Gators eye big final push weekend before start of Early Signing Period

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Florida Gators enter the stadium Saturday during Gator Walk before the first home game of the season against UT-Martin at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

With the early signing period set to open Wednesday, Florida is eyeing an impressive finish on the football recruiting trail. 

After landing highly regarded four-star offensive lineman Josh Braun, who de-committed from Georgia in the wake of Sam Pittman’s departure, early Friday, UF’s 2020 class is up to No. 6 in the nation after ranking just outside the top-10 at the conclusion of the regular season. 

And Florida isn’t done, as the Gators intend to host several priority targets for official visits over the weekend before prospects can begin signing Wednesday; despite holding commitments from 23 prospects, Florida still has four spots to fill to hit the counter limit, which UF intends to do. 

Of the eight prospects scheduled for official visits this weekend, four could be contributors along the interior of UF’s defensive line. A trio of four-star defensive tackles in Johnnie Brown, Gervon Dexter and Jalen Lee will each take official visits to UF over the weekend. Lee, the most recent of the three to commit to UF defensive line coach David Turner, committed to the Gators on Dec. 5 and will mark his first visit to campus in eight months. 

Florida’s coaching staff is hoping the presence and camaraderie of the three committed defensive linemen will leave a positive impression on Tim Smith and Clyde Pinder Jr., the only official visitors currently committed elsewhere.

Ranked the No. 8 defensive tackle in the 2020 class, Smith is currently committed to Alabama and former defensive line coach Sal Sunseri, yet the Gators aren’t giving up on landing the 6-foot-4, 320-pound in-state prospect. Turner spent a full day during the contact period with Smith and his family, leading to Saturday’s official visit in a critical weekend. 

Flipping Smith from the Crimson Tide isn’t Florida’s only objective, as Pinder remains high on UF’s list as well. Although he’s ranked a three-star by 247Sports, Pinder’s stock has risen over the past few months, leading the Gators to offer the 6-foot defensive tackle on Nov. 21. He remains locked in with North Carolina, having taken an official visit to Chapel Hill last weekend, although there’s optimism he could be swayed to remain in-state. 

Aside from looking to flip Pinder and Smith, the Gators are looking to impress the latest Pouncey brothers set to step foot on campus. 

Ethan Pouncey, ranked the No. 9 cornerback in the 2020 class, will take an official visit over the weekend with his older brother Jordan, a former wide receiver at Texas who will enroll at UF in spring as a graduate transfer with two years of eligibility. Distant cousins with former Florida standout offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, the latest iteration of the Pouncey’s committed to Florida two weeks ago, and Saturday’s visit should all but formalize their commitments. 

Finally, the development of UF’s offensive line continues next season as the Gators will once again look to fill a void up front, but Florida received a boost Wednesday when Buchholz High standout Mark Pitts de-committed from the University of Central Florida and accepted a preferred walk-on spot with Florida. Ranked by 247Sports as the No. 91 offensive lineman in the 2020 class, Pitts holds scholarship offers from several Division I programs, and UF plans to treat him like one despite the walk-on designation. Pitts will round out the list and take an official visit to UF before signing early on Wednesday, giving the Gators seven offensive linemen set to join the program next year. 

It’s worth noting that there’s another advantage to the early signing period, as some of UF’s signees will soon be on campus, if they aren’t already — qualifying signees may begin practicing with their team during the bowl preparation period, a process that signees such as Braun, and Eastside High quarterback Anthony Richardson, will utilize.

While things could certainly change — UF may have an official visitor in town it’s keeping close to the vest — the Gators are in ideal position to land a top-five recruiting class, but it will take a strong finish from coach Dan Mullen and his coaching staff.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Mullen and his staff are again bringing in another top 10 football recruiting class. However, my biggest wish at the close of this years 2020 class is the addition of 1 or 2 more RUNNING BACKS. At this time with Lamical Perine graduating the gators will be down to 4 running backs (MALIK DAVIS, DAMEON PIERCE, IVERSON CLEMENT and NAYQUAN WRIGHT). Within a tough SEC season it is not uncommon to see a few out of action due to injuries. Also the common number of running backs to carry on a team is 7, not 4. THAT IS MY WISH!