Gators CB Wilcoxson Details Reclassification: 'I've Got Something to Prove'
The Florida Gators 2021 recruiting class - and 2020 class, which signed six months ago today - were shaken up late on Monday when news broke that cornerback Kamar Wilcoxson would be reclassifying and joining the team this month.
While the news was a surprise to most, Wilcoxson had been working towards this for some time. Speaking with Sports Illustrated - AllGators on Tuesday after the decision went public, Wilcoxson shared what went into his decision and what he is looking to gain from enrolling a year early, at the age of 17.
"Really, like, I've been over high school and wanting to go to college but my mom wasn't really ready for me to leave," Wilcoxson told AllGators. "But when COVID[-19] came around, high school season got put in doubt, that's when she was like "Okay, cool', I can go."
Wilcoxson has been hard at work, finishing up his high school classes in preparation to enroll at Florida on August 24th. He will have to go through the enrollment process and be admitted into the school before he can begin to practice and take classes at UF. Once he's admitted, he'll immediately be allowed to take the field.
"I really wouldn't say it was hard, because I've always been really strong in the classroom," Wilcoxson continued. "So, just doing work, it wasn't a major challenge to me, because I like being able to work at my own pace. I work faster than what I was allowed in regular school, so doing it online has really been easier."
Originally a 2021 commit, Wilcoxson has been in and out of Florida's class multiple times yet is certainly viewed as a leader and top prospect among the group. After committing and de-committing twice between November 2018 and March 2020, Wilcoxson quickly pledged to Tennessee in April before flipping back to Florida on June 19th, effectively shutting down his recruitment.
The 6-1, 183 lb. defensive back, who was set to play at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) as a senior, has lined up all over the secondary throughout his high school career and should continue proving his versatility at Florida. While Wilcoxson offers a rangy skill-set that Florida doesn't have at the safety position, he will be beginning at outside cornerback and moving around from there - according to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's plan.
"Coach Grantham don't want me to play safety," said Wilcoxson. "Corner freshman year, then sophomore year, that's when I'll be able to play inside [STAR nickel cornerback] and outside."
Grantham will provide Wilcoxson with the chance to step onto the practice field and compete right out of the gate. While Wilcoxson would be alright with redshirting his freshman season if it came to it, Grantham hasn't made that a part of Wilcoxson's developmental plan at this time.
"He said when I come in, if I show that I'm ready to play, I'm gonna play," stated Wilcoxson.
Wilcoxson's versatile skill-set, which has led to his self-proclaimed "most versatile in the country" label, foreshadows a ball-hawking career for the fast, lengthy defensive back. Wilcoxson, who posted three interceptions, six defended passes, two forced fumbles, and 73 tackles as a junior, has previously clocked an impressive 4.49-second 40-yard dash.
Florida saw six defensive backs - seven, if you include return specialist Fenley Graham - sign the dotted line in the class of 2020. WIlcoxson will step onto the field amidst a big crowd of freshmen defensive backs, but he doesn't view that as intimidating. Rather, he likes the challenge and is a big fan of his new teammates from a personal perspective and from watching their tape.
One 2020 defensive back he's especially excited to suit up with has barely played cornerback before, but like Florida's coaching staff, Wilcoxson is high on the prospect's potential.
"The 2020 guys, like, they all real good athletes," said Wilcoxson. "But to me, the one that stands out the most, like everybody knows, is Jahari [Rogers], because you're taking a Wildcat quarterback and he's already developed into a really good corner."
Rogers, who played high school ball at Arlington High School (Texas) is a dynamic athlete who projects well at outside cornerback given his athleticism and frame. Still raw in his development with one year of playing defense under his belt, it could take Rogers some time before he takes the field, but the potential is there for him and Wilcoxson to shine on opposite sides of the secondary in the future.
Until then, Wilcoxson looks to take in all of the knowledge he can from Florida's secondary leaders and veterans that he may not have been exposed to should he have remained in the class of 2021. After the 2020 season, Florida is set to graduate two cornerbacks, Marco Wilson and C.J. McWilliams (barring a medical redshirt after missing the 2019 season with a torn Achilles), and four safeties: Shawn Davis, Donovan Stiner, Brad Stewart Jr., and Quincy Lenton.
"I just want to absorb everything from them, because like, I'm a big learner. I like to ask questions, know how I'm doing stuff," said Wilcoxson. "And being with Marco [Wilson], having a senior in the room, he's been in the program, he knows how everything is supposed to run and what to do."
Wilcoxson also looks to learn from rising sophomore cornerback Kaiir Elam, who earned five starts as a freshman and has been named to the Thorpe Award watch list and multiple Preseason All-SEC teams this offseason.
"That's going to teach me a lot for when I get the chance to start, and I'm going to be able to just run with everything," said Wilcoxson.
Reclassifying, enrolling at 17 years old, and immediately taking the practice field - especially in a unique, chaotic offseason like this year - is no easy feat. Wilcoxson won't be handed anything when he's officially a Gator a couple of weeks from now, instead, he will be presented with a new challenge. A challenge that Wilcoxson believes he is ready for.
"I like it, because honestly, I play better when I know I'm playing good competition," said Wilcoxson. "I've got something to prove, that's when I'm at my best."