Commits, highly recruited prospects expected for UF’s 2nd Junior Day

Ocala Vanguard's Leonard Manuel (1) with the carry in the first half against Armwood in Class 6A, Region 2 Finals last November at Booster Stadium in Ocala. [Cyndi Chambers/Ocala Star Banner Correspondent] 2018

Florida’s 2020 class has taken several hits as of late, yet Saturday will offer football coach Dan Mullen an opportunity to regain some momentum on the recruiting trail.

Prior to UF’s third Spring practice, Florida will host its second Junior Day in six weeks, and Mullen’s coaching staff anticipates hosting more than a dozen highly recruited prospects in the 2020 class.

The list includes multiple uncommitted prospects on UF’s board, in addition to several top prospects — such as Alabama defensive back commit Jahquez Robinson — committed elsewhere.

Robinson had Florida as the team to beat early in the cycle — until Alabama called. Now, Mullen and his coaching staff will continue pushing Robinson to back off his pledge to the Crimson Tide when he arrives in Gainesville, although Saturday’s event will focus on instructing prospects rather than flipping commitments.

Winter Park defensive back Ethan Pouncey rose up the rankings after a fantastic junior season, resulting in offers from Alabama, Georgia and Auburn, to name a few. Florida was one such program, offering him at the first Junior Day on Feb. 2, and Pouncey will make his second trip in six weeks to Gainesville for Florida’s latest camp.

Florida was the first program to extend Avantae Williams a scholarship offer, back when the Deland athlete was a wide-eyed freshman. Now, if the Gators hope to land the 5-foot-11 speedster, they’ll need to push Williams to de-commit from Oregon. Williams, like several other prospects expected Saturday, will be making his second trip to Gainesville in six weeks.

Four-star defensive tackle Timothy Smith is one of the top prospects at his position in the 2020 class, and the Gators certainly have a pressing need when it comes to depth at defensive tackle. The 6-foot-4 prospect out of Sebastian River High named Clemson his leader at the top of the year, so the Gators have much ground to make up when Smith makes his first visit in six months to Gainesville.

And the Gators will have to out-recruit the Crimson Tide when it comes to Trussville, Alabama, defensive lineman Eric Taylor. Ranked the No. 25 defensive tackle in the 2020 class by 247Sports, Taylor has received considerable interest from Nick Saban and Co. as of late, and Saturday will mark the 6-foot-5 tackle’s first unofficial visit since taking in Alabama’s Junior Day on Jan. 26.

Jay Hardy is one of the top defensive ends in the 2020 class as he’s ranked the No. 4 strong-side defensive end by the 247Sports composite ranking. After picking up an offer from the Gators on Jan. 28, Hardy has only seen his profile rise. The Crimson Tide offered several days later, and the 6-foot-5 Hardy was soon in Knoxville at Tennessee’s Junior Day. If Mullen, and new defensive line coach David Turner, hope to land Hardy, they’ll likely have to battle several SEC powers until Signing Day.

In addition to the slate of highly touted recruits in town, the Gators expect multiple committed prospects to make the trip to UF.

Five-star wide receiver Leonard Manuel, four-star wide receiver Jaquavion Fraziars, four-star safety Rashad Torrence II and three-star defensive end Morven Joseph intend to be on site Saturday for Florida’s latest Junior Day. With several 2021 prospects in the fold as well, the Gators expect Vanguard teammates Bryce Langston and Trevonte Rucker to make the trip north to UF. IMG Academy OL George Jackson is also expected on campus, in addition to fellow commit Kamar Wilcoxson.

Wilcoxson said he’s excited to get back to Florida, yet many believe the UF commit has cooled on his pledge; as Mullen knows all too well, recruiting is a year-round business — especially when it comes to committed prospects.