Smith declares UF his leader, recaps official visit

Improving the speed at the wide receiver position appears to be a point of emphasis for Dan Mullen and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales this recruiting cycle.

The current roster is filled with some bigger-bodied receivers who excel at outmuscling opponents for the ball in the air, but they’re lacking those one or two guys that you can throw the ball to behind the line of scrimmage and reasonably expect them to turn the play into a long touchdown.

The Gators took a step toward correcting that problem last month when they secured a commitment from Georgia state track champion Isaiah Bond.

Now, they could be on the verge of landing three-star receiver C.J. Smith out of Bishop Moore Catholic in Orlando. Moore won the state championship in both the 100 and 200 meters, with a personal-best time of 10.28 seconds in the 100-meter dash.

Smith took an unofficial visit to UF on the first day after the long dead period on June 1. This weekend, he returned for an official visit.

“It was good,” Smith said. “Really got to connect with [the coaches] more, especially being on a longer visit than the first. I really love the coaches.”

Smith said Gonzales drew up some plays and explained how they would move him around the field from the outside to the slot to get the ball in his hands. At 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, the staff views him as a faster version of former Gators receiver Trevon Grimes. Their message to him is simple.

“They need speed, and I can bring that to the table,” Smith said.

He said the highlight of his visit was the players panel, where the coaches leave the room and let some current UF players talk to the group of visitors about their experiences at Florida.

“It was amazing just being able to learn more about this program,” he said. “It really opened my eyes more.

“It was amazing just knowing that that’s the honesty coming from the players.”

Smith admits that he grew up a huge Gators fan, and he named Florida as his leader after his official visit.

“I’m going to have to say Florida,” he said with a gigantic smile on his face. “I would be lying if I didn’t say everything, the whole environment.

“It feels like home.”

Still, he’s in no rush to wrap up his recruitment. He officially visited Arkansas and South Carolina the last two weekends, and he’ll visit Georgia next weekend.

He wants to spend his fifth and final official visit at Alabama, but he may have to wait until the fall with another dead period beginning in July. If that’s the case, he’ll wait until the fall to announce his commitment.

When the time comes for Smith to make his commitment, he knows exactly what criteria he will consider.

“The program,” Smith said. “I know coaches don’t stay there that long but really how I feel comfortable in the program, how they’re able to develop me as a player and [with] character.”

Barring any last-minute changes of heart, it sure sounds like Smith plans on being a Gator.

Ethan was born in Gainesville and has lived in the Starke, Florida, area his entire life. He played basketball for five years and knew he wanted to be a sportswriter when he was in middle school. He’s attended countless Gators athletic events since his early childhood, with baseball being his favorite sport to attend. He’s a proud 2019 graduate of the University of Florida and a 2017 graduate of Santa Fe College. He interned with the University Athletic Association’s communications department for 1 ½ years as a student and has spent the last two football seasons writing for InsideTheGators.com. He is a long-suffering fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Rays. You can follow him on Twitter @ehughes97.