Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; DECEMBER 20, 2018

EARLY NATIONAL SIGNING DAY EDITION

When the three 4-star Lakeland kids signed their scholarship papers Wednesday, it ensured the Florida Gators would move up several places in the recruiting rankings. Although Dan Mullen doesn’t exactly pay close attention to the rankings, Mullen does know what making a big move does for perceptions. Perceptions are the Gators are a hot team that has 20 signed players (one other commitment) and a chance to move up two or three more spots (or more) in the rankings when National Signing Day, Part Deux, takes place the first Wednesday in February. Florida has room for another 5-6 players so there is no question the Gators will look even better on paper in 48 days when the signing rituals are performed a second time.

Significant Wednesday was the way Mullen and his staff filled out the Florida roster. A second straight recruiting class that addressed quality depth has Florida in the best shape top to bottom of the roster in years. The only position where you wonder if the Gators have adequate depth is on the D-line and those issues should be addressed in February.

This early signing group might not have the wow factor of the one Nick Saban just signed at Alabama, but it comes very close to meeting and even exceeding Florida’s needs at most positions. And, if Mullen can bring in another five or six very talented players in February, he may have the Gators primed for even bigger and better things in the next year or two.

BREAKING DOWN THE ROSTER

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has already declared for the NFL with announcements that they are also going expected any day now from Jachai Polite, Jawaan Taylor and Jordan Scarlett. There is a possibility Jabari Zuniga and Vosean Joseph could also declare for the draft, plus there will be some transfers. Daquon Green has already entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal and a couple more likely elect to leave if they don’t move up the depth chart significantly in the spring.

As it stands right now, after 19 signed on Wednesday, the Gators have 80 scholarship players – 42 on offense, 38 on defense and two on special teams. The Gators have one committed player, linebacker Diwun Black (6-4, 220, Kissimmee, FL Osceola) who is going to sign. It is expected UF is going to get corner Chris Steele (6-2, 187, Bellflower, CA St. John Bosco), who may have signed already but won’t announce until the US Army game on January 5. That would allow Dan Mullen to sign three more players unless, of course, there is some roster movement (leave early for the NFL, transfer or dismissed from the team). A couple of people who have their pulse on the team, say that Mullen would like to sign two more D-linemen, two more corners and maybe one other. Additionally, he would like to leave a little bit of room in case there is a grad transfer or two or other transfers that become available. That means the scholarship situation will be very, very tight unless there is some movement.

Here is the current roster breakdown.

OFFENSE (42 on scholarship; 30 returning, 12 signed)

RETURNING QUARTERBACKS (3): Feleipe Franks (6-6, 240, RJR); Kyle Trask (6-5, 234, RJR); Emory Jones (6-2, 199, RFR)
Signed (1): Jalon Jones (6-3, 205, Richmond, VA Henrico)
THE SITUATION: Although it’s best to have at least four scholarship quarterbacks on hand, time is running out on Kyle Trask. Franks wound up with the best quarterback season since Tim Tebow in 2009 so he will have the first shot at starting next year. Emory Jones didn’t come here to sit and Jalon Jones will arrive in Gainesville with some seriously advanced skills. Unless Trask lights it up in the spring, it’s likely that he will look to transfer rather than face the possibility of piloting a clipboard for a fourth consecutive year. He has good enough skills to play somewhere, either at the low end of Division I or at D1AA.

RETURNING RUNNING BACKS (5): Lamical Perine (5-11, 227, SR); Malik Davis (5-11, 191, RSO); Dameon Pierce (5-10, 216, SO); Iverson Clement (5-11, 202, RFR)
Signed (1): Nay’Quan Wright (5-8, 188, Opa-Locka, FL Miami Carol City)
THE SITUATION: The Gators are almost certain to pick up one scholarship here because Scarlett has one foot out the door. His NFL Draft status won’t improve by staying a year and since he’s already been in Gainesville four years, he’s going to go. Perine flirted with the draft but he’s committed to coming back. With Pierce and a healthy Davis getting carries, Clement might choose to move to the other side of the ball just to get on the field.

