Set to enter what is expected to be crucial month of recruiting, the picture of Florida Gators' top remaining 2021 targets is pretty clear at this point. It is also extremely defensive-heavy.
The Gators currently hold 23 commitments in the class of 2021, with 14 on the offensive side of the ball and nine on defense, both sides including a JUCO commit. While the Gators have done a good job of securing talents such as cornerback Kamar Wilcoxson, defensive end Tyreak Sapp, and others, there are several big-time defenders left on Florida's board.
With that, let's take a look at Florida's top ten remaining targets, as things currently stand, in the class of 2021. The list is in no specific order or rankings, rather, just a collection of prospects that are certainly coveted by Florida and have a mutual interest. No prospects committed to another school are included, even if there are remaining recruiting ties to Florida.
Leonard Taylor, defensive tackle, Palmetto (Miami, Fla.)
Interests: Florida and Miami
Commit date: August 6th
One of if not Florida's biggest target, Leonard Taylor is a game-wrecking interior defensive lineman who best projects as a three-technique tackle for the Gators, but certainly carries the flexibility to move around in the trenches.
Standing at 6-4, 245 lbs., Taylor is an explosive athlete for his size and his frame is long and broad enough to add plenty of good weight. During his junior season, the consensus five-star recorded 68 total tackles, 11 sacks, and 26 tackles for loss. Swift to get into the backfield and possessing several impressive rush moves including a polished swim move and developing swipe move, which should only continue to improve with his length and strength.
Taylor visited Florida in March for the team's junior day event, days before the NCAA instituted a recruiting moratorium amidst the coronavirus pandemic. However, playing in Miami's backyard, the Hurricanes have seemingly picked up momentum as of late for Taylor's services. His pending commitment carries make-or-break potential for Florida's 2021 signing class.
Jason Marshall Jr., cornerback, Palmetto (Miami, Fla.)
Interests: Florida, Alabama, Miami, LSU, Oregon
Commit date: N/A, has hinted the month of August along with Palmetto teammates
Along with Taylor, safety Corey Collier Jr., and other Palmetto teammates, Marshall visited Florida in March and spoke fondly of his potential fit in Florida's defense following the event. However, like Taylor, Marshall is a consensus five-star and is highly coveted by top programs across the nation.
An elite press coverage cornerback who plays with great physicality, Marshall has little issue shutting down opposing wide receivers in the talent-rich Miami area. In 2019, Marshall tallied 44 total tackles, five interceptions, and 15 defended passes for Palmetto, while also playing wide receiver.
In April, Marshall posted a top three of Florida, Alabama, and Clemson, before expanding the list on July 17th. However, Florida and Alabama appear to be the favorites here as the two programs have consistently made the cut and recruited Marshall hard.
Corey Collier Jr., safety, Palmetto (Miami, Fla.)
Interests: Florida, Miami, LSU
Commit date: August 10th
The Gators entered the 2021 recruiting cycle understanding that the safety position desperately needed bodies. Four safeties will graduate after the scheduled 2020 season, leaving only two true safeties in Mordecai McDaniel and Rashad Torrence II - both incoming freshmen - as the only two on the roster.
Florida has secured two safety commitments in the 2021 class in Dakota Mitchell, who is likely to also play STAR nickel cornerback, and Donovan McMillon. However, although Mitchell and McMillon are talented in their own respects, neither carry the deep range that Florida has missed on the backend in a long time.
Collier can provide those services. The 6-2, 170 safety provides the length, instincts, and adequate speed to play deep and act as a ballhawk in UF's defensive scheme, which can provide defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to get aggressive in Cover 3 and Cover 1 looks. Collier intercepted four passes, broke up 13, and totaled 52 tackles as a junior.
Nathaniel Wiggins, cornerback, Westlake (Ga.)
Interests: Florida and LSU
Commit date: August 28th
Speaking with Sports Illustrated - AllGators at Westlake earlier this month, Wiggins claimed Florida and LSU are the front-runners in his recruitment and that he'd be making his decision on August 28th, his birthday. Wiggins also made nite that he has been in plenty of communication with Oregon, however, he would prefer to stay on the east coast for his college career.
The lengthy, athletic two-way player for the Lions best profiles at cornerback, however he also plays receiver in Westlake's offense and puts his contested-catch skills and speed to use. Those skills allow Wiggins to make big-time plays on the ball and close on pass-catchers at cornerback. Wiggins tallied five interceptions as a junior, and plans to focus more on playing cornerback than wide receiver as a senior.
Desmond Watson, defensive tackle, Armwood (Seffner, Fla.)
Interests: Florida and Texas A&M
Commit date: Month of August, date TBD
Florida would love to pair Watson and Taylor on the interior, as Watson's large frame and skill-set best project to nose tackle where he'd line up next to Taylor at three-technique. Watson, 6-5, 350 lbs., eats up double teams at the prep level with no issue and carries an impressive get-off for his frame.
