For a team that has struggled in recent memory in recruiting, landing a four-star defensive line prospect this early in the cycle is a much-needed positive.
Turning the corner on the 2021 recruiting cycle this past Wednesday, Feb. 2, the Florida Gators wasted little time acquiring a foundational piece to the 2022 class.
With a multitude of players that the Gators are looking to secure before Early and National Signing Day roll around next season, the defensive line remains a priority — as it has in past cycles — to take the Florida team to the next level.
“We got to get a little better up front on both sides of the ball,” Florida head coach Dan Mullen said following a six-point loss to Alabama in December’s SEC Championship Game. “You look, they’re a little more physical, I think at the line of scrimmage than we were. We got to get a little bit better up front.”
Getting off to a hot start in that department with an early acquisition in the form of Francois Nolton Jr., the Gators added their second commitment to the class of 2022 along with Nolton’s Edison High School (Miami, Fla.) teammate, wide receiver Seyveion Ellis.
Standing at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Nolton possesses great length and the ability to move fluidly throughout the defensive line. Seeing the bulk of his playing time as a defensive end for Edison, Nolton has shown a rare ability to play both as a standing edge rusher and with his hand in the dirt.
Creating a mismatch against the offensive linemen he faces off against due to the strength he carries when first engaging, Nolton finds different ways to overpower his opposition.
In other words, “I make offensive tackles uncomfortable,” Nolton said in an exclusive commitment interview with AllGators’.
Often throwing a deceivingly impactful punch upon contact, Nolton has a knack for getting offensive lineman on their heels, opening a window for him to make his move.
While there is a bit of predictability in his pass-rushing tool bag given a lack of diversity in the moves he utilizes, the consistent winning formula at the high school level includes a quick first step bull rush along with consistent agility and speed off the edge.
In the situations he has played on the interior, the Miami native has stayed proficient in getting after the quarterback, leading to a heightened understanding of what it takes to win on the inside. As a result, Nolton has the potential to be employed in the middle of the formation in various stunt packages as he adds weight and strength.
Blowing up the backfield on passing downs from all positions along the front four before the offensive play call has a chance to develop, Nolton will be a welcomed addition to a long line of talented pass rushers that have rolled through the University of Florida for over the past decade.
Showing constant improvement against the run in the limited action he did see in 2020 — accounting for at least four sacks in just four games due to injury and the shortened season — Nolton has the opportunity to be a well-rounded defensive lineman for the Gators in the future.
Projected as a possible strong side defensive end at the next level, Nolton has also shown signs of being able to play in Florida’s BUCK rush end role given his lean frame.
While the current knowledge of where he will be plugged into the lineup upon his arrival to Gainesville is currently unknown, his ability to exploit the weaknesses of the opposing offensive line and get after the quarterback leaves defensive line coach David Turner room for creativity in utilizing a versatile chess piece like Nolton.
Something is comfortable with Turner doing to take him to that next level. “He thinks he can develop me into one of the best D-linemen in the SEC, and he just told me to trust him.”