RETURNING WIDE RECEIVERS (9): Van Jefferson (6-2, 197, RSR); Tyrie Cleveland (6-2, 206, SR); Freddie Swain (6-0, 199, SR); Josh Hammond (6-0, 194, SR); Rick Wells (6-0, 202, RJR); Kadarius Toney (5-11, 190, JR); Trevon Grimes (6-5, 210, JR); Daquon Green (6-1, 192, RSO); Jacob Copeland (6-0, 198, RFR)
Signed (3): Dionte Marks (5-11, 177, DeLand, FL); Ja’markis Weston (6-3, 205, Clewiston, FL); Trent Whittemore (6-3, 190, Gainesville, FL Buccholz)
THE SITUATION: Jefferson and Cleveland both thought about the NFL but both will be back. Daquon Green has submitted papers for the transfer portal and there are rumblings that Rick Wells might elect to go somewhere unless he can make a move up the depth chart in the spring. Florida picks up one scholarship here, possibly two. Of the freshmen, pay close attention to Weston. He’s a big receiver with speed who coaches believe would have been a 5-star guy if he had made the camp circuit last spring.

RETURNING TIGHT ENDS (3): Lucas Krull (6-6, 255, RJR); Kemore Gamble (6-3, 246, RSO); Kyle Pitts (6-6, 246, SO); Dante Lang (6-5, 253, RFR)
Signed (1): Keon Zipperer (6-2, 240, Lakeland, FL)
THE SITUATION: The Gators have four very athletic tight ends who can all catch the football and none of them are seniors. Getting Zipperer on Wednesday was a huge plus.

RETURNING OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10): T.J. McCoy (6-1, 305, RSR); Nick Buchanan (6-3, 291, RSR); Noah Banks (6-5, 309, RSR); Brett Heggie (6-4, 314, RJR); Stone Forsythe (6-7, 323, RJR); Jean Delance (6-4, 313, RJR); T.J. Moore (6-5, 300, RSO); Richard Gouraige (6-4, 303, RFR); Chris Bleich (6-6, 321, RFR); Griffin McDowell (6-3, 295, RFR)
Signed (6): William Harrod (6-5, 312, Fort Washington, MD National Christian Academy); Wardrick Wilson (6-4, 305, Opa-Locka, FL Miami Carol City); Riley Simonds (6-4, 324, Buford, GA); Ethan White (6-5, 375, Clearwater, FL); Kingsley Eguakun (6-3, 293, Jacksonville, FL Sandalwood); Michael Tarquin (6-6, 290, Citra, FL North Marion)
THE SITUATION: Ideally you want 16-18 offensive linemen on scholarship so having 16 for 2019 is a very good sign. Although UF will be very young up front, this is the best depth the Gators have had on the O-line in years. When spring football begins, don’t be surprised if the first unit is Buchanan at center, Banks and Heggie at the guards and Forsythe and Gouraige at the tackles.

DEFENSE (38 on scholarship; 31 returning; 7 signed)

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9): Adam Shuler (6-4, 275, GR); Jabari Zuniga (6-4, 257, RSR); Luke Ancrum (6-5, 264, RSR); Marlon Dunlap Jr. (6-3, 295, RJR); Tederral Slayton (6-5, 343, JR); Elijah Conliffe (6-4, 317, JR); Kyree Campbell (6-3, 304, JR); Zachary Carter (6-4, 277, RSO); Malik Langham (6-4, 286, RFR)
Signed (1): Jaelin Humphries (6-3, 303, Lawrenceville, GA Mountain View)
THE SITUATION: If there is one position group where depth is a concern, this is it and it’s possible the Gators will lose one more to the NFL because Zuniga is probably 50-50 at this point whether to stay or go. Mullen would like to sign a couple of D-linemen in February. This is a spot where a grad transfer would fit in nicely.

