Florida football recruiting: Four-star TJ Searcy commits as Gators continue rebuilding defense

By OnlyGators.com Staff
July 4, 2022
Florida football recruiting: Four-star TJ Searcy commits as Gators continue rebuilding defense

Image Credit: Tim Casey / UAA

If the Florida Gators only had to recruit the defensive side of the ball, it would be difficult to second-guess the job head coach Billy Napier and his staff are doing. That was obvious again Monday as four-star defensive end TJ Searcy (Thomaston, GA) committed to the Gators.

Searcy (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) committed to Florida over Tennessee with Clemson and South Carolina also in the running for his services. Napier and outside linebackers coach Mike Peterson were responsible for his recruitment.

“Happy 4th #GoGators,” Searcy tweeted Monday with a graphic showing him committing to the Gators.

Florida continues to rack up top-tier defensive pledges with Searcy now the highest-rated player in the class at No. 153 overall, according to the 247Sports Composite. The Gators have added their four highest-rated commitments — all inside the top 300 nationally — since June 21, though all line up on the defensive side of the ball.

At the same time, the Gators have not only missed on numerous offensive prospects but gone from being long-term leaders for others to suddenly playing catch-up as those players’ recruitments play out.

Included among Florida’s offensive recruiting struggles is the recent loss of three-star lineman Tommy Kinsler (Ocala, FL), an Alachua County product who was committed to the program for just two weeks before decommitting on Saturday. It is expected that Kinsler will wind up committing to Miami, which would lead to another recruiting battle victory for the Hurricanes over the Gators.

Why exactly Florida is struggling remains to be seen. Name, image and likeness promises may be part of the reason for certain recruiting losses, but it’s worth questioning whether a Gators offensive staff without a dedicated quarterbacks coach (Napier is taking on the job) or notable offensive coordinator (Rob Sale is a career offensive line coach with two years coordinating experience) is part of the reason.

With Searcy in tow, Florida is now ranked 38th in the 247Sports Composite team rankings. That’s a seven-spot jump Monday but 10 spots lower than the Gators were ranked on June 28 when they added their most recent prior commitment, four-star cornerback Sharif Denson (Jacksonville, FL). Since then, numerous programs have added significant talent to their classes, jumping UF in the rankings.

Nearly all of Florida’s rivals and quasi-rivals are ahead of it in the rankings at this juncture, including Ohio State (No. 2), Georgia (No. 6), Miami (No. 8), Tennessee (No. 9), Alabama (No. 17), LSU (No. 22) and even South Carolina (No. 27). Six of those programs have at least one five-star commitment.

Kelby Collins (44)
Ja'Keem Jackson (60)
Aidan Mizell (102)
Eugene Wilson (110)
Dijon Johnson (114)
Roderick Kearney (116)
Kamran James (168)
Will Norman (192)
Jordan Castell (208)
Sharif Denson (220)
TJ Searcy (257)
Gavin Hill
Aaron Gates
Treyaun Webb
Andy Jean
Bryce Thornton
Jaden Robinson
Caden Jones
Knijeah Harris
Bryce Lovett

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