The Florida Gators coaching staff had a great spring as they were able to get several of their top prospects on campus for visits.
Now that spring football is over at the college level, the coaching staff is out on the road recruiting and visiting prospects at their respective school.
A lot of things in recruiting have improved since Billy Napier arrived and GatorCountry brings you a new recruiting mailbag to answer your questions about recruiting.
The mailbag will be split into two parts so here’s part one:
Nickelgators: Will the Gators sign a QB and if so your best guess?
AS: Napier wants to have a quarterback in every class, and I think that continues this year. The staff is continuing to push hard for guys like Arch Manning, Eli Holistein, and Dante Moore and it looks like they will host Manning for a visit this summer. The staff is also monitoring a few other guys who could pick up offers if the staff feels they’re out on those three guys.
Kurt_borglum: Can high school kids hire agents to handle their NIL? It used to be hiring an agent was the end of amateur’s status. Do the coaches then talk to the agent instead of the kid?
AS: Business managers is what they have handling their NIL but it might as well be an agent as they act in the same way. The coaches talk to the business managers and the kids as they not only have to sell the kid on being the best fit for them on the field but they have to show the managers and kid that they have the best NIL package a lot of times.
90Gator: There seems to be a lot of chatter both on Twitter as well as in a few articles, that Napier & Co are doing a great job marketing the Gators, but lack closing skills. This is not my opinion, I think things will heat up as we go. What’s your take on how things have gone so far both in terms of (a) commits, (b) how high school coaches are responding and (c) how the HS players are reacting to the new staff.
AS: I think it’s way too early to make an opinion about the staff’s closing skills as they did a pretty good job of closing on a lot of guys in the 2022 class with very little time to do so. Does the staff wish more guys would pop and announce commitments? Yes but the NIL game has changed a lot of things so it’s tougher to get guys to announce early.
High school coaches have responded really well to this staff just like the kids have as Napier and company have really put a focus on getting to know as many people as they can and also making them feel important.
Gatorboy08: What position are we in for some top WR prospects in FL right now? Guys like Jalen Brown, Hykeem Williams, Carnell Tate, and Brandon Inniss. Could we land one of those at this time?
AS: I think it will be tough for Florida to land any of those four, but I would say they have the best shot with Williams out of that group. Florida had to play catch up to a lot of schools for those guys and some out of state schools jumped out to big leads.
Arob2827: In what order would you rank the prospects currently on the board at CB based on how likely they are to commit to the Gators?
AS: I would start with AJ Harris who Florida has done a great job with and Corey Raymond is a big draw for the Harris family. I would follow that up with Cormani McClain, the instate prospect has been a major focus of this staff’s and he admits that Florida and Alabama are doing the best job with him. Next up would be Tony Mitchell and while he’s third, the Gators have done a great job with him and the fact that he’s from the state of Florida helps the Gators out. I do think it will be tough to land all three but I think landing two of the three is very possible.
Gator_nica: Besides coach Raymond, which new coach is having the biggest impact with recruits on the Trail?
AS: I haven’t heard much negative about any of the new coaches in general and all of them seem to be pulling their own weight with their position and area so far. But since you asked for just one, I will go with Sean Spencer as he has gotten Florida in the mix for a lot of defensive linemen and kids love his energy he brings to the table.
Johnagator: Best guess in OL and DL?
AS: OL- Knijeah Harris, Payton Kirkland, Bryce Lovett, Tommy Kinsler and Lucas Simmons. Simmons is the wildcard out of the bunch as FSU has done a great job with him but the Gators have put in a lot of work with Simmons and I can see the Gators winning this battle.
DL-Derrick LeBlanc, Will Norman, Jordan Hall, John Walker, and Zavion Hardy are the guys that I feel the best on at this time.
Salsaman: IYO when it’s all over where will our class be ranked?
AS: Anything out of the top 10 and it would be a disappointed as the Gators have chances with a lot of highly ranked guys in this class.
Docwells7: Is there any frustration among the staff regarding the Wild West nature of the NIL? They seem to be very tenacious recruiters, and it must be difficult in the current environment. I don’t get that vibe listening to their press conferences, but just curious if you’re hearing anything.
