Friday Night Lights provides significant boost to Gators 2018 class


Friday Night Lights changed the trajectory of Florida’s 2018 recruiting class.

The Gators landed eight verbal commitments in a week, including an elite quarterback, the No. 6 wide receiver in the 2018, two highly regarded tight ends, a rising in-state defensive back and one of the nation’s top offensive lineman. Florida’s 2018 class shot up the 247Sports rankings, rising more than 30 spots all the way up to No. 12 in the nation.

To call that an impressive week – for any program – would be an understatement.

With the commitment of Long Beach Poly (Calif.) prospect Matt Corral, the No. 2 pro-style quarterback by Rivals, the Gators have the highest-rated QB commit the program has ever received. Corral canceled his scheduled unofficial visit to Georgia on July 26, and it’s rare for highly rated quarterback prospects to de-commit twice in a year. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Gators will sign one of the nation’s top overall prospects in Corral.

Ja’Marr Chase, the nation’s No. 6 WR according to 247Sports, is one of the top targets for LSU, and it was expected he would eventually head 75 miles from his hometown of Metairie and sign with the Tigers.

But after spending Friday night in Gainesville, the Gators secured a verbal commitment from Chase on Sunday. Chase shined at The Opening and participated in the Under Armour All-American game at the top of the year, which resulted in a bump to his stock and a delay of his initial commitment.

Defensive back Randy Russell, whose film indicates he’s deserving of more than just a three-star rating by recruiting services, committed to Florida early Saturday after spending Friday night in Gainesville.

Tight end Dante Lang spent two days in Gainesville before committing Saturday, and he said Florida coach Jim McElwain and tight ends coach Greg Nord were “so excited” when he informed the pair of his commitment to UF’s 2018 class. Lang participated in drills Friday and impressed with his athleticism combined with a 6-foot-5 frame.

Before the weekend arrived, Florida secured verbal commitments from OG Curtis Dunlap and TE Kyle Pitts, two of the top prospects in the 2018 class at their position.

And with quarterback Justin Fields in town as well for Friday night’s showcase, the Gators proved they’ve caught the eye of some of the nation’s top uncommitted talent. Only time will tell if the momentum from the weekend set a new standard in Gainesville.


Keep an eye on…

Florida could still land several commitments before the start of Fall camp. Jacob Copeland, a highly regarded wide receiver from Escambia High, tweeted he planned on bumping up his commitment. And he hopes to get South Florida artist Kodak Black, who is a proud Gator fan, in his commitment video.

Apopka offensive lineman William Barnes has been between Florida and the University of North Carolina for months, but the four-star prospect indicated on his Twitter account he may be leaning one direction after spending Friday night in Gainesville. He has built a solid relationship with UF offensive line coach Brad Davis, and the 6-foot-4 Barnes remains on commit watch for the Gators.

Tyquan Thornton, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver out of Miami’s Booker T. Washington High, has warmed to the Gators in recent weeks and appears to have Florida in front. He named a top-five of UF, Miami (Fl.), Baylor, Georgia and Pittsburgh on July 18, but a budding relationship with UF assistant coach Randy Shannon has UF trending for Thornton.