11 summer enrollees who can help UF’s football team

While Justin Watkins (1) was a standout wide receiver in high school, he can also play defensive back, a spot where he may get a first look by Florida coaches in August's preseason camp. [PAUL RYAN /CORRESPONDENT]

Florida’s eight early enrollees have gotten off to a considerable head start over their freshmen brothers in the 2018 signing class.

They’re ahead by 14 practices, a spring game and countless workouts, meetings and film sessions.

It’s an early body of work that has put all eight in a position to possibly contribute this fall, some significantly.

The other 11 members of the recruiting class will be playing catch-up this summer, so that they also will have a chance to see the field in 2018.

Four have already gotten started with their enrollment in the summer A semester last week. The seven others are set to arrive in late June for the start of summer B.

Here’s a look at the summer arrivals and what kind of situation they might find themselves in this fall:

Andrew Chatfield, Defensive end/Outside linebacker

With a glaring lack of depth across the board at linebacker, this four-star prospect who recorded 25 sacks his junior season in high school has a chance to make an immediate contribution as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. Cece Jefferson, who underwent shoulder surgery last month, is expected back for the start of camp, but if he’s limited, it could mean a lot more reps for Chatfield.

Jacob Copeland, Wide receiver

This receiver group may be Florida’s deepest and most skilled in almost a decade, but the reality is the only proven playmakers are Tyrie Cleveland and Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson, who still doesn’t even know if he’ll be eligible this season. If the dynamic Copeland picks up the offense quickly, he could be an instant playmaker from the slot receiver spot, where he has the speed and quickness to make big things happen.

Richard Gouraige, Offensive lineman

In one regard, nothing seems to change on the Florida offensive line. Depth is always an issue. And it’s no different now. That’s why this big, strong, four-star prospect will get a long look early in preseason camp to see if he can provide some much-needed minutes at tackle or guard, or both.

John Huggins, Defensive back

Junior Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is UF’s only proven safety, so the hard-hitting Huggins, originally an FSU commit, will have a chance to possibly work his way into the playing rotation in preseason camp. He has a chance to be a starter on special teams, where many players have proven themselves and gone on to be starters on offense or defense.

Dante Lang, Tight end

A two-way standout in high school, Lang could eventually end up at defensive end, but he’s starting his UF career at tight end, a position he started really focusing on in his senior year. Lang might need a redshirt year to develop physically for a position with heavy blocking demands.

Malik Langham, Defensive end/Outside linebacker

This four-star prospect shunned homestate Alabama and signed with the Gators, so many are expecting him to come in and play immediately. He has the ability, and the versatility, to do just that at end and outside linebacker. Defensive line coach Sal Sunseri wants the defensive front to be four-deep at every position, so there’s a good chance Langham can work his way into the playing rotation at end.

Griffin McDowell, Offensive lineman

Originally committed to Mississippi State, McDowell is a tough, hard-nosed country kid who Dan Mullen really likes. He may only be a three-star prospect, but Mullen thinks he’s someone who can be developed into a top-flight SEC center. He would seem a likely redshirt candidate in 2018.

Evan McPherson, Kicker

Rated the No. 2 kicker in the country, McPherson is considered the assumptive starter by some. Senior Jorge Powell will have something to say about that, but McPherson has the talent to possibly have the same kind of sudden impact that Eddy Pineiro had two years ago when he first arrived.

Kyle Pitts, Tight end

One of the highest-rated players in the class, this four-star prospect will arrive in June looking for early playing time. But he’s going to start out camp fourth on the depth chart behind C’yontai Lewis, Moral Stephens and Kemore Gamble. Tight end is playmaking position in Mullen’s offense, and Pitts has the kind of talent that might get him noticed early in camp.

David Reese, Safety/linebacker

Some see Reese as a safety playing linebacker. Others see him as a linebacker playing safety. The bottom line is this four-star prospect has the ability to play both positions and likely will have one of those hybrid roles in Todd Grantham’s attacking defense.

Justin Watkins, Cornerback

A four-star wide receiver coming out of high school, Watkins will start his UF career at cornerback, where the Gators have no proven depth behind starters Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson. Although many schools recruited him as a wide receiver, others think he has a bigger upside at corner with his quickness and speed.


  1. That’s some good news and actually very exciting. I’ve got to say something though—the comment, “…only a three star”. Of course, we all get very delirious when we get 4* athletes, and over the top with a 5*, but let’s not forget that these are all rated elite level players and within that the star rating is a estimated gradation as to level of “elite”.

  2. Yeah we have had 3 star guys drafted high in the NFL, our linebacker Davis for one I can’t remember his first name but he was great for us and now he starts in the NFL. Some guys get turned into 4 or 5 stars while they are in college.

  3. I get that the “stars” are important… (5*’s seems to be working well for Bama, Clemson, etc) but it takes time to rebuild a program to a point where you can cast your net and routinely pull in 4’s and 5’s. As a rebuild-er, you get there by pulling off some minor miracles and getting the most out of what you’ve got……and that’s where coaching comes in. We’ve not had that level of coaching for 10 years. I think we do now.

    • I agree Rog…..if you get “elite” players, 3-, 4-, and 5*, that’s probably good of and by itself. But, you have to be able to develop them once you get them. I’m finally confidant too that we have the staff to do it.

    • Did I miss something? I’m kind’ve confused by the “it takes time to rebuild a program to a point where you can cast your net and routinely pull in 4’s and 5’s.” According to 247, in 2017 we signed 23 players and half of them were 4’s. This past recruiting class 19 players were signed and 12 of them were 4’s. Chump was pulling in 4’s and 5’s and the only real down year with 4’s was Mac’s first season in ’15. I don’t know if you were really just referring to 5* players, but they’ve been cleaning up with 4’s the last couple of years. The talent is there for this to not really be a huge rebuild. The 4 losses last season were more a result of a lack of an insane amount of scholarship players and horrible coaching and S&C program. It certainly wasn’t because of recruiting a bunch of 2* players. It shouldn’t take much time at all to get this back to a respectable program and I think a 4 to 5 win increase this season is very doable and the ball will quickly start rolling after that.

      • You didn’t miss anything, Joe. Rog was just saying “in perspective when undertaking a rebuild”. As you point out, we’ve done pretty well despite ourselves in terms of the prevailing balance of 4* athletes. But we can do better when we start racking up wins, developing players the correct way, and return to the prestige we enjoyed before this mess. And you’re right….the talent is there!

  4. As enjoyable as this is all to read I am looking for something other than just a bell curve type thinking loaded up at one end. In a 25 person class we need most imo to be reliable no fuss guys where you get few mistakes but not elite gifts like Percy harvin. If we can find 3 guys a year that can do the heavy lifting in tough spots then who cares how many stars they got from the newspaper because we will be like the Al horford team in basketball or the Danny wuerrfel team a few years back.

    Either way all the guys have to be solid because gambling on fragile won’t pay off.

    I know in the Oklahoma national championship game that one elite defensive lineman had the one good game but that’s bit going to be enough with out a tebow etc.

  5. And those 3 per year have to bring the other guys level up. But a player who is good that doesn’t lift up his teammates is not as valuable. And all must be solid all around it’s just the very best can figure it out somehow. A player that is unpredictable as to if he will deliver for any reason from weight to wifebeating distorts the flow imo.