Finally, National Signing Day is here — the day where recruits across the country sign their national letters of intent to formally commit to the college of their choice. Here are eight recruits to watch out for as coach Jim McElwain rounds out his second recruiting class at Florida. All information regarding rankings comes from Rivals.com.
Four-star cornerback Kristian Fulton (6-foot, 175 pounds, Metairie, Louisiana, Archbishop Rummel High)
If you’re a school in need of a lockdown corner, Fulton is your guy.
In high school, Fulton’s strengths derived from his elite quickness, fast reaction time and impressive recovery speed — he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash according to Scout.com. He was also a solid one-on-one tackler in the open field and shined in both man-to-man and zone coverage.
Fulton is the No. 6 ranked cornerback in the nation and the No. 1 recruit in Louisiana. He met with recruiters from LSU, Florida and Arkansas during the recruiting period, but after narrowing down his choices to two, he’ll decide between UF and LSU today. Fulton is expected to remain in his home state and commit to LSU, but if he surprises everyone and flips to UF, the Gators could have a ready-made replacement for departed All-America corner Vernon Hargreaves.
Three-star safety Jeawon Taylor (6-foot-2, 192 pounds, Montgomery, Alabama, Park Crossing High)
Taylor, the No. 23 ranked recruit in Alabama who visited Gainesville on Friday, committed to Florida and is expected to make his commitment official today.
On film, Taylor displayed great playmaking skills, whether he was playing the ball, dropping in coverage or in run-stopping situations.
He also has great closing speed, good catching ability and shows toughness near the line of scrimmage.
But while he does display above-average tackling skills, he doesn’t deliver many big hits, in part due to his slim frame. Taylor will need to bulk up at the collegiate level, but once he does, he has all the skills to be successful.
Four-star defensive end Brian Burns (6-foot-5, 217 pounds, Plantation, Florida, American Heritage)
Although Florida already has three defensive ends committed in its 2016 class, Burns remains a top priority heading into signing day. The edge rusher amassed 15.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss in his senior season playing for coach Mike Rumph at American Heritage High School in Plantation.
Burns possesses a quick first step and was able to run right past opposing linemen in high school. He’ll need to refine his technique and learn to rely less on his athleticism when he arrives at UF, but Burns has the ceiling to develop into a Dante Fowler-esque player at the BUCK position for the Gators.
Burns is considered by some to be leaning toward the Gators, but Florida State and Georgia are still in the mix.
Four-star defensive tackle Shavar Manuel (6-foot-3, 310 pounds, Bradenton, Florida, IMG Academy)
Shavar Manuel is currently committed to Florida, but per ESPN recruiting reporter Derek Tyson, Manuel is "50-50" between the Gators and rival Florida State.
He racked up 10 sacks as a freshman in high school, followed by 19 as a sophomore and 20 as a junior.
That production earned Manuel a five-star rating at the beginning of his senior year until he got injured and put on some weight, which led to a drop in production. However, that means he has plenty of potential once Florida or Florida State get him in a collegiate conditioning program.
Manuel is built in the mold of Jonathan Bullard — a player who’s big enough to play inside but can get pressure outside. Both the Gators and Seminoles would love to add that kind of versatility, and Manuel will choose between them this afternoon.
Three-star linebacker Vosean Joseph (6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Miami, Florida, Miami Norland)
Although he’s been committed to Florida since Feb. 18 of last year, on Tuesday linebacker Vosean Joseph told Miami Herald reporter David Furones that he’s "50-50" between UF and Alabama.
Joseph’s film highlights his ability to read plays and get to the ball quickly, although his tackling technique will need some work when he gets to college. Joseph’s former teammate and fellow linebacker at Miami Norland, Rayshad Jackson, signed with the Gators last year and took a redshirt. And if Joseph signs with Florida, he’ll likely do the same.
Going into his signing, it has long been thought that the Gators are the favorite despite his 50-50 assessment — he was UF’s second commitment in the 2016 class. But it’s hard to turn down Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.
Four-star wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Houston, Texas, Westfield High)
Tyrie Cleveland would give Florida’s offense another much-needed explosive weapon to complement Antonio Callaway.
Ranked as the 15th-best wide receiver in this year’s class, Cleveland racked up over 2,000 yards receiving, 27 receiving touchdowns and three return-touchdowns combined during his junior and senior seasons at Westfield.
His speed allows him to blow the top off opposing defenses, but what differentiates him is his unique combination of size to go with his speed, making him effective at competing with defensive backs in the air.
With Antonio Callaway and slot receiver Brandon Powell both being under 6-feet, adding a tall weapon would be a big plus.
Cleveland is committed to Houston but is also considering Florida, Arkansas and TCU.
Four-star offensive guard John Simpson (6-foot-4, 288 pounds, North Charleston, South Carolina, Fort Dorchester High)
Every team needs more offensive linemen, but with departures on their line following the 2015 season, the Gators would be thrilled to add John Simpson.
The South Carolina native is ranked as the 19th-best offensive guard in the country and was invited to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but he’s still a raw prospect who will need to develop.
He has good feet and the physical tools to become a good player, but he will need to work on his technique.
Nevertheless, having his depth at guard after losing senior Trip Thurman would be big for McElwain and his staff.
Simpson is also considering Clemson, LSU and Alabama, with Clemson viewed as the favorite. His last visit to Gainesville came on Jan. 15, and his last visit overall was to Clemson on Jan. 22.
Four-star running back Lamical Perine (5-foot-11, 211 pounds, Theodore, Alabama, Theodore High)
Lamical Perine, the No. 11 running back in the 2016 recruiting class, has been committed to Florida since the school made him an offer back in May, and he has held firm on that verbal commitment so far. But on national signing day, the Alabama native will have two hats on the table — one for the Gators, the other for the national champion Crimson Tide.
He’s still considered Florida’s to lose, but there is a hint of doubt now, even after he was in Gainesville over the weekend on an official visit.
Perine is a small back but is built well and has decent speed, and he will be a good addition to help UF’s depth after the departure of starter Kelvin Taylor, who left to enter the NFL Draft.