Gators in line for strong finish on National Signing Day


National Signing Day has arrived, albeit with less fanfare than in previous iterations.

Due to the early signing period in December, the Gators have just nine scholarships remaining to fill out the 2018 football class, with three spots expected to be filled by prospects verbally committed to UF.

Richard Gouraige and Griffin McDowell, a pair of offensive linemen in the 2018 class verbally committed to the Gators, are expected to sign with Florida today, although the former is certainly one to watch. Gouraige committed to the Gators under former coach Jim McElwain and, although he didn’t back off his pledge, his recruitment appeared to be open following McElwain’s departure, with Auburn and Clemson being the perceived favorites to potentially flip the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Tampa native. McDowell flipped to coach Dan Mullen from Mississippi State, and he’ll put pen to paper and make his commitment official at a ceremony at Lee County (Ga.) at 10 a.m.

Justin Watkins’ recruitment has taken several twists and turns throughout his high school career, but the UF verbal commit will wrap things up today when he signs with the Gators. A wide receiver out of Clermont’s East Ridge High, Watkins possesses the ability to play on both sides of the ball, and all indications are that the dynamic four-star athlete will get a look at multiple positions in the future.

And with six spots to fill from uncommitted prospects, the Gators are in prime position to land several of the top remaining prospects, including another Tampa-based offensive lineman in Nicholas Petit-Frere. Ranked the No. 1 offensive lineman in the 2018 class by 247Sports, Petit-Frere may be the toughest prospect to project in recent memory, and it’s expected he’ll sign with either Notre Dame, Ohio State or the Gators at 10 a.m. today at a ceremony that will be broadcast live on ESPNU.

Florida also will battle for the state’s No. 1 wide receiver prospect in Jacob Copeland, who will sign with either the Gators or Alabama today. The Pensacola native backed off a previous pledge to McElwain’s coaching staff, but Mullen and Co. quickly made him a priority and appear back in the mix to land the dynamic downfield threat. He’ll announce his commitment at 2 p.m. in a ceremony broadcast live on ESPN.

Among others, the Gators are expected to fill out Todd Grantham’s revamped 3-4 defense with several prospects, including Columbus (Ga.) defensive end/outside linebacker Caleb Johnson. Mullen has heavily recruited Johnson throughout the cycle, and the Gators appear to be the favorites to land his signature, but an official visit to Auburn in the final weekend before Signing Day has the Tigers feeling good about their chances to land the 6-foot-4, 267-pounder.

In the secondary, the Gators will battle with Notre Dame to sign Washington, D.C., defensive back Noah Boykin. The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder took an official visit to UF on Jan. 19, but Irish head coach Brian Kelly has continued to pursue his signature. He’ll announce his collegiate destination at 11:30 a.m.

With many prospects to follow throughout the country, here’s a full list of prospects who could sign with the Gators today, listed by the time (Eastern) of their announcement:

OLB Caleb Tannor – 8:45 a.m.

WR Justin Watkins – 9:15 a.m. – verbally committed to Florida

OL Griffin McDowell – 10 a.m. – verbally committed to Florida

OL Nicholas Petit-Frere – 10 a.m., broadcast on ESPNU

DE/OLB Andrew Chatfield – 10 a.m., broadcast on ESPNU

DT Nesta Silvera – 10 a.m.

DE Malcolm Lamar – 10 a.m.

DB Noah Boykin – 11:30 a.m.

WR Jacob Copeland – 2 p.m., broadcast on ESPN2

DE Caleb Johnson – 2:30 p.m.

OL Richard Gouraige – 2:30 p.m. – verbally committed to Florida

JUCO DE Dorian Gerald – announced he would sign Friday

DL Fabien Lovett – hasn’t announced


  1. UF, FSu nor UM will be elite programs again if they can’t recruit the best in Florida to their schools. The trends the last few years and it isn’t changing this year is that the truly elite recruits (top 10 types) leave the state. BAMA, OSU, UGA, LSU, Clemson come in and take approximately half of the top 20 players in the state including most of the top 10. UF, FSU, UM will never be great again if they recruit their own state worse than out of state programs. Pretty sad state of affairs. There is no state where the in state programs do so poorly recruiting the instate players. We’ve been so happy the last few years just being able to sign top 50 types in our state. That’s how we roll now.