With most of the National Letters of Intent signed and sent, National Signing Day has been wrapped up, and now it’s time to grade the Florida Gators recruiting class for 2017.
It was a busy National Signing Day for Jim McElwain’s crew. And while many fans were not so positive heading into the day, the Florida Gators recruiting class found a way to finish strong and secure a top-10 spot in the 2017 rankings.
In fact, they finished squarely at No. 10 overall and also wound up at No. 5 in the SEC recruiting class rankings thanks to late additions like 4-star wide receiver James Robinson and 3-star running back Adarius Lemons.
With that said, let’s take a look at the entire Florida Gators recruiting class from 2017, and hand out a few grades.
Four-star quarterback Jake Allen was the first one to join the Florida Gators recruiting class last year, and he certainly paid dividends by helping recruit other players for the program. However, Allen lost a lot of his luster this past season despite leading St. Thomas Aquinas High School to another state championship.
The Gators should have looked to bring in another quarterback alongside Allen. Four-star athlete Kadarius Toney will get a shot to play quarterback, but the odds of him staying there are slim. More than likely, he’ll end up making the switch to wide receiver and will be a true offensive weapon for McElwain and Doug Nussmeier. Considering the Gators haven’t had a consistent quarterback situation since the Urban Meyer days, another quarterback would have been a welcome addition.
Running Back: B+
Getting Lemons back into the class was a huge move. He’s had some off-field issues that have hopefully been resolved, but when it comes to football the kid is a real threat in the backfield. He’s a violent runner, has quick feet, and is explosive with the ability to separate himself from defensive backs when he hits that third level. If you put him out on the perimeter, he’ll pick up chunks of yardage.
The interesting note to consider is how the Gators are pairing him with 3-star running back Malik Davis. He’s the perfect complement to Lemons. Davis’ best quality is his vision. He’s patient and won’t commit to a hole simply because it’s there. He reads defenses and chooses a lane like a veteran tailback would. Davis takes initial contact and keeps his legs moving, as he shows great balance and power when toting the rock.
Wide Receiver: A
As previously mentioned, letting Robinson into the class was a smart move. At the end of the day, it’s about more than football. And McElwain put it best when he said how fortunate the Gators are to be a part of the 4-star wide receiver’s life moving forward. The two parties should help each other. We’re talking about a true symbiotic relationship in Gainesville because Robinson will provide a big, physical receiver who can go over the middle and stretch the field vertically. But Florida can also help him grow into a responsible, mature adult by providing him an education.
And for good measure, McElwain’s staff held on to a commitment from 4-star receiver Daquon Green, who provides many of the same qualities Robinson does. However, there’s an emphasis on Green’s ability to make plays down the field and in the red zone. They should be two welcomed additions to that wide receiving corps.
Tight End: C+
The grade here is based off the fact Zechariah Byrd did not end up signing his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, so that hurt a bit. Florida could have really benefitted by signing two tight ends in this class. However, the Gators did end up getting Kemore Gamble, who could see some early reps this upcoming season. He’s a tall, strong, receiving tight end who can turn into a match-up nightmare for linebackers and nickels in the SEC.
Offensive Line: B
The signing of 4-star offensive tackle T.J. Moore was big for two reasons. First, it filled a need for the Gators, as David Sharpe is leaving for the 2017 NFL Draft, and they needed to go out and get an offensive tackle to bring in. The second reason is the fact Florida plucked him Mallard Creek High School in Charlote, North Carolina — the same high school D.J. Humphries came out of when he signed with the Gators. They’ve dipped into North Carolina in the past with Humphries, Will Grier, Jonathan Bullard, Chris Leak and a few others, so we might be looking at a true pipeline for future Florida Gators recruiting classes.
McElwain also managed to hold onto 4-star offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort. That was huge considering Miami was trying to flip him, and the Hurricanes already managed to hold onto Navaughn Donaldson and land Kai-Leon Herbert. With Telfort and Moore, the Gators can throw them into the mix with a young offensive line that also includes Jawaan Taylor, Martez Ivey, Fred Johnson and T.J. McCoy.
Defensive Line: A
Four-star defensive end Zachary Carter was committed for awhile and helped Allen in recruiting others to Gainesville, but he should have a much bigger impact on the field. The kid is dynamite off the edge, and he’ll be rotating with guys like Jordan Smith, Antonneous Clayton, Jabari Zuniga and Keivonnis Davis.
Chris Rumph needed to beef up the defensive line, though, with some big boys in the middle, and he did. Getting 5-star offensive guard Tedarrell Slaton would have been a massive pick-up if he were going to say there. It’s possibly more important that he joined Florida as a defensive tackle. He has quick, violent hands and fires off the ball. He should see a lot of playing time next season. With 4-star defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe and 3-star defensive tackle Kyree Campbell thrown into the mix, the Gators have the depth they needed.
Never … ever … doubt Randy Shannon when it comes to coaching linebackers. He pulled in Vosean Joseph and David Reese last year, and he found some more diamonds in the 2017 cycle. Three-star prospect James Houston IV is coming off an injury, but he’ll see a lot of work as a Mike linebacker. Nick Smith and Ventrell Miller are a couple of 3-star recruits as well, but both can lay the wood and deliver punishing hits like the one Joseph put on Danny Etling in Baton Rouge. So, it appears Shannon is trying to set a tone there: seek and destroy. But Florida also picked up 2-star outside linebacker Lacedrick Brunson. A move inside might be in store for him, as he reads the run well and can make things happen as a delayed blitzer.
Defensive Backs: A
This was another crucial area of need for the Gators. With Teez Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Marcus Maye all on the way out, they needed to add bodies to the secondary, and they did. Marco Wilson, Quincy’s younger brother, is a 4-star prospect and is far more athletic than his brother was at this stage. And he’ll be accompanied by 4-star cornerback Brad Stewart (whom Florida plucked out of New Orleans), 4-star cornerback Shawn Davis and 4-star cornerback Christopher Henderson. The Gators beat out Miami for the latter two, which is huge in its own right.
But along with them, Torrian Gray nabbed a couple of 3-star safeties in Brian Edwards and Donovan Stiner. Edwards was another recruit Miami was trying to lure away from Florida, and Stiner flipped his commitment from Houston on Sunday. That DBU battle should get interesting.
Florida Gators Recruiting Class Overall Grade: A-
Note: Scout rankings and ratings used in this article.