Amid heavy scrutiny over his inability to lure top talent to Gainesville, Florida coach Jim McElwain scored a major recruiting victory on National Signing Day. Five-star prospect Tedarrell “T.J.” Slaton announced that he will play for the Gators, picking them over SEC East rival Georgia.
Slaton had identified Florida as the leader in his recruitment last month, and he took an official visit to the program’s campus the weekend of Jan. 21. Unlike many other programs, according to Slaton, the Gators pursued him as a defensive lineman. Slaton had indicated that he prefers to play on that side of the ball, despite him spending most of his time on the offensive line in high school and every major recruiting service listing him as part of that position group.
Scout.com rates him the No. 2 offensive guard in the class of 2017, behind only St. John Bosco (Calif.) High’s Ohio State signee Wyatt Davis, and the No. 32 player overall. It’s difficult to say how Slaton will acquit himself as a defensive player in college, but his status as one of the top interior offensive line recruits in the country owes to his size (6’4.5”, 341 pounds) and power. That combination should ease Slaton’s transition to the other side of the trenches.
He’s a valuable pickup for Florida as it waves farewell to projected early-round draft pick Caleb Brantley and fellow defensive line starters Joey Ivie and Bryan Cox Jr.
In choosing the Gators, Slaton will join two of his class of 2017 teammates from American Heritage (Fla.) High in Florida’s class: four-star cornerback Marco Wilson and three-star linebacker James Houston. Another American Heritage prospect in the class of 2017, four-star offensive lineman Kai-Leon Herbert, was viewed as another potential Gators pledge after decommitting from Michigan last month, but he chose Miami instead. Florida signed only one (Slaton) of the top 15 prospects in the Sunshine State in this cycle, according to Scout.com.
Here is Scout.com’s full scouting report on Slaton:
Slaton looks like a grown man on the hoof. He is extremely strong in his lower body and upper body. He just overpowers his opponent much of the time. His punch is impressive and he really shoots his hands well. Plays tackle and could be a right tackle, but projects as an elite guard on the next level. Really bends well for a young man his size and fires off the ball. Needs to improve his footwork in pass protection and his hand placement. Simply nasty OL.