- Corral's commitment at Florida raises a lot of questions, but could lead to a lot of excitement in the Gators' coming seasons.
When Matt Corral announced his verbal commitment on Saturday night, he invoked the infamous line LeBron James used during The Decision in July 2010 to let the world know he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat. “I have decided to take my talents to the University of Florida,” Corral wrote in a message posted to his Twitter account. Corral definitely will not have a LeBron-sized impact on the Gators. He is not the best prospect in the country, or even the best one at his position, and it is impossible to say how his ability will translate at the college level. There are questions. There is uncertainty. There is also a whole lot to get excited about.
Corral is one of the most highly touted quarterback prospects in the rising senior class, with the size, the arm and the toughness to develop into a high-level starter in the SEC. He is also a scarce resource: Only three other QBs in the top 40 of Scout.com’s position rankings remain uncommitted, and one of them is effectively a 2020 prospect because he plans to serve a two-year LDS mission. Corral’s addition amounts to a recruiting shot in the arm that could lead to the Gators signing their best class yet under third-year head coach Jim McElwain, and he might be ready to compete for playing time as a true freshman after Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire departs next off-season.
This is a huge get for the Gators, and McElwain sold him on a future in Gainesville even though he hails from USC’s backyard (powerhouse Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles) and committed to the Trojans in February 2016. When Sports Illustrated spoke with Corral a year ago, the idea that he would end up leaving Southern California for SEC Country to play college football was unfathomable. “They have everything I want, everything I need. I don’t see why else not to go there,” Corral said of USC. Now, instead of joining a preseason national title contender with an illustrious quarterback lineage, Corral is off to Gainesville for a spin on the Gators’ post-Tebow carousel of QB futility.
Corral could end the cycle, although Florida fans no doubt hope an in-house option beats him to the punch. One of those options, 2016 signee Feleipe Franks, looms as the biggest thing standing in the way of Corral becoming the Gators’ starter. Zaire has only one year of eligibility left, and Florida probably wouldn’t be keen on planting its hot-shot prospect on the bench in favor of the other passer battling for the top spot on the depth chart this fall, journeyman Luke Del Rio. But if Franks delivers in a big way this season, Corral will have to fight off a redshirt sophomore who also came with lofty recruiting credentials and already will have spent two years in the program.
This season will bring more clarity about the likelihood of Corral getting on the field early. Until then, his eventual arrival will mollify any disappointment over Florida’s quarterback play, which was good enough to carry the Gators to an SEC East crown in 2016 but could doom them to a second or third-place finish if Georgia or Tennessee avoids the sort of head-scratching conference losses they suffered last year. Corral is the No. 3 signal caller in the class of 2018, according to Scout.com, and he threw for 3,025 yards with 22 touchdowns and three interceptions at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, Calif., as a junior, according to MaxPreps, before transferring to Long Beach Poly.
Corral’s commitment resolves one of the biggest remaining uncertainties about the 2018 recruiting class. Another one is where an even more highly regarded quarterback in that class, Harrison (Ga.) High’s Justin Fields, will land. Fields attended the same Friday Night Lights recruiting event in Gainesville as Corral last week, but now one of the schools previously thought to be in the running for him (Florida) has a top-tier quarterback on board. Fields has taken visits to several schools since de-committing from Penn State in June, but he doesn’t seem close to making a decision. Both an in-state rival of the Gators, Florida State, and a division one, Georgia, bear watching in Fields’s recruitment.
While Fields’s suitors scratch and claw for a gifted dual-threat with a Cam Newton ceiling, Florida, having resolved its QB situation, can go about filling its 2018 haul before leveraging what it hopes will be another strong season into more massive recruiting wins. That process shifted into high gear over the last week, with five total commitments. There is no debating which one is the most important.