Florida bolstered its 2020 signing class on Wednesday with three signings, finishing the day eighth in the country.
The Gators signed a pair of four-star recruits in wide receiver Xzavier Henderson and defensive end Princely Umanmielen.
Henderson, brother of former cornerback C.J. Henderson, picked Florida over Clemson, Alabama and Georgia, among other schools. The 6-foot-3 receiver was the 66th-overall prospect and the 11th-ranked wide-receiver recruit in the country. Coach Dan Mullen gave him a favorable comparison to his brother.
“His brother’s got a little bit more technique on him right now, but I think it would be interesting,” Mullen said. “He’s bigger than (C.J.), and he’s still in high school… so I think he’s got the potential, once we coach him up a little, I don’t know, I might have to go with Xzavier.”
The surprise of the day for Florida came in the afternoon when Umanmielen elected to sign with the Gators. He didn’t visit UF until Jan. 24 but still picked the Gators over Baylor, Auburn and Texas. Umanmielen was the 241st-overall recruit in the country and ninth-ranked strong-side defensive end.
Florida also made former Penn State wide receiver Justin Shorter’s transfer official. The incoming redshirt sophomore and former five-star recruit caught 12 passes for 137 yards last season for the Nittany Lions.
By the end of the day, the Gators’ class was eighth in the country but sixth in the SEC. That, however, also includes the commitments of four-star athlete Marc Britt and three-star wide receiver Leonard Manuel. Britt will sign on Feb. 20, while Manuel will be signing on April 1.
As it stands, Florida’s 2020 class is deep, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Fourteen of the Gators’ 23 signings were on defense, including five-star defensive tackle Gervon Dexter. The Lake Wales High star is UF’s first five-star signing since 2015 (CeCe Jefferson and Martez Ivey).
Florida went from zero five-star recruits on its roster last season to four with Dexter and transfers Shorter, running back Lorenzo Lingard and linebacker Brenton Cox (pending waivers for Shorter and Lingard.)
UF stockpiled defensive backs in this class as well, signing seven of them, including five four-stars.
Additionally, Florida fixed their depth problems at wide receiver after the departures of Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Josh Hammond and Tyrie Cleveland by bringing in Shorter, Henderson, four-star Jaquavion Fraziars and Texas graduate transfer Jordan Pouncey.
The Gators also put an emphasis on locking down the recruiting hotbed that is the state of Florida. UF has 16 players who are either committed or signed that are from Florida. Of the top 10 players in the Gators’ class, eight of them are from the Sunshine State.
“This is the flagship school of the state, and this is where kids in the state want to play,” Mullen said. “You go back and you look at the 2006 and 2008 national championship teams, there are a lot of guys from the state of Florida on that roster.”
However, Florida’s class isn’t without its drawbacks. For one, the team completely whiffed at the running-back position, failing to sign a single high-school prospect at the position.
The biggest problem, however, is that the Gators still find themselves at a disadvantage compared to its SEC rivals. Georgia signed the top class in the country and matched Florida’s four five-stars with its 2020 class alone. LSU also signed the fourth-ranked class in the country, meaning the Gators were outgunned on the recruiting trail by two teams they play every season.
Florida’s 2020 class is a step in the right direction, but it will still need better recruiting efforts in the future to compete for both the SEC Championship and the College Football Playoff.
Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727. Contact him at [email protected].