Dan Mullen’s second Early Signing Period at Florida is shaping up to be a lucrative one. With Dec. 19 signaling the commencement of the period in which prospects in the 2019 class can sign letters of enrollment, the Gators have been out on the road recruiting throughout the week after landing two commitments last weekend. Kingsley Eguakun and Michael Tarquin, two in-state offensive linemen, flipped their commitments from Miami to Florida after taking official visits Nov. 30 to UF.
And the Gators are hoping the penultimate weekend before the early signing period is just as beneficial — although the current crop of official visitors largely consists of players already committed to Mullen and the Gators.
The Gators expect to host nine committed players over the weekend on official visits, led by four-star quarterback Jalon Jones. The Baltimore-based prospect intends to sign early and enroll at Florida in the Spring semester — meaning Saturday’s stop in Gainesville is more of a celebration than a confirmation. He’ll be joined by two offensive linemen — Wardrick Wilson and Ethan White — currently committed to the Gators, in turn giving Jones an early opportunity to become acquainted with his future protection.
The Gators are poised to sign arguably the most talented group of linebackers in recent memory, and all four committed linebackers — Diwun Black, Mohamoud Diabate, Tyron Hopper and Jesiah Pierre — will take official visits over the weekend. While much could change between now and the commencement of the Spring semester, Florida expects Black, Diabate and Pierre to sign early, with the latter two prospects on track to enroll in January.
A pair of three-star prospects who committed to the previous coaching staff — wide receiver Ja’Markis Weston and Buchholz High safety Trent Whittemore — also intend to sign early with Florida after taking official visits this weekend. Weston, Whittemore and Wilson are the three holdovers from Jim McElwain’s tenure, and the trio will look to take the final step Saturday in a commitment that began more than a year ago for each prospect.
The Gators have momentum on their side even before factoring in the recent missteps on the recruiting trail by in-state rivals Florida State and Miami. And, if Florida lands even one of the uncommitted official visitors in attendance, Saturday could increase the growing divide tenfold.
Florida will host the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2019 class — edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux out of Thousand Oaks, California — on campus Saturday for an official visit. Thibodeaux has twice attempted to make cross-country trips to Gainesville during his senior season before inclement weather changed his plans. While Thibodeaux is ultimately expected to sign with either Alabama or the University of Southern California on Dec. 19, Florida’s final sell to Thibodeaux will likely stress the likelihood of early playing time on the defensive line in addition to Mullen’s top-10 finish in his inaugural season at the helm.
And after flipping two offensive linemen at the top of the week, Florida might not be finished poaching from the competition. Four-star offensive lineman Dontae Lucas — the only offensive lineman committed to Florida State — will take an official visit to UF, and Florida has long had Lucas’ eye. With the Gators likely to lose at least four offensive lineman after the Peach Bowl, it’s no secret the position is one that needs to be addressed on the recruiting trail.
Marcus Banks’ recruitment has taken many turns, and the latest leads him to Gainesville for an official visit. The highly recruited defensive back out of Houston will commit at the Army All-American game Jan. 5 — meaning the Gators have less than a month if they hope to keep Banks away from the likes of Alabama and Texas A&M.
Finally, the duo out of Lakeland — tight end Keon Zipperer and outside linebacker Lloyd Summerall — will wrap up Florida’s group of official visitors. The two received in-home visits within the past week from Florida’s coaching staff, and the Gators will look to sway the pair on signing with Florida. Mullen and UF’s coaching staff are set for a busy weekend filled with highly recruited prospects; if momentum on the recruiting trail continues at its current rate, Florida could be reaping significant rewards Dec. 19.
Note: Cornerback Trey Dean, who took over as the starter for the injured Marco Wilson in the second game of the season, has been named to the SEC All-Freshman team that was released by the league Thursday.
Dean, a true freshman, played in all 12 games and started eight. He is second on the team in pass break-ups with six and has recorded 22 tackles. He had his first career interception in the win over Florida State, returning it 44 yards.
True freshman kicker Evan McPherson was left off the team despite making 15 of 17 field goal attempts and all of his extra points.