Florida’s remaining needs for 2021 signing class

Zach Abolverdi
Gainesville Sun
Florida football coach Dan Mullen still has a spot or several to complete the Gators' 2021 signing class.

A total 22 football recruits signed National Letters of Intent early with Florida last week, giving the Gators their third straight top-10 recruiting class. 

UF loses 16 scholarship seniors from the 2020 team, including redshirt junior cornerback Marco Wilson, along with a pair of transfer portal players in linebacker Jesiah Pierre and cornerback Chester Kimbrough. 

Junior tight end Kyle Pitts has declared early for the NFL draft, while defensive end Zachary Carter and linebacker Ventrell Miller are both expected to return for their redshirt senior seasons. 

The departures of Pitts, the seniors and transfers will leave Florida with 60 scholarship players after the bowl game. With an 85-man scholarship limit, that allows third-year coach Dan Mullen to sign a maximum of 25 recruits in the 2021 class at this time. 

Wednesday

What: Cotton Bowl

Who: Florida (8-3) vs. Oklahoma (8-2)

When: 8 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

Any additional attrition will increase that number, but the 23rd spot is already accounted for. With ex-Clemson running back and former five-star recruit Demarkus Bowman planning to enroll at UF in January, the Gators will be close to filling their current scholarship openings with the 22 early signees. 

The Gators also had five verbal commitments last week who did not receive letters of intent to sign early, and two of them have already left the 2021 class. 

Three-star offensive tackle Javonte Gardner had to do a “mock signing” last Wednesday because he needed to provide his semester grades before UF compliance would accept him. Gardner decided to attend Jackson State instead and Florida quickly replaced Gardner with three-star offensive tackle Austin Barber, who recently landed offers from Miami and Mississippi State. 

Four-star wide receiver Charles Montgomery backed off his pledge to the Gators last Friday. Their other remaining verbal commits, four-star wide receiver Travonte Rucker and three-star offensive linemen Adrein Strickland and Deyavie Hammond (JUCO), are not expected to join the class in February. 

UF signed a “complete defense” during the early signing period according to Mullen, who said the offensive line was still a position of need in the 2021 recruiting cycle. 

“If anything, O-line is one that we probably want to finish the class off with moving forward. That's probably the biggest (need),” Mullen said. 

His top target is five-star offensive tackle Tristan Leigh from Fairfax, Va. Oklahoma had been considered the favorite for Leigh, who originally planned to make his decision last week, but he visited Florida for the LSU game with multiple family members and did not sign early. 

Leigh is now scheduled to commit Jan. 2 and his other finalists include Clemson and LSU. 

The Gators also continue to recruit four-star safety Terrion Arnold. He attended the LSU game as well and Alabama is considered Florida’s biggest competition. Arnold will announce his college destination on National Signing Day (Feb. 3). 

UF is expected to have at least a dozen early signees enroll in January, and Mullen hopes to have a few of them participate in practices for the Cotton Bowl. 

“It’s something we would love to do. We’re looking at it,” Mullen said. “I don’t know how many guys are going to have the opportunity to do it, because the guys, we’ll get them accepted into school and they have to graduate to do that, both of those done and then are accepted into and cleared by the NCAA. And then they can come practice. 

“We’re going to be doing a lot more on campus. Normally, you go to the bowl site and those guys can’t travel with you, but they can practice while on campus. So there’s going to be a little bit more opportunity for them to come practice with us if we can get all the paperwork signed and everything.”

Florida's 2021 early signees 

QB Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds

QB Jalen Kitna, 6-4, 205

WR Marcus Burke, 6-3, 180

WR Daejon Reynolds, 6-2, 210

TE Nick Elksnis, 6-6, 240 

TE Gage Wilcox, 6-4, 225

OL Austin Barber, 6-7, 300

OL Yousef Mugharbil, 6-4, 300

OL Jake Slaughter, 6-4, 300

DT Chris Thomas Jr., 6-5, 300

DT Desmond Watson, 6-5, 385

DL Justus Boone, 6-4, 250 

DL Tyreak Sapp, 6-3, 260

LB/DE Chief Borders, 6-5, 242

LB/DE Jeremiah Williams, 6-3, 225

LB/DB Diwun Black, 6-4, 225 

CB Jason Marshall Jr., 6-1, 195 

CB Jordan Young, 6-0, 185

DB Corey Collier Jr., 6-1, 180 

DB Donovan McMillon, 6-2, 190

DB Dakota Mitchell, 5-11, 185

LS Rocco Underwood, 6-4, 215