Florida football coach Dan Mullen and his staff have been strong in recruiting, putting together back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes to match those consecutive top-10 finishes on the field.
But there has been one troubling trend attached to UF’s recruiting.
In case of the 2019 class, significant shrinkage. Of the 24 signed that year, four never made it to campus and two others never came close to making it to their first game, leaving the Gators with a class of only 18, which would not rank in the top 10.
The trend has carried over into 2020, with two members of the class already gone.
Add in the 2018 class — which included one medical hardship (Randy Russell), two legal issues (Justin Watkins and John Huggins) and three transfers (Malik Langham, Lucas Krull and Chris Bleich) — and Mullen’s three UF recruiting classes are down a combined 14. Of the 14, 10 were four-star recruits.
UF has made up for some of the losses through the NCAA transfer portal, adding seven transfers to the roster over the past year.
Still, the hits to the last two recruiting classes are a bit troubling.
Here’s a look at the early departures from the 2019 and 2020 recruiting classes and where they are now:
Chris Steele, CB, 4 stars: Shaken by allegations that his roommate raped two female students in their dorm room, Steele decided to head back home and transfer to Southern Cal. He received a special waiver from the NCAA that made him immediately eligible. He started six games and played in 12 last fall, recording 35 tackles, five pass breakups and one fumble recovery. He’s a projected starter (and possible star) in 2020.
Jalon Jones, QB, 4 stars: He, of course, was Steele’s roommate. The early enrollee made it through spring practice and saw playing time in the second half of the Orange & Blue Game. Charges were never brought against him, but shortly after the allegations against him became public, he transferred to Jackson State. Last fall, the dual-threat quarterback rushed for 395 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 892 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s the presumptive starter heading into preseason camp.
Diwun Black, LB, 4 stars: Perhaps the most popular prospect in the class, he did not qualify academically and enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he was a standout last fall. Playing both safety and outside linebacker, he played in 11 games and recorded 46 tackles, 8.5 tackles for losses, one interception and five pass breakups. He’s rated the No. 1 junior college prospect in the nation and he has announced he’ll re-sign with UF in December.
Deyavie Hammond, OL, 4 stars: He did not qualify academically and enrolled at East Mississippi Community College, where he played in nine games at offensive guard last season. He’s hoping to re-sign with the Gators in December.
Arjei Henderson, WR, 4 stars: Like Hammond, he failed to qualify academically. Instead of going the JUCO route, Henderson signed with Jacksonville State, where he redshirted last season.
Wardrick Wilson, OL, 4 stars: He was the highest-rated offensive line prospect in the class, but he has yet to make it to campus. He’s from the Bahamas and has had problems getting a visa that would allow him to enroll. Based on his Twitter account, Wilson still plans on being a Gator at some point.
Issiah Walker, OL, 4 stars: He fell in love with UF during the recruiting process, signed with the Gators in December and enrolled in January. But after returning to Miami after UF shut down due to the coronavirus, Walker had a change of heart and entered the NCAA transfer portal. It didn’t take him long to find a new home, transferring to the University of Miami, where he is seeking a waiver from the NCAA that would make him eligible this fall.
Johnnie Brown, DT, 4 stars: He’s the latest departure from the class, learning last week that he’s academically ineligible to enroll at UF. He plans to start his college career at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. The Gators hope to make him part of their 2022 recruiting class.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.