Graham’s Mail Haul 02/12

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With the passing of National Signing Day on Feb. 3 signaling the finish of the 2016 recruiting class, the Gators have a new focus: the 2017 recruiting class.

Coach Jim McElwain and his staff held UF’s first junior day for 2017 recruits Jan. 30, and they’ll continue to welcome potential Gators to campus throughout the Spring.

While it remains early in the process, Florida has three verbal commits from 2017 recruits: four-star St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Jake Allen, three-star Tampa Bay Tech wide receiver Daquon Green and four-star Miami Norland tackle Kadeem Telfort.

There will be plenty of developments and updates throughout the coming months as the Gators prepare for Spring practice, and the staff will continue recruiting across the country over the next year.

Now, your questions!

What quarterback do you see as the starter next season?@coachomar19

I anticipate Florida will head into the Spring with fifth-year senior Austin Appleby as the leader at quarterback, despite the Gators having seen little of him in practice. From what reports seem to indicate, the consensus is Appleby has size and delivers his throws with precision. The knock against him at Purdue was interceptions – he finished last season with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in just five games.

While those numbers are understandably unappealing to a fan base starving for UF’s return to the exceptional quarterback play of the mid-2000s, consider the talent Appleby had at wide receiver compared to the potential the Gators have.

I think his experience gives him the best shot at being UF’s quarterback at the start of next season, but I would not be at all surprised if Luke Del Rio gets the nod. I’m personally part of the contingent that believes Feleipe Franks will likely redshirt next season.

How much of a surprise to UF’s coaches was Shavar Manuel’s late flip to FSU?g@rlee515

While I can’t speak for the coaches on a personal level, I’ve heard from people close to the program that in the week leading up to signing day the Gators began speculating Manuel was planning to flip. But it’s not uncommon for recruits to flip on signing day.

What is peculiar and had Gators fans crying foul, however, is the way Manuel did it.

He left an emotionless tweet announcing his decommitment from the Gators before signing with the team’s biggest rival. Then, to add insult to injury, FSU defensive ends coach Brad Lawing revealed Manuel’s flip was in the works for the two weeks preceding signing day. The way it happened was more surprising than the actual flip.

What are the biggest needs for the class of 2017? What are the top 3-5 targets for each position?@Lake_Breezy

I think the Gators first need to address the positions the 2016 class lacked, namely tight end and defensive tackle. They’ll continue to recruit all positions actively, and the signing of a highly ranked quarterback every year is seemingly a necessity for competing in college football. But aside from the obvious answer, I think UF’s biggest need is recruiting the state of Florida.

Although I think UF is extremely content with the outcome of the 2016 class, the fact is the Gators often trailed Florida State and Miami when it came to recruiting recruits in Florida. While UF definitely improved on the road nationally, McElwain and his staff will look to strengthen relationships with in-state prospects in the 2017 class.