AS: Napier isn’t really guy that gets frustrated but he’s a guy that tries to figure it out and he’s working on getting Florida up to par in the NIL game. So frustration hasn’t really set in for this staff but they’re aware that they’re playing with an uneven field at times.
Ufgator84: Will Kirkland or any other elite OTs actually sign with Florida?
AS: I really like Florida’s chances with Payton Kirkland and I think he could be the elite tackle in this class. Kirkland really likes Rob Sale and Darnell Stapleton.
Ufgators84: Can Florida close on a few elite DTs?
AS: Sean Spencer has done a great job with Will Norman and I think he’s pretty elite, John Walker is another guy that Spencer likes, and Florida is in a good spot for. This summer will be big on getting these defensive tackles back on campus.
Floridagatorman: Andrew, how different does this cycle feel from other cycles in terms of your day to day? Are you seeing substantial differences in how conversations go with recruits? Not necessarily asking for specifics, but really curious whether NIL and the transfer rules has changed the process. Is it pretty much the same except a lot of what was below table is now above table (at least partially)? Or, are we already in a whole new era of college football? On Andy Staples podcast, they joked about now being business reporters. Do you feel like you’re comparing numbers more than sentiment these days?
AS: I thought we would hear more kids talking about NIL in interviews, but it really hasn’t happened. The biggest difference is finding out what other teams are offering the kids in the NIL game as decisions start to get closer and you must ask that question a lot around signing day. You’re definitely comparing numbers with others. I think we’re definitely in a new era of college football and we’re seeing which teams can adapt the quickest.
Floridagatorman: Follow up question: Do you think the improvements Napier has made in communications, official visit atmosphere, and preparation going into meetings with recruits is making a big difference or are we kind of just pulling back to the level of our competitors, and will now simply be competing from a more even starting point?
AS: The new facility will definitely help the staff and you combine that with Napier’s ability to get kids on campus and it puts Florida on equal terms with the big boys in college football. The biggest difference with this staff is they’re really good in the film room so getting kids on campus and in the film room has been huge.
Kdm: Where do we currently stand with Malik Bryant and Troy Bowles, and how likely are we to flip Keon Keeley and/or Raylen Wilson?
AS: Bowles looks to be heading out of state but the Gators are hoping to get him back on campus again this summer. Florida, Alabama, and Miami are all battling for Bryant and official visits are going to be big for him ahead of his July decision. Florida has got to get Keeley back on campus again as they had some momentum and then Notre Dame did a good job of getting him back on campus twice since that visit and have turned the momentum back in their favor. The first is getting him back on campus.
Raylen Wilson will visit Florida in June for an official visit and right now the Gators are the biggest threat to flip him from Michigan. Wilson says all the right things about his commitment to Michigan but the Gators have made this really close.
MacDaddyGator: It seems that we now have facilities and a coach that is doing the things that would have resulted in great recruiting classes over the last 10 years. What is your opinion on the University of Florida’s ability and willingness to compete in the NIL market the way we will need to if we are to become an elite recruiting school? What are our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to being able to compete?
AS: Florida has the ability to compete with anyone in the country as far as NIL is concerned but those alumni and such have to be willing to help. You still have a lot of alumni and such that remember when Florida was on probation back in the day and they’re scared to get involved. That’s something Billy Napier and his staff have been trying to overcome and I think the momentum is finally shifting. It’s process and it might take a little bit longer for it to show but I believe alumni are now willing to help the football team.
Jcmiller910: Andrew, how is the staff doing on recruiting now that the initial shockwave has worn off with the new hires? Also, we must land Cormani! What’s our chances there?
AS: This staff is very well liked by recruits and parents and that’s a huge difference as kids love taking visits to Gainesville. That has been very noticeable as kids are coming back multiple times within weeks of each other.
As far Cormani McClain goes, the Gators are battling Alabama for him and while he says he doesn’t have a leader, I give Florida the edge heading into the summer.
Juggernautz: How’s the RB class looking?
AS: Florida has put itself in a good spot for several running backs this cycle. Treyaun Webb is trending to Florida, and he plans to announce in June. Florida has gained ground with both Cedric Baxter and Richard Young this spring. Both guys were frequent visitors to Gainesville this spring. Jabbar Juluke has done a much better job of recruiting the position since he arrived on campus.