Can Gators land quarterback Jaden Rashada? Florida enters critical stretch in recruiting

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

What began as a week with plenty of reason to celebrate for the Florida football program has become an anxiety-ridden end of the week for UF and its recruiting-knowledgeable fanbase. 

Any Gators fans still holding out hope for the commitment of Arch Manning were left shaking their fists at the Southeastern Conference-bound Texas Longhorns as they landed the five-star, No. 1-ranked quarterback’s verbal pledge over scholarship offers from Georgia and Alabama, not to mention countless suitors who couldn’t get a hat on the table.

Those who have been closely following Florida’s recruiting efforts know the Gators have focused their search on another quarterback  — Pittsburg, Calif., standout Jaden Rashada. 

Recruiting: Trinity Catholic tackle Tommy Kinsler verbally commits to Florida's 2023 class

Recruit flip:Florida gets commitment from four-star Lakewood edge Isaiah Nixon after he flips from UCF

Recruiting news: Manning sighting on campus explained; QB on Gators' radar changes timeline

Trinity Christian's Treyaun Webb (3) gets tackled by a defender. Trinity Christian leads Champagnat 14-7 at the half of the Class 2A State Championship game at Gene Cox on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021.

Can Gators get commitments from these big prospects? 

Considered one of the top-ranked signal callers in the 2023 recruiting class, Rashada initially was set to make his commitment June 18, and he appeared to have the Gators at the top of his list. But Rashada pushed his commitment back to Sunday, and now, in the 11th hour, Florida may lose a potential signal caller of the future to an in-state rival: the University of Miami Hurricanes.

UM has made significant progress throughout June when it comes to Rashada’s recruitment after landing an official visit from the four-star quarterback June 21-23, but the Gators have continued to consistently recruit Rashada as he nears a decision, meaning it's anyone's guess as to which state of Florida program will land a pledge from the highly rated quarterback. 

There's also reason to believe the Gators may miss out on a pair of running back targets — Cedric Baxter Jr. and Treyaun Webb, who are ranked top-5 at their position. 

Baxter, despite being on UF's campus Wednesday for the program's 7-vs-7 camp, may be leaning toward joining Manning and the Longhorns. The Edgewater native is ranked the No. 3 running back in the 2023 class in 247Sports' composite rankings and he's had the Gators near the top of his list as of late, but a June 10 visit to Texas may have knocked UF from the top when it came to landing the in-state rusher. Baxter also intends to visit a fellow SEC opponent, Texas A&M, Friday. 

Trinity Christian's Webb, the No. 5 ranked running back in the 2023 class in 247Sports' composite rankings, appears to be trending away from UF. The Jacksonville native will take an official visit Friday to Michigan State, although recruiting insiders believe Penn State has the inside track on his recruitment. Another UF target — Tomarrion Parker — committed Tuesday to the Nittany Lions. 

Factor in how the Gators didn't make the top-four Thursday for a top cornerback target, Tony Mitchell, and it might appear Florida is losing steam on the recruiting trail heading into Rashada's much-awaited decision.

UF landed a commitment from Tommy Kinsler earlier in the week, and the Gators may have flipped four-star Isaiah Nixon from UCF, but the recent speculation regarding several top targets on Florida's board has led to questions regarding the staff's ability to seal the deal with highly coveted prospects. Of course, it's only June, and having seven commitments isn't out of the ordinary for Florida — and the list of players the Gators have missed on remains very, very low.

Still, as the critical recruiting stretch in July approaches, the coming weeks may prove to be essential for the recruiting efforts of coach Billy Napier and his coaching staff.