Ten in-state underclassmen to watch

The Florida Gators are officially back on the field practicing and preparing for the season and that means recruiting is a little slow until prospects start visiting campus again when the season kicks off. Gator Country wanted to take this time to introduce you to some Class of 2016 prospects that you should keep an eye on this season during high school football as they will begin visiting campuses this year. This will be a two part series with the first part introducing 10 in-state underclassmen that you should watch. Of course, you should keep an eye on the two commits that the Gators already have in-state for the Class of 2016. Those prospects are receiver Tyler Byrd (5-11, 160, Naples, FL High) and cornerback Chauncey Gardner (5-11, 190, Cocoa, FL High.) With that being said, here are the 10 players that I’m going to be watching in-state this year for the Class of 2016.

Who to Watch (in no order)

Receiver T.J. Chase (6-1, 169, Bradenton, FL IMG Academy) has a Florida offer and he has visited Gainesville  a few times already. Chase is a quick receiver with a good hands and I think Florida has a really good shot at him early on. Receiver Freddie Swain (6-1, 174, Citra, FL North Marion) Swain has been a frequent visitor at Florida since he picked up his offer last fall. Swain has a few friends on campus already with one being Latroy Pittman. Swain is someone that I expect to visit Florida a lot this fall. Offensive lineman Chidi Valentine-Okeke (6-5, 306, Hialeah, FL Champagnat Catholic) may be the top offensive lineman in the state of Florida for 2016 and the Gators have been recruiting him hard. The one bad thing is that Okeke is very close with Abdul Bello and that will help Florida State here.  Florida needs to get Okeke on campus this fall. Offensive lineman Stewart Reese (6-6, 330, Fort Pierce, FL Fort Pierce Central) visited Florida for Friday Night Lights in late July. Reese has talked highly of offensive line coach Mike Summers but has backed away from naming any leaders. Defensive end Patrick Bethel (6-2, 231, Vero Beach, FL High) is one of the top rated defensive ends in the state and he has offers from the big 3 in-state schools already. Bethel camped at Florida for Friday Night Lights and he left speaking highly of defensive line coach Brad Lawing. Defensive end Shavar Manuel (6-3, 262, Tampa, FL Blake) is one of the top players in the country and is the 2016 version of Byron Cowart. The one difference is that Florida State seems to have the leg up for him early on. Manuel has said he was going to visit Florida this summer but that didn’t happen, so it’s a must that Florida get him on campus this fall. Defensive end Jordan Woods (6-3, 235, Ocala, FL Trinity Catholic) has been a staple on Florida’s campus the last two years and he has built a great relationship with the Gators coaching staff. Woods doesn’t seem in any kind of rush to make a decision but the Gators are very high on his list and you can expect he will be at many games this fall. Safety Romeo Finley (6-0, 196, Niceville, FL High) was supposed to visit Florida for Friday Night Lights but that visit was postponed until the fall. Finley did say that he’s eager to visit Florida and that he likes Will Muschamp and his defense. Finley has also spoken to cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson a lot. Safety Savivion Smith (6-2, 175, Bradenton, FL IMG Academy) has been on Florida’s campus several times already and he stood out at Friday Night Lights. Smith can play both safety and receiver but he looked impressive at defensive back at camp. Smith likes Florida a lot but he’s also very close to Ryan Davis and Byron Cowart so their decision could impact his. Quarterback Rex Culpepper (6-3, 215, Tampa, FL Plant) has ties to Florida and visited the Gators this summer. Culpepper is starting his first year as a starting quarterback this year so Florida will definitely be watching him closely to see how he performs this fall.

Previous articleFriday night offensive observations
Next articleFriday night defensive observations
Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.


  1. Is Culpepper the son of former Gator and Tampa Bay player Brad Culpepper? If so, I would think UF would be a lock for him unless they bomb on the field this year and next as well. I don’t think it’s as important for a legacy if UF has new coaches.