Jim McElwain faced a stacked deck. When he took over the Florida Gators he quickly found out that the previous coaching staff had left him just eight commits and that number would soon drop to just six.
McElwain assembled his staff and they got to work, finishing up with a class of 21 commitments. Over the next two days Gator Country will be grading McElwain’s first class, first with the offense and then the defense.
Our grading criteria will encompass the talent level of the prospects at each position, if the staff was able to sign enough players to hit their target numbers at each position and how well the staff was able to fill holes that the roster had with the signing class.
Number needed – 1
Signed – 0
Every school should look to sign a quarterback with each recruiting cycle. As the Gators found out two years ago, you never know when a quarterback could go down with an injury and you need quality players on the roster to fill in during an emergency situation.
Florida was not able to flip a quarterback for the 2015 class and they lost out on Sheriron Jones when the former Gator commit decommitted before enrolling early at Tennessee.
However, the fact that Florida did not sign a quarterback isn’t terrible. The coaching staff has to assume that they have their future starting quarterback already on campus in returning starter Treon Harris or redshirt freshman Will Grier. Yes, Florida will be thin at quarterback in 2015 but they did not need to waste a scholarship on a quarterback they did not feel good about just to hit their target number.
Ideally, Florida was looking for just a guy this year, someone who could be serviceable if called upon but they weren’t looking for and weren’t going to find their next starter on short notice.
2016 is the year where you need to find the next guy, the quarterback you want to groom for the future. Signing a big time prospect in this recruiting class gives you separation between Harris, Grier and the new quarterback. Grier would be a redshirt sophomore and Harris a junior when a freshman quarterback would come to campus and that would allow for a redshirt year to learn, grow and develop, similar to what the plan was for Grier this season.
Florida missed on signing a quarterback this cycle, but they can get by because they signed two good quarterbacks in 2014.
You cannot miss in 2016.
Number needed – 2-3
Signed – 2 (Jordan Scarlett, Jordan Cronkite)
The coaching staff said they needed playmakers on offense and here you go, two talented running backs.
Scarlett — who was rated a four-star by most recruiting outlets — is an absolute monster. At 5-10, 225 pounds, he can be physical, run downhill and pick up yards between the tackles, but he’s more than that. Scarlett was used as a three down back at St. Thomas Aquinas and is a very good pass catcher out of the backfield and a great blocker in pass protection. Florida got a steal here and Scarlett will contend for and most likely split carries with Kelvin Taylor right away.
Cronkite was an All-American and another great pickup for the Gators. He is more of an elusive back than a bruiser but with Brandon Powell expected to get more looks at receiver this season, Cronkite will be in the mix for playing time early.
Florida signed two very good running backs whose impact will be felt sooner rather than later.
Number needed: 1-2
Signed: 2 (Antonio Callaway, Kalif Jackson)
Florida didn’t have a huge need for numbers here, especially since the idea of moving cornerback J.C. Jackson to receiver is being kicked around. They did, however, need to upgrade talent and that’s exactly what they did with Callaway. He is a threat with the ball in his hands and a playmaker who has played some of the best competition in the country coming from Booker T. Washington High in Miami.
Jackson is more of a project but at 6-5 and 200 pounds has great measurables and a lot of upside.
Number needed: 1-2
Signed: 2 (Daniel Imatorbhebhe, Camrin Knight)
Getting Jake McGee back for another season might be the biggest pickup the Gators had this offseason. McGee is an athletic pass catcher and can be a real threat in McElwain’s offense, plus, he has experience.
Imatorbhebhe is very talented and has a lot of upside. Knight appears to be a project but with DeAndre Goolsby, C’yontai Lewis and McGee at the position this season, he will have time to develop.
Numbers needed: All of them
Signed: 6 (Martez Ivey, Tyler Jordan, Brandon Sandifer, Richerd Desir-Jones, Frederick Johnson, Nick Buchanan)
With just eight scholarship offensive linemen on the roster the Gators could have signed 20 offensive linemen this class and that would have been acceptable.
On a serious note, signing six linemen in this class was a necessity. Florida is ultra thin on the line and the Gators not only signed an appropriate number of linemen but they have a mix of talented players who can contribute right away as well as players with upside for the future.
Martez Ivey was the jewel of the class and the top-rated offensive tackle in the country. Ivey will contend for a starting spot on a line that only returns one upperclassman.
Tyler Jordan was recruited to play center. Trip Thurman looks to fill in the position that Max Garcia vacates but Jordan can contribute this season and will be the center of the future.
Nick Buchanan is the biggest sleeper of this class. Buchannan is very athletic for his size and I think he will be able to come in right away and compete for a starting job at guard, where Florida is thinnest along the line.
Desir-Jones is a county champion wrestler from St. Thomas Aquinas and plays with great leverage. He’s already 280-pounds and just finished his first full season playing offensive line. Desir-Jones has a ton of upside and will be a very good player for Florida.