National Signing Day 2020: Florida finishes with highest-ranked class since 2013

By Adam Silverstein
February 5, 2020
National Signing Day 2020: Florida finishes with highest-ranked class since 2013

Whether you judge college football recruiting by the hits or the misses, once a cycle ends, all that is left is to look at the respective classes that have been compiled. With 2020 National Signing Day coming to a close on Wednesday, the Florida Gators locked up the program’s highest-rated class since 2013, even if there are still improvements to be made.

As things stand now, the Gators’ Class of 2020 is ranked No. 8 nationally, though five of the seven teams in front of them are fellow SEC programs. Bitter rival Georgia is No. 1 in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, followed by Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Ohio State rounding out the top five. Texas A&M and Auburn sit ahead of Florida with Texas and Tennessee closing the top 10.

The class ranking is the best since the Gators finished third nationally in 2013, and 2020 will also be the first time that they have added a five-star prospect as a true freshman since bringing in Cece Jefferson and Martez Ivey in 2015. Head coach Dan Mullen attributed a lot of this year’s success to the coaching staff’s ability to recruit the Sunshine State.

While UF got 64 percent of its commitments from “home,” including the top-rated prospect in five-star defensive tackle Gervon Dexter (Lake Wales, FL), he was the only top-10 player to sign. The Gators ultimately finished with seven of the top 30 prospects inside state lines.

“I think it’s huge. You look, we are the University of Florida. This is the flagship school of the state, and this is where kids in the state want to come play. They want to represent the state of Florida and play at their home university,” he said. “So I think that’s so important for us to have those top players come here and play. You go back and you look at the 2006 and 2008 national championship teams, there were a lot of guys from the state of Florida on that roster. We still nationally recruit, but a lot of the top players in Florida back then [were] always deciding to come to school here, and it’s great that we’re kind of building that again back into the future.”

Florida’s biggest in-state misses were five-star running back Demarcus Bowman (Lakeland, FL), who signed with Clemson during the early period, and four-star safety Avantae Williams (Deland, FL), who surprised many by committing to Miami on Wednesday. A source close to the program told that the Gators fully expected to land Williams, and Mullen was visibly upset after the prospect made his decision.

“I thought this was a really good place for him to be for the type of kid he is. I think he’s a really good person and like him as a kid, and I always wish guys the best. I think we had one of the top defensive back signing classes already in the country, so really [it doesn’t hurt] that much,” Mullen said. “It would have been kind of a nice addition to that at the end, but I think if you look at who we brought in in this DB class, I think we have one of the top DB classes already in the country, so it’s not that big a deal.”

After missing on some big swings at the end of the early signing period and early Wednesday, the Gators did ultimately land a big fish in four-star defensive end Princely Umanmielen (Manor, TX), winning a recruiting battle against his near-hometown team Baylor and home state Texas. Florida also received a National Letter of Intent from four-star wide receiver Xzavier Henderson (Miami, FL), a mere formality after a commitment during the 2020 U.S. Army All-American Bowl last month.

Though the Class of 2020 is basically complete, that does not mean changes are not possible in the near future. Four-star athlete Marc Britt (Miami, FL) and three-star WR Leonard Manuel (Fort Lauderdale, FL) are unsigned due to academic issues. Ole Miss is in pursuit of both prospects with Britt set to announce a decision on Feb. 20 and Manuel likely waiting until April. Both are relative luxuries for the Gators at this point. Even if they lose both players, they will remain No. 8 in those aforementioned recruiting rankings.

Mullen, who has done a fantastic job filling holes on his roster with transfers, could use any open scholarship positions to add additional players via that recruiting method.

“We’ll see. I don’t know how many spots we’ve held. … There’s always going to be the possibility for another spot or two coming up that we’ll create, and there may be some other openings that get created with our team,” he said.

Mullen added: “We have had a lot of success with our transfers. I think part of it is we vet, do our homework, and we don’t just bring guys in just to fill like depth to be like the backup or whatever — a backup player as a transfer. Our guys that come in, we’re bringing them in to make an impact on the team, and that’s why we’ve had success, and I think that’s why guys probably, when they look at us, if we go after them as a transfer, that we’re a very attractive option.”

For now, attention for Mullen & Co. turns to the Class of 2021, which is now ranked No. 4 nationally after adding a verbal commitment from four-star athlete Daejon Reynolds (Loganville, GA) on Monday.

Florida also turns to the 2020 season as it looks to continue making strides under Mullen with a potential College Football Playoff berth in its sights next season.

“We want to develop a consistent winner. We’ve done that for two years. We want to win to develop consistent winners, and if you do that, you consistently win, you have the opportunity to win championships,” Mullen said. “… There’s a lot of things that go into whether you’re going to compete. One, obviously you’ve got to have talent. It’s got to line up. You’ve got to have great leadership within your program. You have to stay healthy. Health on a team is a major impact. … In [the SEC], scheduling gets into it a little bit. …

“So I think we’re establishing being a consistent winner, and maybe it’ll align right for us this year that we get to go compete for that championship.”

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