Florida’s 2018 class is seemingly complete, with 19 signings and two transfers becoming the latest additions to join the Gators and first-year UF coach Dan Mullen.
But recruiting in college football never ceases, and Mullen has made that clear within his first two months.
“Recruiting is a 24/7, 365 deal,” Mullen said at his Signing Day press conference. “I think I probably even spent more time on the phone with 2019s today than I did with 2018 guys. You know, it’s a process that keeps going and never ends.”
In addition to spending time on the phone with 2019 recruits, Mullen paid a visit Feb. 2 to Wellington High School to see several prospects, with dynamic athlete Mark-Antony Richards being at the top of the list.
Ranked by Rivals as the No. 22 overall prospect in the 2019 class, Richards’ recruitment has seen him pick up multiple Power 5 offers, with Missouri and Oklahoma being the most recent to join the list. And it’s no secret why: Richards can play all over the field, as he finished his junior season with 954 rushing yards, 605 receiving yards and more than 1,100 yards as a returner.
He found the endzone seven times, and that was just on the offensive side of the ball. Richards also contributed 56 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two sacks for Wellington’s defense.
It’s clear as to why programs are lining up to offer Richards, and the Gators helped by getting in early with the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder. He camped at Florida last July for Friday Night Lights, and the Gators remain on his radar with his senior season on the horizon.
“It was cool to see all the commits, like Andrew Chatfield,” Richards said of UF’s Signing Day on Wednesday. “That’s pretty cool just sitting back and watching it, just knowing I could be part of that one day.”
Richards plans to be on Florida’s campus in two weeks for UF’s Junior Day on Feb. 24, and it won’t be the only time in the next few months he’s in Gainesville getting to know Florida’s coaching staff.
“I believe I’ll be at UF’s Junior Day, and I’ll be taking an unofficial to Florida once again when they have their Spring Game on April 14,” Richards said. “I’ll be there with my family.”
— Mark-Antony Richards (@Mark21Richards) November 6, 2017
While Richards was offered by coach Jim McElwain’s staff, he’s yet to meet coach Mullen and co., but that didn’t stop Florida’s head coach from leaving a lasting impression on him when Mullen arrived in Wellington last week.
“That shows me they actually do want me. It shows me that I’m actually one of their top recruits,” Richards said. “My coach kind of repeated everything back to me, but from what he said everything sounded really good.”
The Gators have offered the athletic Richards on offense, but, considering his potential at multiple positions, they’re not limiting him to just running back. With a multi-faceted skill-set and another year to develop on the field, Richards could turn into a weapon at multiple positions wherever he ends up signing in 2019.
But Florida is far from the only in-state program in the mix. Richards’ older brother, wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, signed with Miami (Fl.) in the 2016 class out of Wellington, and he certainly could factor into Mark-Antony’s recruitment.
However, Ahmmon hasn’t been in his ear – at least not yet – and he’s letting Mark-Antony evaluate the landscape for himself and enjoy the recruiting process that comes with being a top-notch prospect.
“Ahmmon’s giving me space, because he doesn’t want me to push me to go to his school,” Richards said, “because that could turn out not to be a great fit. Because that would be something that I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy with. So, he’s been through the recruiting process also, so he’s letting me deal with it myself. But he’s giving me some advice. It’s hard to determine what school to pick and you don’t want to rush a decision, because I almost did that a few times.”
For his upcoming senior season, Richards’ goal is to prove the evaluations correct, if not exceed them. Rather than settle for being a high-end four-star prospect, he’s looking to be considered one of the top prospects in the state of Florida, if not the nation. Yet at the same time, Richards wants to stay grounded and perform at Wellington in his final season.
“I know there have been a few rankings that recently come out, but my goal is to be the No. 1 player in the class,” Richards said. “I’m getting very close. That’s just one of the minor things, overall I want to win a state championship with my high school. Bring the first one to Wellington High School. And also, rushing for 2,000 yards.”
While many plan to let their recruitments play out before making a decision on Signing Day, Richards could see himself becoming the trailblazer for a program’s 2019 recruiting class – as long as it’s the perfect fit.
“I would love to be recruit other recruits to a certain school. If I went to Florida, I would love to help out and get certain kids to come there, especially kids I know that can play,” Richards said. “But if I went to Miami, I would love to do the same. So we’ll have to see.”