With the new signing period and the expanding NCAA transfer portal, this isn’t your father’s National Signing Day anymore.
“Today used to be like the craziest day on the face of the earth,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said.
It was anything but for the Gators on Wednesday. Their signing day was pretty much the polar opposite of crazy. It was relatively silent, sedate and almost surreal.
With the class almost filling up in December — and with 10 true freshmen already on campus and participating in workouts — the Gators didn’t have a whole lot going on Wednesday.
Mullen and his staff added two more four-star prospects to the class — wide receiver Xzavier Henderson from Miami and defensive end Princely Umanmielen from Texas — and officially announced the addition of wide receiver Justin Shorter, a transfer from Penn State who was a five-star prospect coming out of high school.
And that’s it. Just like that, signing day — and this UF class — complete.
It’s a class of 23 freshmen that is ranked No. 7 in the nation by Rivals and No. 8 by 24/7.
“Early signing, today and then the growth of the transfer portal, it made today not as crazy as it used to be in the past,” Mullen said. “But a good day, excited for the guys who are coming in.”
Mullen and his staff went into the day hoping to sign four players, but four-star safety Avantae Williams stunned many by picking Miami over Florida and four-star running back Jahmyr Gibbs stuck with his original commitment and signed with Georgia Tech, his hometown team.
Those were misses, but not critical ones, Mullen said.
With Gibbs staying home, the Gators do not have a running back in the class. But they do have a five-star newcomer who is already on campus — Miami transfer Lorenzo Lingard.
“We needed to take one running back in this recruiting class, and we decided early on (Lingard) was the guy,” Mullen said. “Sometimes you’ll consider other guys if it’s somebody that we thought was special, but we didn’t really find that guy that we felt all in on yet.
“We had to get the one, and he was kind of the one early we identified, and that kind of filled up the running backs.”
As for Williams, one of the nation’s top safety prospects, he appeared to be a Gator lock heading into signing day, but then surprised many by picking up a Miami hat at his signing ceremony in DeLand.
Had he signed with the Gators, he would have been the eighth defensive back in what already was a strong secondary class.
“I like him. I thought this was a really good place for him to be for the type of kid he is,” Mullen said. “I think he’s a really good person and like him as a kid, and I always wish guys the best.
“We had one of the top defensive back signing classes already in the country. It would have been kind of a nice addition to that at the end, but I think if you look at who we brought in in this DB class, I think we have one of the top DB classes already in the country, so it’s not that big a deal.”
The secondary is the strength of the class. Of the seven signed, four are four-star prospects, and two of those are already on campus — cornerback Jahari Rogers and safety Rashad Torrence II.
The Gators also stocked up on both lines of scrimmage, signing four offensive linemen, led by four-star and early enrollee Issiah Walker, and six defensive linemen, Umanmielen being the final addition Wednesday.
The highest-rated player in the class is five-star defensive tackle Gervon Dexter, who signed in December.
“Huge,” Mullen said of signing Dexter. “In this league, you’ve got to be able to dominate the line of scrimmage. If you look at my history with defensive linemen. We got to see the Super Bowl the other day, an unheralded guy Chris Jones, well, he’d been an unheralded guy. He was a major impact player.
“And you go to the Fletcher Coxes and the Jeffrey Simmons and all these NFL superstars, guys that can change games on their own. I hope that (Dexter) is one of those guys. I think he’s got the potential to be. We’re going to coach him, develop him, help him continue to grow, but Gervon is a guy who can come in and be one of those guys that can change games by himself.”
On the other side of the ball, the Gators signed the top QB on their board (Anthony Richardson) and filled a need at wide receiver with Henderson, Shorter and early signee Ja’Quavion Fraziars.
UF’s top four wide receivers last season were all seniors.
“We felt pretty confident (at wide receiver) after the first signing period,” Mullen said. “We felt pretty confident with some of the guys that we were going to get, and obviously we ended up getting those guys that we think are major impact players for us.
“When you look at who we’re bringing in, who we’re returning on the team, I know it might be some new faces, but there’s some very talented guys that are out there.
“There’s some familiar faces coming back, obviously, at the top of the depth chart, but as we like to roll receivers through, I think there will be a lot more names that are household names at the end of the season.”
On the offensive line, the Gators have stocked up with the past two classes, bringing in a combined 13 players. Three of this year’s signees are early enrollees — Joshua Braun, Issiah Walker and Richie Leonard.
“Well, the depth is getting there,” Mullen said. “We’ve got some really solid young guys. Now we’ve got to get that depth of not just bodies, but guys ready to play. The great thing is having a bunch of those guys enroll early so that they get to go through spring and they get to train, they get to transform their body a little bit.”