Florida’s 2017 season ended as it began — in defeat.
As in-state rival Florida State ran off Florida Field on Saturday with a 38-22 win in hand, there was nothing for Florida to embrace except the future.
While the UF administration searches for the next head coach, the prospects verbally committed to Florida can do nothing but watch as the process unfolds.
The 2018 Class, now down to 16 verbal commitments after the de-commitments of two players (Jacob Copeland, the No. 7-ranked wide receiver in the 2018 class by 247Sports and three-star defensive end Taylor Upshaw) over the weekend, those in attendance Saturday echoed similar sentiments, with many insisting they’ll wait to see who UF hires as the program’s next head coach before making a decision about their collegiate destination. But with just three weeks until the early signing period on Dec. 20, Florida is in a race against the clock to solidify the 2018 recruiting class.
Amari Burney, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound safety in the 2018 class out of Calvary Christian in Clearwater, said he remains confident in Florida’s future and plans to stick with his verbal commitment despite the instability the program has recently experienced.
But Burney, like the rest of the country, is closely watching Florida’s coaching search.
“I really had a great relationship with Coach (Jim) McElwain, but I really had a great relationship with every coach,” Burney said. “It really depends on who they bring in. If they bring in a coach I was talking to before from another school, then I’ll stay committed.”
While Burney, who hopes to enroll early at Florida, will soon make a decision on his future, the prospects in the 2019 class committed to the Gators have the benefit of watching the process unfold long after Signing Day.
Some, like Jaleel McRae, a safety out of New Smyrna Beach in the 2019 class, have a clear idea of who they’d like to take over the program moving forward.
“I like (Central Florida coach) Scott Frost,” McRae said. “I went to UCF yesterday, and I went in the locker room before and after the game, and just the way he presents himself to the boys. I just love that about him. Just the way he carries himself, I love it.”
But after reports emerged early Sunday that Frost did not meet with UF officials, McRae opted to open his recruitment and de-commit from the Gators, a commitment he made nearly three years ago.
Others were displeased with aspects aside from the loss, the coaching search or the program’s general uncertainty.
“I just wanted to see some fight,” said Largo High product Jaquaze Sorrells, who committed to Florida’s 2019 class back in June of 2016. “See them boys at least try to fight for something that they love to play, or love to do. But that didn’t happen. The effort, them boys looked like they didn’t really want to play.”
But Sorrells reiterated the sentiments of the others in attendance Saturday: he remains committed to the program rather than a coach, and any decision on his future will wait until the haze hanging over the program has cleared.
“When I first committed, I said if Coach (Chris) Rumph leaves, that’s over for me. So we’ll see what happens. Day-by-day to see a better day, I’m not rushing anything.”