Florida’s season opener against Idaho didn’t happen due to weather, but the stars were still out in The Swamp on Saturday night.
The Gators hosted three visitors who are rated five-star prospects — running back Jacques Patrick and defensive ends Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson — as well as a handful of other targets and commits (see here). Attendance like that for the first game was a great sign for UF.
Last year’s 4-8 record hasn’t discouraged kids from coming to Gainesville, and there seems to be a level of anticipation and excitement from recruits. They want to see this team play and do well, and Cowart and Jefferson plan to be back at Florida this weekend for the Eastern Michigan matchup.
If the Gators can win these next two games and compete with Alabama (win or lose), their 2015 class will have a ton of momentum heading into October if they land the recruits deciding this month.
On to the questions!
How does fan enthusiasm in last week’s weather delay impact recruits who were also attending? — Travis Tuten
It definitely made an impression. I spoke to Jefferson and Jordan about it, and they were surprised that fans stay in the stands for hours through the rain, thunder and lightning.
It wasn’t just them toughing it out through the storm, but the way they cheered during the game’s only play and the moments leading up to it.
“On that kick return, the stadium was very, very loud,” Jordan said. “I hadn’t been to a Gator game in a few years and I kind of forgot how loud the fans got. And the stadium wasn’t even half full.”
Added Jefferson, “I’ve been to a bunch of big games in The Swamp and they made just as much noise (Saturday night).”
The fan enthusiasm last weekend may not be the deciding factor for any kids, but it was beneficial for them to see the type of fan support UF has coming off last season.
If DE Byron Cowart commits to Florida, how much of a pull would that have on the other Tampa targets? — @DevinLamarr
First of all, it’s looking more and more like Cowart will be picking UF when he makes his decision Sept. 28. He was in Gainesville last weekend for the Idaho game and plans to return again this Saturday for Eastern Michigan. A commitment from him would grab the attention of recruits not only in Tampa but throughout the state.
As a consensus five-star prospect, he would be the most high-profile member in Florida’s class. Great players want to play with other elite talent, and acquiring someone of Cowart’s caliber will certainly help the Gators in recruiting.
He’s well respected in Tampa and has relationships with many top recruits from that area, so he could potentially influence or sway some of those kids Florida’s way if he chooses the school later this month. A rebound season from UF would also help his efforts.
Where do we stand with Te’Von Coney and Jeff Holland? — @Jmapus01Clark
Right now both linebackers seem to favoring two schools. Florida and Notre Dame for Coney, and Auburn and Florida for Holland.
Coney is taking his official to South Bend this weekend, and it’s a huge visit for the Irish. Coney is an early enrollee and wants to commit this month, so it’s important for them to make their mark.
He’s scheduled to attend the UF-Kentucky game next weekend, so the Gators should get the last crack at him before his decision. However, he plans on taking all five official visits, so his recruitment won’t officially end until then.
Holland named the Tigers his top team recently, but they don’t have much of a lead. He’s been a regular in Gainesville over the past couple months and was at the game last Saturday. He won’t be announcing any time soon, but in my mind, Florida holds the edge for him heading into the fall.
What are the odds of us landing WR Antonio Callaway if we turn up the heat on him? — Jake
I don’t think either party wants to rush things.
Callaway would like to go through his recruiting process and is still gaining interest from new schools. LSU offered him Wednesday.
The Gators should also let their WR board play out. A winning season could open the door for some new options, and they need more.
At this time, the three targets they seem to be in great shape with are all slot receivers (Callaway, Ryan Davis and Javarius Davis). One of their commits at the position, Derrick Dillon, also plays the slot.
Callaway isn’t looking to race through his recruitment, and that’s good news for UF. That being said, Florida’s ace recruiter Travaris Robinson could deliver him to the Gators if and when they turn up the heat.
Do we have any DT targets for 2015? If so, who are they and what’s our chances with them? — KyGator, @DustinDub20, @Kylejmclaughin
Defensive tackle isn’t a major need for 2015, but UF would still take another one in addition to Andrew Ivie.
As of now, the top remaining targets are Kendrick Norton and Texas A&M commit Daylon Mack.
Norton, a former Florida State pledge, named Florida as one of his top five schools Sunday in addition to Auburn, LSU, Miami and UCLA. He’s visited Gainesville a few times since his decommitment, and the Gators appear to be his front-runner.
Mack has been committed to the Aggies for almost a year, but UF will host him on an official visit in October for the LSU game. He’s developed a relationship with Brad Lawing and a couple commits, and Florida has a shot at flipping him if he follows through with his trip.
Who are your Top 5 recruits (in order) to look out for committing to Florida soon? — @Duval9oh4
This list could change once prospects start taking visits, but these are the ones who could pick UF in the coming weeks and months.
1. DE Byron Cowart (deciding Sept. 28, finalists are Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Oregon)
2. LB Te’Von Coney (plans to decide this month, finalists are Florida, Miami and Notre Dame)
3. WR Ryan Davis (plans to decide in late September/early October, visited UF three times in August)
4. CB Jeremy McDuffie (plans to decide after taking his official visits, Florida leads Tennessee)
5. OG Jalen Merrick (Florida considered his favorite, planned to decide in September but now wants to take officials first)
That’s all for this week! Be sure to leave your questions for the next mailbag in the comment section below.