LINEBACKERS (10): Kylan Johnson (6-2, 232, RSR); Rayshad Jackson (6-0, 236, RSR); David Reese (6-1, 248, SR); Vosean Joseph (6-1, 226, SR); Jeremiah Moon (6-6, 232, RJR); Lacedrick Brunson (6-1, 234, RSO); Nick Smith (6-2, 227, RSO); James Houston IV (6-1, 233, RSO); Ventrell Miller (6-0, 229, RSO); Andrew Chatfield Jr. (6-0, 245, RFR)
Signed (4): Lloyd Summerall (6-6, 220, Lakeland, FL); Tyron Hopper (6-2, 205, Roswell, GA); Mohamoud Diabate (6-4, 215, Auburn, AL); Jesiah Pierre (6-2, 220, Mount Dora, FL Mount Dora Christian Academy)
Committed (1): Diwun Black (6-4, 220, Kissimmee, FL Osceola)
THE SITUATION: The good news here is that Reese will be back for his senior season. Joseph’s speed and athletic ability would make him the kind of combine freak who gets picked up in the first three rounds even though his tape shows he’s really raw and needs more experience. Right now it’s 50-50 whether he stays or goes to the NFL. When Black signs his LOI, the Gators will have one of the top five linebacker recruiting classes in the country. Of the freshmen, Summerall should see the field early and often as an edge guy who can get to the passer.

SECONDARY (12): Jeawon Taylor (6-0, 202, SR); C.J. McWilliams (5-11, 184, RJR); Quincy Lenton (5-11, 207, RJR); CJ Henderson (6-1, 191, JR); Brian Edwards (6-2, 192, JR); Donovan Stiner (6-1, 203, JR); Brad Stewart Jr. (6-1, 200, JR); Shawn Davis (5-11, 202, JR); Marco Wilson (6-0, 190, RSO); John Huggins (6-1, 206, SO); Trey Dean III (6-3, 194, SO); David Reese (6-0, 221, RFR)
Signed (2): Jaydon Hill (6-0, 174, Madison, AL Bob Jones); Chester Kimbrough (5-10, 167, New Orleans, LA Warren Easton)
THE SITUATION: There are a lot of rumbles that Chris Steele has already signed but will get his moment in the sun at the Army game. If so, Mullen wants one more DB which would give UF 16 on scholarship, an ideal number. The Gators should be ranked no lower than top three when it comes to preseason position rankings next year.

SPECIAL TEAMS (2 returning)

PLACEKICKER (1): Evan McPherson (5-11, 177, SO)
PUNTER (1): Tommy Townsend (6-2, 183, RSR)
THE SITUATION: McPherson will be here at least two more years. Townsend will join brother Johnny in the NFL in 2020.

RANDOM EARLY SIGNING DAY THOUGHTS: Depending on whose rankings you choose to believe, Georgia’s class was either the second or third best but neither of the Bulldogs’ two quarterbacks (Dwon Mathis or John Rhys Plumlee) can lighten up the doom and gloom of losing Justin Fields, who is reportedly contemplating a transfer to Ohio State … Only seven of Alabama’s 26-man class hail from the state of Alabama. One of the recruits is Tua Tagovailoa’s younger brother Taulia, who spent his senior year playing at Thompson High School in Alabaster, Alabama … Of 247Sports’ top 23 ranked recruiting classes, 11 (#1 Alabama, #2 Georgia, #3 Texas A&M, #4 LSU, #11 Auburn, #16 Florida, #17 Tennessee, #19 Mississippi State, #20 Arkansas, #22 South Carolina, #23 Ole Miss) are from the SEC. Vanderbilt (#51) is the only SEC school with a class ranked outside the top 33 (Kentucky is #32 and Missouri #33) … If I’m Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott I’m close to widespread panic over the state of recruiting for my conference. Oregon (#5) is the only top ten class for the Pac-12. The next highest ranked class is Washington at #15. Southern Cal and UCLA, which have 20 million people and some of the most talented high school players anywhere in the country within a 100-mile radius of their campuses, came in at #21 and #49 respectively … UCF brought in the highest ranked class in the American Athletic Conference at #57 … Here are the Division I recruiting rankings from the state of Florida: FSU #14, Florida #16, Miami #38, UCF #57, South Florida #63, Florida Atlantic #88 and Florida International #116 … Les Miles didn’t exactly set the recruiting world on fire with his first Kansas offering. The Jayhawks rank #106 … It’s not like Jim McElwain was the recruiting guru either at Central Michigan. His new class is ranked #98.