Previewing Florida Gators football’s 2016 Friday Night Lights

By Adam Silverstein
July 21, 2016
Previewing Florida Gators football’s 2016 Friday Night Lights

Image Credit: ESPNI

Mixing pomp and circumstance with football drills and relationship building, the Florida Gators use their annual Friday Night Lights camp at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as both a recruiting tool and means of evaluating some of the best high school football players in the country. The Gators often host top-tier prospects over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough while coaching up the recruits.

The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 22, so much so that covering every player that plans to step on the field is a near impossibility. Below are a list of XX players not yet committed to Florida (in no particular order) to keep an eye on either because of their talent or high level of interest in joining the Gators.

All referenced ratings and rankings are from the 247Sports Composite.

OT Alex Leatherwood (Pensacola, FL) –
One of the top offensive linemen in the nation, Leatherwood is a current Alabama who will be visiting UF for the second time in six weeks. He is Florida’s top target up front and the prospect committed elsewhere who head coach Jim McElwain is working hardest to flip. Leatherwood is the top-rated player attending FNL.

DE Jarez Parks (Sebastian, FL) –
The No. 50 player in the nation, Parks is a terrifying pass rusher who would fit great in defensive coordinator Geoff Collins’s unit. Though his offer list is long with all the top teams in the nation after him, Parks is believed to be a Gators lean. He will not commit at FNL but most analysts believe he will eventually. A strong showing by the coaching staff could help that happen sooner than later.

CB Marco Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, FL) –
The brother of current Florida defensive back Quincy Wilson, Marco is just as talented and being pursued by the Gators with the same vigor. It has long been a Florida-Miami battle for Marco, but recent indications are that the Gators are up front in his recruitment and could get him locked up as early as Friday night when the lights go down.

DT Fred Hansard (Princeton, NJ) –
Though his recruitment is mostly centered in the Northeast, Hansard is interested enough in UF that he’s taking a trip all the way down to Gainesville, Florida, just to camp. The Gators offered Hansard back on Jan. 25 and are believed to be among his top three teams but still have a lot of work to do in order to win his services.

WR Jerry Jeudy (Pompano Beach, FL) –
One of the top wideouts in the nation, Jeudy is seriously considering all three major in-state programs but appears to be leaning towards following in the footsteps of Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley at Alabama. Florida could make some headway on Friday to pull themselves ahead as the top in-state option, which could ultimately pay off in the long run if Jeudy decides to stay closer to home.

RB Adarius Lemons (Clearwater, FL) –
The No. 8 rusher in the nation and top back from within the state, Lemons is currently committed to North Carolina but is a top target for Florida. The Gators do not yet have a running back in the Class of 2017 and will certainly be hoping Lemons leaves them with a sweet, not sour, taste in their mouths at the end of the weekend. (Sorry about that.)

DE LaBryan Ray (Madison, AL) –
An absolute beast up front, Ray is giving the Gators a chance to make a strong impression by taking the trip down to Florida. He’s obviously a Crimson Tide lean at this time.

OT Navaughn Donaldson (Miami, FL) –
ATH Christopher Henderson (Miami, FL) –
The South Florida products and Hurricanes commitments have both visited with Miami plenty since committing to the program. While Donaldson has never been to Gainesville, Henderson has visited twice since his pledge. Some believe the Gators are trying in earnest to flip both with Henderson being the more likely of the two if either winds up getting lured away by Florida eventually.

CB Deangelo Gibbs (Loganville, GA) –
S Hamsah Nasirildeen (Concord, NC) –
A pair of top-rated defensive backs, Gibbs and Nasirildeen are both expected to be at NFL. Gibbs, the No. 37 overall player in the nation, appears to favor Georgia and Tennessee at this point, while Nasirildeen looks to be leaning towards Alabama. It’s still early in the recruiting cycle, though, and both players being on campus for this camp is a good step for Florida.

CB Shawn Davis (Miami, FL) –
LB James Houston (Fort Lauderdale, FL) –
Perhaps the two players most likely to pull the cord for the Gators at this camp, Davis and Houston are a pair of three-star prospects from South Florida, which has basically been UF’s recruiting M.O. since McElwain and co-coordinator Randy Shannon took over the team.

Check out Florida’s updated recruiting classes by clicking here.

Special thanks to recruiting analyst Blake Alderman and recruiting analyst Andrew Spivey for contributing to this post.


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