Recruiting notebook: Gators make splash with first recruiting weekend, welcome more signees
Five-star athlete Gentry Williams hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma, the hometown of new Florida quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee.
His father, the late Larry McGee, was the head coach and athletic director at Williams’ high school, Booker T. Washington, winning the state championship in 1984.
Someone McGee used to work for insisted that his dad’s legacy would always carry weight on the recruiting trail.
“A guy told me a long time ago,” McGee recalled during his introductory news conference at UF, “he said, ‘Listen, if your dad's name is Larry McGee and he’s from Booker T. Washington High School, you’re supposed to be able to go to Tulsa and get some players in here.’
“It’s not going to be my bread and butter, but if they have players in that state, or especially in Tulsa, that are good enough to help us win a championship, then I’m going to go after them.”
McGee’s home-state pull was evident with Florida’s first recruiting weekend of the 2022 recruiting cycle. Williams and four-star defensive end Chris McClellan (Owasso, Okla.) were two of 13 official visitors for the Gators, and McGee serves as the secondary recruiter for both players.
“Same old Garrick. Same old Coach McGee. Cool dude, dog,” Williams told reporters following his UF visit. “I’m glad that I have a connection like that to be here being so far away from home. It makes me feel like I’m still in Tulsa.”
McGee has been heavily pursuing Williams in this class along with Gators coach Dan Mullen and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales, his primary recruiter. UF is the only school recruiting Williams as a receiver, while others such as Oklahoma, LSU and USC have offered him at cornerback.
Mullen views Williams as an offensive playmaker, which doesn’t turn him off.
“In an offense like this, nah,” Williams said. “They see me as a receiver, but [Mullen] said sometimes he can be wrong. So he’s open to having me play defensive back if that’s a strong suit for me, but he sees me as being dynamic with the ball in my hand.
“The different ways they can get the ball to their athletes was pretty impressive. They’re just able to show me the plays where they would get Kadarius [Toney] the ball and how many catches he had, so they had facts for everything they showed me.”
Williams was one of four five-star recruits in town, along with defensive tackle Walter Nolen (Cordova, Tenn.), wide receiver Evan Stewart (Frisco, Texas) and unofficial visitor Kamari Wilson (Bradenton), the nation’s No. 1 safety in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Four-star edge rusher Marvin Jones (Fort Lauderdale) also visited unofficially Saturday, giving the Gators a total of eight top-100 overall recruits with four-star offensive lineman Tyler Booker (Bradenton), four-star cornerback Azareyeh Thomas (Niceville) and four-star edge rusher Enai White (Philadelphia).
The aforementioned group features six recruits ranked in the top 40 nationally and three more top-250 players: four-star edge rusher Jihaad Campbell (Bradenton), four-star running back Omarion Hampton (Clayton, N.C.) and McClellan.
"They were already pretty high, but this is just that much more," McClellan said when asked where the Gators stand in his recruitment. “To have them want me to come here on this (first weekend) is really important and it shows they really value me as a player, but also a person.”
Florida’s 13 official visitors also included quarterback commit Nick Evers (Flower Mound, Texas), wide receiver commit Isaiah Bond (Buford, Ga.), four-star defensive lineman Jamari Lyons (Melbourne, Fla.) and three-star cornerback Jarell Stinson (Opelika, Ala.), an Auburn commit.
Lyons named UF his top school, while Stinson now has a final decision to make and appears to be the Gators’ most likely flip candidate.
The staff set the bar high with Booker, a priority target who rated his trip to Gainesville a "10." He will now visit Oregon (June 14), Georgia (June 18), Ohio State (June 21) and Alabama (June 25) before deciding in July.
Florida also appeared to gain the most traction with Nolen, Stewart, Thomas, White and Wilson. Shortly after leaving campus, Nolen tweeted he was shutting down his recruitment and making a decision.
His father clarified Monday that trips to Georgia (Thursday), Michigan (June 18) and Alabama are still happening and Nolen’s commitment will “probably” come after all the visits. Nonetheless, the Gators made a strong impression on the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect and his family.
“Great,” the elder Walter Nolen told 247Sports of the UF visit. “A1 University. Everything, coaches, players, campus professors. They did a great job with their presentations and making us feel welcome.”
Another top-100 recruit, four-star tight end Jaleel Skinner (Greer, S.C.), will take an official to Florida on Tuesday.
Florida football news & notes
• Five freshmen reported to Gainesville over the weekend for UF enrollment, joining the 14 enrollees from January (12) and May (two). The Gators welcomed edge rusher Jeremiah Williams, offensive linemen Austin Barber and Jake Slaughter, defensive back Dakota Mitchell and long snapper Rocco Underwood.
• Three remaining signees, defensive end Tyreak Sapp, offensive tackle Yousef Mugharbil and tight end Gage Wilcox, will enroll at Florida later this month for the Summer B semester with incoming transfers Jace Christmann (Mississippi State kicker) and Jadarrius Perkins (Missouri cornerback). Perkins will have immediate eligibility after the SEC voted last Thursday to eliminate the intra-conference transfer rule that forced players to sit out a year if transferring within the league. The rule previously did not apply to Christmann, who is a graduate transfer.
• The Gators kicked off their summer camps this week, holding a skills and drills session Monday for dozens of players. The staff will host the first of three 7v7 tournaments and Big Man Challenges on Wednesday (also June 16, 23), a trio of camps on June 14 (QB/WR, OL/DL and RB/LB/DB) and an elite individual camp June 25.