Zach’s Mail Stack 9/24


Last week I said a victory over Kentucky would ensure a big recruiting weekend for the Tennessee game.

Boy did it ever.

Recruits still would’ve came this Saturday if UF had lost in Lexington. But with the win, now the Gators-Vols matchup is key for both teams in the SEC East race and the winner could crack the top 25.

That has attracted what will be a ridiculous group of recruits at UF for the game. I’ll have a visitor preview out Friday that includes the names of five five-star recruits, four additional Rivals100 members and several elite prospects for 2017.

It will be hard for the Gators to top this visitors list the rest of the year. If they get the win, it should do wonders for recruiting.

On to the questions!

Do we have to win every week convincingly or do recruits understand the rebuild? — @double0ED 

Given the results of Florida’s last two seasons and the coaching chance that took place, recruits are well aware that UF’s football program is a work in progress as it tries to get back to a championship level.

What they need to see is improvement and things heading in the right direction. The indoor practice facility had a huge impact on recruiting, as will the academic center and new dorms.

But for the rebuilding to be complete, Jim McElwain must to start winning more games. No one is expecting the Gators to beat teams convincingly this season, especially with four top-10 opponents on the schedule, but a better win-loss record than 2014 (7-5) would be a welcomed sight by recruits.

Florida will always be able to sell its academic reputation, campus environment and gameday atmosphere in recruiting. It’s the on-field product that has to get better, although prospects understand that won’t happen overnight.

I’m terrified that UF will have its second straight “poor-for-the-Gators” class. Justified? Still too early for panic? — @bradweenawalene 

A quarter way into McElwain’s first season and more than four months away from signing day, it’s definitely too soon to judge Florida’s class.

Moreover, there’s nothing poor about how the Gators closed in the 2015 recruiting cycle and where they currently stand for 2016.

UF went from as low as 92nd nationally in team rankings when McElwain took over to finishing with a top-25 class according to ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports. He and his staff landed seven recruits rated four-stars or higher in the last three days of the cycle.

More than half of the 20 commits for 2016 are three-star prospects, but the class is ranked 14th nationally by Rivals, 247Sports and Scout. With recruits such as Sam Bruce, Nate Craig-Myers, Shavar Manuel and others looking like Florida’s to lose right now, this could easily be a top-10 class come February. Some of those three-star commits might also earn another star before the cycle ends.

What are the odds on getting Tre Nixon, WR from Viera, Florida? — @troystephens12

UF has been out of the picture with Nixon for a few months.

He named Florida in his top 10 back during the summer but hasn’t visited since the spring. The main schools in the mix for Nixon appear to be Auburn, Georgia, Penn State, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Fortunately for the Gators, they’re in better shape with higher-ranked receivers such as Bruce, Craig-Myers, Cavin Ridley, Freddie Swain and Binjimen Victor. As I’ve said before, I foresee them getting three of those targets.

How’s the OL situation looking moving forward? — @CoBeingCo, @TFlaque, @justiwood

Florida has three commits in Stone Forsythe, Brett Heggie and Branton Autry, a four-star junior college lineman. A couple more could be added, but the position isn’t a big need this year.

UF returns 13 linemen next season. None will be seniors and only three will be juniors.

The Gators are the favorite to land Marcus Tatum, who visits this weekend, but outside of him they don’t have many viable options.

Two of Florida’s top targets are four-star teammates Jauan Williams and Richard Merritt, but they’ll be hard to pull away from Washington, D.C. Solomon Kindley, teammate of UF commits JaQuan Bailey and Rick Wells, would join them in an instant if he receives an offer.

But even with just Autry, Forsythe, Heggie and Tatum, that’ll give the Gators 17 linemen for 2016 and another upperclassman.

Do you think there’s a decommit coming soon or does everybody seem solid? — @GatorsTrolling 

Florida doesn’t have any shaky commitments at this time. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few don’t end up in the class.

UF is still actively recruiting defensive ends Antonneous Clayton, Terrell Hall, Mykelle McDaniel, Jachai Polite, Janarius Robinson (FSU commit) and Jordan Woods. And get this — all of them plan to attend the Tennessee game.

If the Gators land some of those pass rushers, which I think they will, you could see Bailey and/or Eric Mitchell begin to look around.

Since cornerback C.J. McWilliams committed in May, Florida has picked up pledges from Jayvaughn Myers and Aaaron Robinson to go along with Rivals100 member Chauncey Gardner. If Pahokee athlete McArthur Burnett pops for UF, which seems like a strong possibility, perhaps McWilliams opts to go to Miami.

That’s all for this week! Be sure to leave your questions for the next mailbag in the comment section below.