Florida’s eight early enrollees have gotten off to a considerable head start over their freshmen brothers in the 2018 signing class.
They’re ahead by 14 practices, a spring game and countless workouts, meetings and film sessions.
It’s an early body of work that has put all eight in a position to possibly contribute this fall, some significantly.
The other 11 members of the recruiting class will be playing catch-up this summer, so that they also will have a chance to see the field in 2018.
Four have already gotten started with their enrollment in the summer A semester last week. The seven others are set to arrive in late June for the start of summer B.
Here’s a look at the summer arrivals and what kind of situation they might find themselves in this fall:
Andrew Chatfield, Defensive end/Outside linebacker
With a glaring lack of depth across the board at linebacker, this four-star prospect who recorded 25 sacks his junior season in high school has a chance to make an immediate contribution as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. Cece Jefferson, who underwent shoulder surgery last month, is expected back for the start of camp, but if he’s limited, it could mean a lot more reps for Chatfield.
Jacob Copeland, Wide receiver
This receiver group may be Florida’s deepest and most skilled in almost a decade, but the reality is the only proven playmakers are Tyrie Cleveland and Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson, who still doesn’t even know if he’ll be eligible this season. If the dynamic Copeland picks up the offense quickly, he could be an instant playmaker from the slot receiver spot, where he has the speed and quickness to make big things happen.
Richard Gouraige, Offensive lineman
In one regard, nothing seems to change on the Florida offensive line. Depth is always an issue. And it’s no different now. That’s why this big, strong, four-star prospect will get a long look early in preseason camp to see if he can provide some much-needed minutes at tackle or guard, or both.
John Huggins, Defensive back
Junior Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is UF’s only proven safety, so the hard-hitting Huggins, originally an FSU commit, will have a chance to possibly work his way into the playing rotation in preseason camp. He has a chance to be a starter on special teams, where many players have proven themselves and gone on to be starters on offense or defense.
Dante Lang, Tight end
A two-way standout in high school, Lang could eventually end up at defensive end, but he’s starting his UF career at tight end, a position he started really focusing on in his senior year. Lang might need a redshirt year to develop physically for a position with heavy blocking demands.
Malik Langham, Defensive end/Outside linebacker
This four-star prospect shunned homestate Alabama and signed with the Gators, so many are expecting him to come in and play immediately. He has the ability, and the versatility, to do just that at end and outside linebacker. Defensive line coach Sal Sunseri wants the defensive front to be four-deep at every position, so there’s a good chance Langham can work his way into the playing rotation at end.
Griffin McDowell, Offensive lineman
Originally committed to Mississippi State, McDowell is a tough, hard-nosed country kid who Dan Mullen really likes. He may only be a three-star prospect, but Mullen thinks he’s someone who can be developed into a top-flight SEC center. He would seem a likely redshirt candidate in 2018.
Evan McPherson, Kicker
Rated the No. 2 kicker in the country, McPherson is considered the assumptive starter by some. Senior Jorge Powell will have something to say about that, but McPherson has the talent to possibly have the same kind of sudden impact that Eddy Pineiro had two years ago when he first arrived.
Kyle Pitts, Tight end
One of the highest-rated players in the class, this four-star prospect will arrive in June looking for early playing time. But he’s going to start out camp fourth on the depth chart behind C’yontai Lewis, Moral Stephens and Kemore Gamble. Tight end is playmaking position in Mullen’s offense, and Pitts has the kind of talent that might get him noticed early in camp.
David Reese, Safety/linebacker
Some see Reese as a safety playing linebacker. Others see him as a linebacker playing safety. The bottom line is this four-star prospect has the ability to play both positions and likely will have one of those hybrid roles in Todd Grantham’s attacking defense.
Justin Watkins, Cornerback
A four-star wide receiver coming out of high school, Watkins will start his UF career at cornerback, where the Gators have no proven depth behind starters Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson. Although many schools recruited him as a wide receiver, others think he has a bigger upside at corner with his quickness and speed.