In a surprising swap, Florida lost out on one of its prized four-star recruits on National Signing Day only to gain a different one.
Shavar Manuel, a highly touted 6-foot-3, 310-pound defensive tackle who was verbally committed to the Gators before Wednesday, signed with FSU instead.
A few minutes earlier, UF was able to snag 6-foot-3 receiver Tyrie Cleveland out of Houston, Texas. Cleveland was originally committed to Houston before flipping to Florida, and will now add depth to a young and talented UF receiving corps that includes sophomore Antonio Callaway.
Cleveland, the No. 15 receiver in this year’s class, caught 27 touchdowns and recorded more than 2,000 yards receiving in his last two years at Westfield High.
"For him, it’s a little bit of a homecoming," UF coach Jim McElwain said of Cleveland. "Here’s a guy who grew up wanting to be a Gator, playing in The Swamp, back with a bunch of guys he actually grew up playing with. I’m really happy he’s back in this part of the country."
While Florida added talented pieces to both its offense and defense on Wednesday, one position was noticeably absent: defensive tackle.
UF’s loss of Manuel marked the first time the Gators have failed to sign a true defensive tackle since its 2011 recruiting class.
And while the Gators aren’t necessarily lacking in defensive-tackle depth — they return five players who played a combined 62 games last season in senior Joey Ivie, redshirt junior Caleb Brantley, sophomore CeCe Jefferson and redshirt sophomores Khairi Clark and Taven Bryan — they would have liked to provide more assurance along the line, especially with the departure of Jonathan Bullard.
"You always want to try to make sure you get one or maybe two pieces in each spot," McElwain said. "And yet, that’s a choice. That’s what it is."