In 2019, Watson accumulated 65 total tackles, including 10 sacks and a whopping 34 tackles for loss. Watson isn't likely to stick around 350 lbs. once he enrolls at the school of his choice, however, he will continue to get stronger despite shedding bulk and should become more defined.
In a recent tweet, Watson said that he will be choosing between Florida and Texas A&M some time in August, with no official date publicly set.
Jeremiah "Scooby" Williams, edge rusher, Ramsay (Birmingham, Ala.)
Interests: Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, and Oklahoma
Commit date: N/A
The Gators have gained some momentum for Williams' services as of late, being pursued by one of Florida's best recruiters in linebackers coach Christian Robinson. However, while Robinson is doing the work, Williams would end up at BUCK rush end in Florida's scheme, a position that Grantham directly coaches.
The 6-4, 220 lb. edge rusher tallied 70 total tackles, 14 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and an interception for Ramsay as a junior. An elite-level athlete with great closing speed and length, it should be no issue for Williams to get into the 240+ lb. range in a college strength and conditioning program, without losing his athleticism.
With that, even if Williams were to line up at BUCK for Florida should he end up in the class, the Gators could get creative with his usage and drop him back into coverage at linebacker, and perhaps even STAR nickel cornerback.
Xavian Sorey, linebacker, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
Interests: Florida, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Georgia
Commit date: N/A
Another target being recruited by Robinson directly, Sorey's final visit before the moratorium was to Florida for junior day. Sorey first received an offer from Florida in 2018 and has long been coveted by the Gators.
While he's listed as an athlete by multiple recruiting services, Sorey easily projects to outside linebacker and carries the coverage skills to hold down tight ends and slot receivers at the next level. The 6-3, 214 lb. utility player tallied 57 tackles and three interceptions in 2019, along with 638 yards and three touchdowns rushing and four receptions for 110 yards and two scores for Graceville (Fla.) in 2019.
Sorey announced his transfer to IMG Academy for his senior season on June 15th.
Smael Mondon Jr., linebacker, Paulding County (Dallas, Ga.)
Interests: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, and Auburn
Commit date: N/A
In what was a bit of a surprise, elite 2021 linebacker Smael Mondon listed Florida in his top five schools this month. Like Sorey, Mondon is a big-time athlete, who competes in the 100 and 200-meter dashes and other activities for his school track and field team. While he has no football testing scores available, Mondon set career bests of 11.46 seconds in the 100-meter and 23.33 in the 200-meter in 2019.
The 6-3, 220 lb. outside linebacker prospect has room to continue filling out without losing speed in college. Mondon has found success as a blitzing linebacker and lining up near the line of scrimmage, exploding into the backfield and chasing down ball-carries with precise angles. Strong at the point of attack, Mondon possesses a low center of gravity to maintain balance when taking on blocks, often shedding them with strength and a violent demeanor before closing on the ball-carrier.
Mondon has been heavily recruited by the in-state Georgia Bulldogs, playing high school ball just outside of Atlanta. While Florida and other schools appear to be in the mix, Georgia feels like the favorite at this time.
Yousef Mugharbil, offensive guard, Murphy (N.C.)
Interests: Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Penn State, Louisville, N.C. State, and Virginia Tech
Commit date: N/A
Recently including Florida in his top seven schools without too many power-house programs in the mix, Florida tight ends coach Tim Brewster has gained some real momentum in recruiting Mugharbil. The question is: Can Brewster pull Mughabil out of state, specifically away from North Carolina, which has seen their recruiting take off since hiring head coach Mack Brown last year.
With a major need for improvement in run blocking, Mugharbil would be a welcome addition to UF's class while projecting inside to guard. Not often tasked with pass protection, that is an area of Mugharbil's game that will require plenty of development at the next level, but he's as solid as they come in the run game. Mugharbil plays with aggression and strength, allowing him to clear rushing lanes and demolish opposing defenders in the trenches.
Diego Pounds, offensive tackle, Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.)
Interests: Florida, Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, Michigan, Miami, Penn State, Oregon, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Duke, N.C. State, Appalachian State
Commit date: N/A
Pounds included the Gators in his top 15 schools on May 8th, and has accrued 36 total offers. Standing at 6-6, 305 lbs., Pounds profiles as an offensive tackle at the next level with good athleticism on the outside and all-around length that can continue to fill out.
Playing with quick and strong hands, Pounds does a good job of popping defenders in the chest at the point of attack and throwing the rusher off balance. Pounds will have to improve his pad level as he continues to develop, and paired with added lower-body strength, his run blocking prowess should also improve. Pounds is a play-through-the-whistle lineman, often imposing his will and throwing defenders into the dirt.
According to 247Sports' Blake Alderman, Pounds wants to take one of his five official visits to Florida prior to signing, providing his recruiters, Brewster and offensive line coach John Hevesy, with additional momentum as they vie for his services.