The Florida Gators have provided fans with plenty of frustrations on the recruiting trail under Dan Mullen, whose overall strategy, bedside manner, and retinue of assistant coaches all routinely come in for criticism.
But one constant for the Gators since Mullen’s arrival has been a flow of talented linebackers into the program, thanks largely to linebackers coach Christian Robinson — and 2022 linebacker E.J. Lightsey of Georgia committing to Florida on Monday only continues that trend.
Lightsey revealed his commitment just before noon on Twitter, via a video produced in partnership with the Sports Illustrated team site AllGators.
Here y’all go @SIAllAmerican pic.twitter.com/CqV3cvFyF5— Ej Lightsey (@EjLightsey8) August 16, 2021
Lightsey not being a highly-touted prospect — he checks in as a solid three-star player in the 247Sports Composite rankings, which have him as the nation’s No. 426 player overall at the moment — is also something that won’t rankle many because of Robinson’s pursuit of him. Robinson, who played and coached under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and remained with Florida despite an offseason pursuit by Michigan, has proven himself one of the Gators’ most productive recruiters in the Mullen era, reeling in players from Diwun Black to Derek Wingo to Shemar James at the linebacker position alone.
In total, 247Sports credits Robinson as a lead recruiter on 18 prospects signed by or committed to Florida in his three years and change on the Gators’ staff, and the perception is that he remains the staff’s best recruiter — and not entirely by dint of being the youngest and hippest assistant on the payroll, either.
So when Florida lands a player like Lightsey, whose athleticism makes him a potentially versatile piece on defense, the trust in Robinson generally outweighs any skepticism about national rankings placement among fans.
Lightsey joins James to form a promising duo at the core of Florida’s crop of 2022 linebackers, and brings Florida to 12 public commits for the 2022 cycle. The Gators’ class currently sits at a paltry 24th nationally, thanks partly to the relatively small number of commits — of the 23 teams ahead of Florida, only North Carolina counts just 12 pledges — but their average recruit rating of 89.75 is essentially in line with historical top-15 classes, and is also being somewhat artificially depressed by the presence of kicker Trey Smack, who is rated a low three-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite but the No. 5 kicker in the 2022 class by the experts at Kohl’s Kicking.
And if Robinson has anything to do with it, those numbers could obviously still rise.