Gators prioritizing lone visitor in final weekend before signing day

Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

The final weekend before Wednesday’s National Signing Day should be a beneficial one for football coach Dan Mullen and the Gators. 

Barring a last-minute change, Florida has room to add as many as four signees, and the Gators have no shortage of targets in mind. 

First, the Gators have three unsigned yet committed players in tow, although only wide receiver Xzavier Henderson should be considered a lock to sign with UF when the window opens. 

In regards to the other two – wide receiver Leonard Manuel and athlete Marc Britt, the Gators remain in the mix, but each has a full slate of SEC offers to consider. 

Manuel visited Ole Miss the weekend of Jan. 24, and he was scheduled to take his final official visit to UF this weekend before cancelling last minute. 

Britt, meanwhile, received an in-home visit from Mullen earlier in the week, and, like Manuel, he’ll use his final official visit to see the Rebels.

While that turn of events doesn’t preclude either from signing with the Gators, the pair appear to be drifting away from Florida; meanwhile, UF has looked around at other prospects, too. 

The big one to watch as of late is Sedrick Van Pran, ranked by 247Sports as the No. 1 prospect at center in the 2020 class. 

Van Pran will be UF’s lone official visitor this weekend – there’s a Junior Day on Saturday as well, which will give Florida’s coaching staff an in-depth look at several top prospects in the next class –  meaning he’ll surely get the full-court press from Mullen and offensive line coach John Hevesy. 

Van Pran has been committed to Georgia since August, but there’s no telling where he stands after former Dawgs offensive line coach Sam Pittman took the Arkansas head coaching gig. 

While Van Pran is the final target in the 2020 class taking an official visit to Florida, the Gators remain high on the board for several top targets looking to make a final decision Wednesday.

Aside from Van Pran, another prospect who has Florida in mind is Manor (Texas) standout Princely Umanmielen, ranked the No. 9 strong-side in the 2020 class by 247Sports. Umanmielen took an official visit to UF last weekend, and there’s no shortage of programs pursuing him. Auburn and in-state Baylor are high on his list as well, and he’ll wrap up his visit schedule at Auburn this weekend. 

With the final stretch upon us, the Gators appear to be the team to beat for DeLand standout Avantae Williams, one of the state’s top remaining uncommitted prospects and the No. 2-ranked safety in the 2020 class by 247Sports. Now that the Gators have his cousin, running back Lorenzo Lingard, in the fold and seeking immediate eligibility, Florida has seemingly moved ahead of in-state Miami and cross-country Oregon when it comes to landing Williams’ signature. He’ll stay put this weekend after taking his final official visit to UF on Jan. 24.

An additional name to watch, and one who joined Umanmielen in Gainesville last weekend, is Florence (Ala.) standout Damarcus Beckwith. The 6-foot-4 multi-sport athlete has Florida in the mix, with Tennessee being the perceived favorite to land the four-star prospect’s signature – but the Gators may know something we don’t. 

While Florida’s top-10 ranked class is undoubtedly impressive, the elephant in the room is the running back position. The Gators are still players for Jahmyr Gibbs and Ashaad Clayton, yet the possibility they miss out remains a realistic one. Clayton is the more realistic of the two, but Florida may stand pat and take solace in adding a former five-star back in Lingard to the roster through the transfer portal. 

One thing’s for sure – National Signing Day will, as always, be a spectacle to behold. 


  1. I see that according to 24/7 sports UF is for the first time in their top 25 of football facilities. I know that this has been an ongoing point of contention here, but how is it that Jeremy Foley allowed us to get this far behind the rest of the nation? South Carolina and Kentucky are ahead of us! How did this happen? It is a credit to CDM (and Scott Stricklin, and Coach Spurrier for the foundation of greatness that he laid) that we are where we are. Thankfully, brighter are ahead. Go Gators!

    • It’s been my main bone of contention in many previous discussions on the mediocrity of Gator football from the end of 2009 season to the start of 2018, that Mr. Foley’s choice to minimize investment on football facilities and staff drove away, in turn, both Dan Mullen and Urban Meyer.

      That “frugal” management style informed both of his choices to replace Meyer. He first hired a replacement who believed he could recruit top talent without the facilities or extra staff, but couldn’t coach them up. He then hired another replacement who believed he could coach up inferior recruits, but really couldn’t.

      Thankfully, as you said, brighter days are ahead of us!

      • Agree completely. I’d argue Foley was the one of the most over rated AD’s in NCAA history.

        He hired three football coaches with complete autonomy, Zook, Muschamp and McElwain. He had nothing to with hiring Spurrier and Urb was Machen’s man.

        I know from a private booster meeting with McElwain, shortly after he arrived, that when Foley begrudgingly agreed to indoor practice facility, he wanted to cut costs and field size. Same thing with football player dorms. All during a time when all of our rivals were building state of the art football facilities, most of them borrowing the money with interest rates close to zero.

        Foley single handedly set UF football back 10-15 years.

        But hey, we’ve got five million dollar state of the art Lacrosse facility!

        • Hear, hear TCG8r! If Gator football wants to run with the Big Dawgs, UF is going to have to spend lavishly on facilities and staff. Last I read, UGA has committed to investing over $200 million on a new football “palace,” as if Smart needs any more help with recruiting!

          Of course, Gator Nation could just settle for celebrating Lacrosse and Volleyball NC’s and leave football NC’s to the Big Dawgs. Foley would probably be thrilled with that legacy.

          As for me, I think… NOT!!!!

  2. The financial commitment must occur on a consistent and continuous basis for Florida to be able to compete for the best athletes. Florida should be in the top 10, not just the top 25, of facilities provided. GO GATORS!!!

  3. Van Pran would be an awesome addition to this already excellent recruiting class. To land the future anchor to our offensive line would be enormous. Instead of shifting another O-Line player to the most important position on the O-Line, why not land the number 1 prospect? GO GATORS!!!

    • I can probably take a stab at the “why not” part — because in his and other minds, he/they are getting better offers from other programs. So really, what constitutes a better offer? At least part of the answer lies in the preceding discussion, above.

      To my mind, it’s like going to war on the cheap. You don’t lose the war, but you sure as hell don’t win it either.

    • It’s encouraging that Van Pran is giving the Gators his last official visit. Evidently, he’s not happy losing his primary recruiter at UGA.

      Hopefully, he can get excited during his visit about joining what CDM is building at UF. Also, he must see an opportunity to play early given the dearth of talent the Gators have at the center position right now.

  4. Landing Van Pran would definitely give me more confidence in the prospect of beating Georgia next year or the following year. It’s been too long since the Gators put O Line in the league. Running the ball behind the Pouncey twins was a thing of beauty. Andrew Thomas is yet another in a very long line of quality O Line players for Georgia.

    Side note: Lingard is a beast, but after watching J Gibbs play in the All American Bowl, he would make a huge difference. I’m praying HARD!!!!