And once again, that’s a good thing.
The Gators enter the day with the nation’s No. 8 recruiting class, per the 247Sports Composite rankings, and with 24 players variously committed, signed, and enrolled. Between those players and six transfers, though, there are precious few slots left in the class, and so the Gators are likely expecting a maximum of three additional commitments on this Wednesday.
If those commitments are coming, it is likely from this group of prospects:
- Four-star safety Avantae Williams
- Four-star defensive end Princely Umanmielen
- Four-star running back Jahmyr Gibbs
- Three-star athlete Damarcus (“Dee”) Beckwith
- Three-star running back Ashaad Clayton
- Three-star running back Jalen White
Of those players, though, only Williams is regarded as a very likely Florida pickup, with the Gators holding the entirety of the Crystal Ball predictions for his choice and long seen as having done enough to hold off a late-charging Miami.
The rest will likely head elsewhere, I believe. Umanmielen is a Texas prospect picking between Baylor and Florida, and close to a coin flip; my guess is it comes up Bears. Gibbs has been atop Florida’s list at running back essentially since the Gators missed out on Lakeland star Demarkcus Bowman, but he has also remained solid to Georgia Tech throughout the recruiting process, and appears likely to be a jewel of Geoff Collins’s first full cycle of recruiting for the Yellow Jackets. Beckwith appeared to be a Florida lean for many months, but Tennessee’s late push and Larry Scott’s decamping for Howard seem to have given the Vols the edge. Clayton, a Colorado commit, and White, whose offer list is suspiciously light, are seen as unlikely backup plans for Gibbs.
Florida is also not expected to add many National Letters of Intent from prospects who are committed but not yet signed. Four-star wide receiver Xzavier Henderson — whose signing was announced by Florida at about 8:30 a.m. — was the only outstanding Florida commit expected to sign today, as fellow commits Marc Britt and Leonard Manuel are set to delay their signings until academics are in order. Britt’s indicated he will sign on February 20, and suggested he’s choosing between Florida and Ole Miss; Manuel may delay his signing even further.
In all, I would not be surprised if Florida’s news for the day is the commitment of Williams and the signing of Henderson. That wouldn’t be bad at all.
Update, 12:43 p.m.: So about that “having done enough to hold off a late-charging Miami” in regards to Avantae Williams: Apparently not!
Williams signing with Miami is a shocker not just to Florida, but to most of the college football recruiting industry, and while I’d argue — and did in the above-linked post — that it’s far from a death blow given how deep Florida’s class is in the secondary, it definitely hurts to have a blue-chip prospect thought of as a lock head elsewhere at the 11th hour.
But if Miami got newly-hired chief of staff Ed Reed in Williams’s ear? It would be hard to blame a highly-touted high school safety for listening intently to a pitch from one of the greatest safeties of the modern era, or for choosing to follow it.
That said, Florida whiffing on Williams is also likely to produce yet another round of recriminations about safeties coach Ron English, whose seeming inability to land top-flight prospects like Williams and whose charges’ status as the weak link of Florida’s defense for two years running have made him a popular target of the Twitter mob. I don’t expect English to be fired or shuffled upstairs to an off-field role this offseason, despite that public criticism, but it is certainly incumbent upon him to finally forge a decent battery of safeties in 2020 to help shore up his job status.
Update, 12:53 p.m.: Jahymr Gibbs has stayed with Georgia Tech, as was expected.
Between Gibbs and Colorado commit Ashaad Clayton sticking with their previous pledges, Florida’s running back recruiting in the 2020 cycle appears to have amounted to wooing Miami transfer Lorenzo Lingard. Lingard was better-regarded in his recruiting cycle than any Florida target — Demarkcus Bowman included — was in this one, but the Gators not adding a high school back and maybe needing to wait a year for Lingard to become eligible isn’t ideal in either aspect.
And if you think the Twitter mob has it out for English, you should hear the things they say about running backs coach Greg Knox.