Florida football: Gators land two surprise top-100 recruits, break IMG Academy curse

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
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It took new Florida Gators coach Billy Napier two weeks to end a 10-year recruiting drought at IMG Academy. 

The IMG curse, as Florida fans call it, was broken Wednesday following the surprise signing of five-star safety Kamari Wilson, one of two recruiting upsets for Napier and his staff. 

Another one of UF’s nine early signees was former commit Shemar James, a top-100 prospect, who had announced in-state Alabama and Georgia as his finalists last week. Wilson also picked Florida over the Bulldogs, who had been a heavy favorite in his recruitment. 

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“We had an immediate connection,” Napier said of Wilson, a Fort Pierce native who was also recruited by secondary coaches Patrick Toney and Corey Raymond and defensive analyst Jamar Chaney. “Jamar Chaney, being from Fort Pierce, had a good relationship with the family and certainly there was a history there. I think Jamar actually was the person that offered Kamari his first scholarship.

“I think Kamari made a life-changing decision. This is the type of guy that you rally around here that chose the University of Florida, decided to stay in this state, and a guy that I think is going to go about it the right way and represent this place the way it should be represented.” 

IMG Academy, a private boarding school and training facility in Bradenton, fielded its first football team in 2013 and top recruits from around the country transfer to the program every year. 

Florida has just signed just one IMG player prior to Wilson, redshirt freshman DB Kamar Wilcoxson, but he left the school and relocated to his Georgia roots before enrolling early at UF. 

Nonetheless, Wilson is the first five-star recruit from IMG Academy to sign with the Gators. 

“That is an impressive operation,” Napier said of the school. “I’ve been there when it started, and certainly going through and seeing how that thing has evolved and how it continues to grow. It's a very unique opportunity for those guys. 

“It’s right down the road, and certainly we’re going to want to do business there in the future. We’re going to make it a priority and try to build relationships with the leadership there, but also the individual players there. There’s no reason we can’t continue to get players out of there. We’re going to work hard at it.” 

Fort Pierce native Kamari Wilson does a Gator chomp after announcing his commitment to the University of Florida on National Signing Day on Wednesday at the Fort Pierce PAL Center in Fort Pierce.

Four-star defensive back Devin Moore was the third addition Wednesday, picking Florida over Notre Dame. He was one of the first prospects evaluated and prioritized by Napier and his staff. 

“What an impressive young man,” Napier said of Moore. “We all know he's a big corner that has length. He’s physical. He can play man-to-man coverage. He’s certainly a good tackler. I think the thing that’s most impressive about Devin is he’s extremely driven. He’s a hard worker. He’s got an incredible attitude. He’s extremely bright. He’s just a first-class young man. 

“(Assistant coach) Patrick Toney obviously was the first to go in there, and I can remember him calling me after the home visit and just raving about Devin. This guy has got a presence about him, and just seeing him interact in that school with his teachers, the administrators, the students, this is the type of player and, more importantly, the type of person that we want on our team.” 

Naples’ Devin Moore announces his commitment to play college football at Florida at Naples High School in Naples on Wednesday.

Despite Napier’s recruiting wins Wednesday, including fending off in-state Oklahoma for top-100 defensive lineman Chris McClellan, his transitional class is far from finished. The Gators are currently ranked last in the SEC and 50th nationally in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, but Napier isn’t worried about the ground he has to make up. 

“We’re going to acquire talent, too. Just not as many today as (other schools) did,” Napier said. “But this is our first class, and we're going to make the best of it. I'll say this: I’ve got confidence and conviction about each of these players that signed here today. They fit exactly what we’re looking for. They’ve got redeeming qualities, and we’ve got confidence that they can do a job for our team.

Napier

“I love evaluating. I love recruiting. I think it’s kind of the competition in the off-season. … We're going to add to this group. We’ve got a lot of work left to do here with plenty of room. We’ve got to keep building here, and I think it’s important for us to realize this is going to happen one day at a time and one person at a time. Off to a good start here, but certainly a lot of work left to do.”

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