Florida’s efforts on the recruiting trail are ready to pay off.
The Early Signing Period, set to last through Friday, will see UF ink the vast majority of its committed prospects to national letters of intent over the next 72 hours, in turn giving Gators coach Dan Mullen and his staff another group of highly regarded freshmen to work with in Gainesville.
As it stands, 20 of UF’s 22 verbal commits will sign early when the period opens Wednesday, including three players already enrolled and practicing with the Gators in quarterback Anthony Richardson and offensive linemen Josh Braun and Richie Leonard IV — meaning at least 17 players are expected to sign with UF between now and Friday.
The Gators will ink five committed defensive linemen, headlined by Lake Wales standout Gervon Dexter. Ranked the No. 3 defensive tackle in the nation, Dexter shut his recruitment down for much of his senior season, instead opting to spend the previous four months improving his game while recruiting talent to join him in Gainesville. He’ll sign Wednesday, as will fellow four-star defensive linemen Johnnie Brown, Lamar Goods and Antwaun Powell, while recent commit Jalen Lee intends to sign Thursday following a ceremony at his high school.
Of that group, Goods and Powell have indicated intentions to enroll early at UF in time for the spring semester — although that list could certainly change.
Florida isn’t done there when it comes to the front seven, as the Gators will also see highly touted in-state outside linebacker Derek Wingo sign a letter of intent. Ranked by Rivals as a five-star prospect and the No. 19 overall player in the 2020 class, Wingo gives the Gators another impressive addition at linebacker after UF prioritized the position in the 2019 class.
Sticking with the “DBU” mantra, the Gators are expected to sign a pair of top-10 ranked cornerbacks Wednesday in Jahari Rogers and Ethan Pouncey. Ranked by 247Sports as the No. 7 and No. 9 cornerbacks in the 2020 class, respectively, the duo also intend on enrolling at UF in spring to get a jumpstart on their development. They’re not the only corners set to finalize a collegiate career in Gainesville, as in-state defensive back/kick returner Fenley Graham and Missouri City, Texas, standout Avery Helm will each sign early with UF come Wednesday. At safety, UF expects Bartram Trail star Tre’Vez Johnson to finalize his commitment by Thursday, as will Marietta product Rashad Torrence II, who unlike Johnson intends to enroll early at Florida.
On the other side of the ball, the Gators will see several pass-catchers sign early, including Dunnellon wide receiver Ja’Quavion Fraziars and Tampa tight end Jonathan Odom. While the Gators still have work to do on the recruiting trail before the February signing period when it comes to running back and wide receiver, UF isn’t lagging behind when it comes to recruiting the team’s protection. Four of the five offensive linemen committed to the Gators will sign Wednesday, with three-star guard Jovens Janvier the lone abstention. Four-star tackle Issiah Walker will join Braun and Leonard in a matter of weeks as early enrollees, while Gerald Mincey and Janvier will join the team in June.
However, as those who frequently follow the highs and lows of recruiting may know, the Gators may be in for a photo finish. Still looking to bolster the interior of the defensive line, Florida has relentlessly pursued a flip of four-star defensive tackle Tim Smith. Currently committed to Alabama, Smith will sign with either the Gators or Crimson Tide at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday in a battle that could come down to the wire.
When it comes to running back, the Gators await decisions from EJ Smith and Jahmyr Gibbs. The former’s the son of NFL legend and former Florida running back Emmitt Smith, while the latter remains committed to Georgia Tech. Smith will announce his decision Wednesday at 11 a.m., with Texas A&M being the presumed leader heading into the early signing period, while Gibbs won’t sign until February. If neither player opts to sign with Florida, the Gators could pursue a signature from in-state running back Henry Parrish.
And, considering four-star wide receiver Leonard Manuel has some work to do before signing with the Gators, UF is keeping its options open at the wide receiver position. The one to watch here is Sam Brown, a 6-foot-2 prospect out of Bloomingdale, Georgia. Until late he was set to enroll at the University of Central Florida — until offers from Florida, then Georgia, arrived. Now, Brown has moved his decision date up to Wednesday from February, and there’s a significant chance he signs with the Gators.
With the Gators set to add 27 players in the 2020 class, the early signing period could go a long way to determining Florida’s level of success in the near future.