Coach Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators ended 2018 on a sweet note with a decisive victory over Michigan at the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, but they welcomed 2019 with an equally chipper attitude toward their incoming recruiting class.
Coach Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators got a break Wednesday. They’re preparing for a Dec. …
The 2019 group currently sits at No. 11 overall according to 247Sports, fifth-highest of all the SEC schools. It may not be the flashiest class — that honor belongs to the likes of Alabama (who locked-up 24 four-stars) and Georgia (who bagged five five-stars) — but Mullen added critical depth to the program at positions of great need.
Foraging Fresh Commits
The newest and highest-rated commit of UF’s newcomers is four-star cornerback Chris Steele.
The Belleflower, California, native decommitted from Southern California on Oct. 18 and revealed his decision to join Florida during the third quarter of the Under Armour All-America Game.
Steele is the highest-rated recruit (No. 40 according to 247Sports) that Florida’s netted since Antonneous Clayton (No. 27) and Tyrie Cleveland (No. 34) made their commitments as part of Jim McElwain’s 2016 class.
The 6-foot-1 corner is key to solidifying a big-time class for cornerbacks coach Charlton Warren. The Gators already have four-star Jaydon Hill (No. 29 corner) and Chester Kimbrough (No. 47 corner), but adding the nation’s fifth-best corner makes their young secondary one of the deepest in the country.
Four-star wide receiver Arjei Henderson is Florida’s most unexpected commitment. The 6-foot-1 pass catcher from Richmond, Texas, hasn’t even officially visited Gainesville (he’ll be on campus Jan. 11), and he’s set to visit Florida State on Jan. 25.
Henderson is the 22nd-ranked receiver in the country. The Gators have four seniors on their receiving corp entering the 2019 campaign, so adding a top talent will be a luxury for the crowded unit.
However, nothing is certain regarding Henderson’s future. He previously decommitted from Oklahoma on Nov. 26.
Stealing OL from Miami
The offensive line is easily Florida’s deepest unit among its incoming recruits. O-Line coach John Hevesy secured seven signatures on Early Signing Day, and two of them were December decommits from Miami.
Four-star tackle Michael Tarquin of Citra, Florida, and three-star guard Kingsley Eguakun both committed to the Hurricanes until early December, when they realigned their allegiances to the Gators. Maybe they had some foresight about Mark Richt’s retirement.
Tarquin is UF’s highest-rated tackle. He’s No. 24 overall and the 40th-best player in Florida, and he measures in at 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds.
Eguakun, a Jacksonville native, is a quality depth grab given that departing guards Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson are leaving a huge hole to fill on the depth chart.
Landing the Lakeland Trio
The Gators vaulted from 22nd in the 247Sports class rankings to 15th of the over a span of about 15 minutes on Early Signing Day. The surge was thanks to the commitments of Lakeland High School’s Deyavie Hammond (four-star guard), Lloyd Summerall (four-star defensive end) and Keon Zipperer (four-star tight end).
Each contributed majorly to Lakeland’s Class 7-A state championship, and each were uncommitted before signing with UF.
Hammond (6-foot-3, 353 pounds) comes in as the nation’s 12th-best offensive guard and 174th-overall player. He is Hevesy’s highest-ranked incoming offensive lineman, and he may need to contribute next season given how thin Florida is at guard.
Summerall (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) is the only true defensive end in the recruiting class and the No. 15 weak-side defensive end in the country. He has outstanding size and length and will learn behind a cast of experienced veterans at his position.
Zipperer (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) is joining a tight-end group that’s depleted after the exit of C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens, as well as Kyle Pitts' switch to wide receiver. He’ll be one of four tight ends, and his size will make him an important blocker, a skill the Gators are lacking in that unit.
Follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr and contact him at [email protected].