[Updated: 8:41 p.m., 2-1-18] The final weekend before National Signing Day has arrived at last, and the Gators are looking to finish strong on the football recruiting trail.
Florida’s coaching staff is expecting to host four prospects in the 2018 class on official visits over the weekend, including a prospect regarded as the top in-state wide receiver in Jacob Copeland.
A 6-foot-1, 190-pound prospect out of Pensacola’s Escambia High, Copeland is expected to sign with either Alabama or Florida on Wednesday, but not before giving the Gators one last chance to keep him in his home state. Copeland, ranked the No. 12 overall wide receiver prospect in the 2018 class by 247Sports, backed off a previous pledge to the Gators following the departure of Jim McElwain, but a strong push by coach Dan Mullen and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales has Florida back in the mix to land the Under Armour All-American participant.
Although his situation could change before the weekend, Florida is also expecting to host the top JUCO defensive end prospect in the 2018 class in Dorian Gerald. A native of Florence, South Carolina, Gerald’s recruitment has taken off over the past few months as he’s been courted by multiple SEC powers, and he’ll arrive in Gainesville immediately after a mid-week official visit to Arkansas. The Gators appear to be in a strong position to land his signature, but they’ll have to stave off the Razorbacks and Texas A&M on Wednesday. If Gerald doesn’t arrive in Gainesville for his official visit, however, it indicates the Gators are in a prime position to land a signature from Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar.
The Gators also expect to host another defensive end in Olive Branch (Miss.) prospect Fabien Lovett. A 6-foot-4, 285-pound prospect, Lovett had previously committed to Mullen at Mississippi State prior to the start of the 2017 season, but he decided to back off his pledge Jan. 1. Now, it appears his decision will come down to the Gators, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, with UF getting the final crack at signing Lovett, ranked the No. 20 strong-side defensive end in the 2018 class by 247Sports.
With just nine scholarships to hand out Wednesday, and three prospects verbally committed in offensive linemen Richard Gouraige and Griffin McDowell and athlete Justin Watkins, it’s anyone’s guess how Florida’s board shakes out down the stretch. But one thing is certain: there’s no shortage of highly valued prospects looking to join Mullen’s inaugural class as Florida’s head coach.