Photo: Julian Humphrey; Credit: Zach Goodall
Friday Night Lights 2021 is in the books after the Florida Gators hosted a flurry of talented prospects from across the nation for their biggest recruiting camp of the year.
There were several Gators commits on hand, each proving that they belong in Florida's recruiting classes of 2022 and beyond. There were also some non-Florida commits who stood out among the crowd, impressing not only our evaluators but the Florida coaching staff as well - namely star wide receiver Evan Stewart.
Below, you can find our seven standouts from Florida's Friday Night Lights event.
Evan Stewart, 2022 WR
Everywhere AllGators goes to watch the Liberty (Frisco, Texas) product, Evan Stewart walks away with a top performance honor in our books. Stewart reminded our analysts of All-Pro Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs due to his combination of elite route-running skills, specifically within his release off of the line, and high-pointing abilities for a receiver who is built like a traditional slot. Stewart only took part in a handful of reps, and after dropping his first target, he proceeded to never lose a rep again - wowing the crowd on numerous occasions.
CJ Hawkins, 2022 TE, Florida commit
Already a Florida commit, Hawkins was able to establish himself as one of the more impressive players at the Friday Night Lights event in Gainesville. Showcasing his size and athleticism, Hawkins routinely brought in catches that appeared difficult for the typical player to haul in. Able to contort his body, Hawkins made acrobatic catches over plenty of linebackers on the day. One of the more intriguing battles during the event was between Hawkins and fellow Florida commit, LB Shemar James. While James did hold the advantage for plenty of reps, Hawkins had one of the more impressive concentration-catches of the event, able to stay with the ball even with James draped all over him.
De’Carlo Donaldson, Jr., 2022 TE, Tulane commit
Tulane has a steal on its hands. While there was a future Gator tight end working out in CJ Hawkins, who was impressive in his own right, it was Donaldson who was the most productive tight end against man coverage. Strong out of his stance on a low plane and swift at the top of the route with a true set-up game, the Miami (Fla.) Gulliver Prep standout proved polished against all linebackers he lined up against. He created more separation against James than any pass-catcher on this night, impressive at a listed 6’2”, 215 pounds. Whether it’s as an H-back with fullback moonlighting or perhaps as a power slot, it seems a Power 5 program could benefit from a prospect of Donaldson’s prowess on its roster.
Ayden Williams, 2022 WR
You couldn't miss Ayden Williams on the field - his reddish-orange dyed hair was extremely recognizable. But so was his game. Williams is a silky in-breaking route runner who consistently separated from cornerback on post routes and slants. The Mississippi prospect's ball-tracking skills down the field were also among the best, which were put on full display on a touchdown grab where Williams couldn't afford to slow down as he approached the endzone. Williams earned an offer from UF immediately after the event.
Shemar James, 2022 LB, Florida commit
Shemar James was the best defender on the field Friday from a consistency standpoint. Every time he lined up, whether in drills to work with linebackers coach Christian Robinson or during coverage in one-on-one action, the Alabama native was dominant. The movement skill he displays at 215 pounds makes him one of the nation’s most intriguing athletes, but the maturity in his coverage and space game makes him a prospect with a high floor as well. James was comfortable re-routing targets big and small, including fellow UF commitment and big tight end CJ Hawkins, turning on a dime and tracking the ball in the air. James, who showed straight-line speed, agility and physicality at the catch point, hauled in two interceptions during the competition portion of the event for good measure.
Julian Humphrey, 2022 CB, Florida commit
Julian Humphrey is an effortless mover. His straight-line speed is well known after Humphrey won the fastest man award with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at The Opening, but Humphrey's change of direction skills and ability to break-and-turn consistently stood out in individual drills and one-on-one reps at Friday Night Lights. Although Stewart dominated his reps, Humphrey was the only cornerback who could mirror Stewart's routes and remain hip-to-hip with the fellow Texas product throughout the night, even on double moves. Humphrey's vertical also stood out in individual drills as he was able to go up and snatch the ball out of the air with ease.
Jamarrien Burt, 2022 CB, Florida commit
There wasn't a ton of buzz surrounding Jamarrien Burt when he committed to Florida in June considering his rankings on other recruiting services. However, Burt made everyone in attendance aware of why Florida accepted his commitment with a strong showing on Friday night. Burt more than looks the part of the traditional Gators cornerback with unreal length on his frame and impressive vertical speed to play the boundary. His footwork while mirroring routes and ability to change direction on and around the vertical stem were also better than anticipated throughout one-on-one drills, but we will want to see his agility tested further on in-breaking routes.