Breaking Down Florida's Three Biggest 2020 Recruiting Needs
The Early National Signing Period begins in 21 days.
Here’s a look at some of the top players left on the Florida Gators’ recruiting board. Will the Gators reach 25 players for this year’s class?
Defensive tackle is a top priority
According to NCAA.com, Florida is giving up 303.5 yards per game, which currently sits at No. 12 nationally. That’s the good news. The area of concern stems from being just 71st nationally in third down defense, allowing a 39.5% conversion rate. One of the ways to help improve that percentage stems from more talent in the trenches.
The Gators are looking to sign at least one, if not two, defensive tackles down the stretch. Recruiting is fluid, so things could change. For now, the two names to know at defensive tackle would be:
Timothy Smith, 6-5, 320, Sebastian River HS (Sebastian, FL): Smith is not a new name. This is simply a reminder. He’s been committed to Alabama since July, but is still looking at other schools. A Dec. 6 visit to Tuscaloosa and Dec. 13 trip to Gainesville will be important official visits. Does he finally flip to the Gators? He’s been rumored to be leaning UF’s way.
Smith’s recruitment could stretch out. He’s been difficult to read throughout his process. There's no reason to believe that’s going to change, given his lengthy commitment, but there's been talk of a potential flip for a long while now. And perhaps another school could receive a visit before he signs. Nothing would be surprising.
When Smith signs his letter of intent, that’s when everyone will know. Until then? Only Smith does.
Would the Gators stop with Smith, assuming he commits? Maybe, maybe not.
Jalen Lee, DT, 6-3, 295, Live Oak High School (Watson, LA): A one time LSU commit, Lee is now looking at a handful of schools.
Dec. 13 will be Lee’s only known official visit, and it will be to Florida. While he may not be as well known as Smith, Lee can play. Big-bodied interior defensive lineman with the ability to push the pocket are always a priority. Lee provides that skillset.
Still, the question remains. Do the Gators go for two more interior defensive linemen? The Gators definitely need defensive tackle help, as the roster needs numbers and talent. It’s tough to decipher at the moment. Perhaps it depends on the other position groups? This is what makes following recruiting so much fun.
Here's a look at Lee’s Hudl film:
Wide receiver: Looking to add a deep threat?
University of Florida wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales usually prefers bigger wide receivers. That does not always need to be the case, however.
Marcus Fleming, 5-9, 160, Northwestern (Miami, FL): This young man can fly. As seen below with his Twitter update, the Gators are in the mix for the former Miami Hurricanes commitment, along with Florida State and Georgia. Adding a true athlete like Fleming to the roster would not only help the passing game, but Fleming could be utilized on jet sweeps, reverses, and return punts and kickoffs.
There’s fast, and then there is blazing speed. Here are Fleming’s junior highlights when he played for Southridge. Fleming will be in Gainesville for an unofficial visit this weekend.
The wildcard at wide receiver derives from JUCO talent Malik Heath. The one-time Mississippi State signee ended up at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. Obviously there’s a connection to the current Gators' coaching staff. It’s unusual for Florida to reach into the JUCO pool of talent, but perhaps Heath will be an exception.
Heath will trek to Gainesville for an official visit when the Gators play the Seminoles this upcoming weekend. Of all the possible signees, this one provides the most intrigue. Not nearly as much is known about Heath because JUCO programs do not receive nearly the attention as top high school programs.
If the Gators are truly going after this Heath, he’s not only talented, but Florida head coach Dan Mullen must really like him off the field as well. It’s interesting. He’s SEC-ready in terms of size as well.
Unlike Fleming, Heath provides the big-bodied wide receiver that most teams covet nowadays. Heath is listed at 6-3 and anywhere from 200 to 210-pounds, depending on which recruiting website one prefers. While still technically committed to Mississippi State, it's hard to bet against the Gators here if coach Mullen and his staff push for his commitment. Stay tuned…
Florida is also hosting Xzavier Henderson, the younger brother of Gators' starting cornerback C.J., for a visit this weekend. The Columbus HS (Miami, FL) product already visited Alabama and Georgia. Clemson was considered the favorite for Henderson's services, but do the Tigers have room for him? Will they make a late run at Henderson? This is recruiting - anything is possible. Henderson’s recruitment is about as cloudy as one can be.
Finally, one more Dade County talent.
Kentron Poitier, 6-2, 200, Palmetto HS (Miami, FL). With Florida State’s recent coaching change, it's hard to say where the ‘Noles stand with Poitier. He visited FSU on Nov. 1, but that program is currently in shambles after firing head coach Willie Taggart, and no one is sure what will happen with their current crop of commits.
Could a great visit to Florida lead to a commitment? Poitier is yet another great option for the Gators. The prototypical physical outside receiver, he uses his length and size to out-muscle cornerbacks. He’s a natural wide receiver.
In a nutshell, trying to decipher wide receiver recruiting can make a person’s head spin. The best bet is to just wait and see, literally. I’ve followed recruiting my entire adult life and the position is as difficult to predict as it can be. That’s recruiting!
Running back options
If you know anything about Florida's running back recruiting, you know there are several great options. Much like wide receiver recruiting, however, it’s hard to figure out what’s up and what’s down. Therefore, let us just start with the names.
Jaylan Knighton, RB, 5-10, 180, Deerfield Beach HS (Deerfield Beach, FL)
Jo’Quavious Marks, RB, 5-10, 190, Carver HS (Atlanta, GA)
Jahmyr Gibbs, 5-11, 195, Dalton HS (Dalton, GA)
Knighton is the speed burner that was once committed to FSU; Marks is committed to Mississippi State; Gibbs already pledged to Georgia Tech.
With the semantics out of the way, here’s the quick 101: Knighton’s family allegedly prefers Miami, while FSU and UF and still continue to recruit him. Thus, nobody really knows. He’s a south Florida kid, so anything could and should be expected. He recently visited Florida when the Gators faced Vanderbilt, and will take an official visit on December 6th.
Marks is built to play running back. He’s really good. Perhaps that is why Wisconsin wants him, as does Florida. Marks will head to Florida on Dec. 13 for an official visit. Do not be shocked if he picks UF soon thereafter.
Gibbs is the least likely. Most people believe he ends up in Tuscaloosa. Still, he’s visiting UF unofficially this weekend. The Gators have ground to make up.
That’s the breakdown. Until this weekend passes and more is known about Gibbs, it's hard to say where running back recruiting stands. Gibbs absolutely tore it up this year and teams are really coming after him. Maybe Florida could two running backs? Considering the team is about to lose starter Lamical Perine and has serious running game questions going forward, perhaps that would be for the best.
With 20 commitments as things stand for 2020, could the Gators end up with five more players? It’s anyone’s guess. Perhaps another offensive lineman will be added, to round out all five positions in this years class. But for now, defensive tackle, wide receiver and running back are the priorities.
If Florida can land at least one from each position group featured today, it would be a solid finish. Add up to five, and this class could take a big step forward. It’s going to be a fun ride down the recruiting stretch!