Florida Gators football recruiting: Early National Signing Day 2024 predictions, preview

By OnlyGators.com Staff
December 19, 2023
Florida Gators football recruiting: Early National Signing Day 2024 predictions, preview

Image Credit: Emma Bissell, UAA

Trends do not seem to be headed in the right direction for the Florida Gators with the first National Signing Day for the 2024 cycle opening Wednesday. While Florida’s class entered the week still among the top five in the nation, the Gators have already seen three of their top six commitments leave the class since it was ranked No. 3 nationally a couple months ago, and two more blue-chip players could be on their way out, too.

This as Florida takes on the offseason with an 11-14 record under head coach Billy Napier, including five straight losses to end the 2023 season and two of the Gators best players — running back Trevor Etienne and EDGE Princely Umanmielen — entering the transfer portal. Oh, Napier also fired two assistant coaches — not the ones expected by fans — and has only replaced one of them thus far with signing day ahead.

In other words, Florida needs some positive momentum — and fast. Unfortunately, it does not seem like it is going to come this week … though one never knows when it comes to recruiting.

The Gators had the No. 3 ranked recruiting class, according to 247Sports, throughout nearly the entire season. However, defections from four-star defensive linemen Jamonta Waller and Nasir Johnson dropped the UF class to No. 5 before the departure of five-star safety Xavier Filsaime pushed the group all the way down to No. 10 on Monday.

There are still plenty of blue-chip prospects committed to Florida, including two of the top six players in the nation — five-stars quarterback DJ Lagway (Willis, TX) and DL LJ McCray (Daytona Beach, FL) — but what appeared to be UF’s strongest class with some of the best incoming players in over a decade has certainly taken significant hits — particularly along the defensive front.

As it stands, the Gators will enter National Signing Day sitting No. 10 in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, and a move any higher would be quite unexpected. Why? That’s exactly what we’re going to explain below.

Let’s take a look at what’s ahead for Florida on National Signing Day

Headed elsewhere?

Four-star DL Amaris Williams (No. 34 overall): The Gators added Williams as part of their massive haul of prospects in June. Along with Waller and Johnson, he was one of four top-75 DL committed to the program. Now, along with Waller and Johnson, he may be the third of those four to decommit. While some believe Florida may have staved off a defection, there are heavy murmurs that a flip to Auburn is forthcoming. Williams certainly has not hidden his interest, responding to a recent tweet trying to recruit him to Alabama with a quote tweet of “WDE” (War Damn Eagle). Flip likelihood: 50%

Four-star LB Adarius Hayes (No. 177 overall): If anyone remembers the recruitment of wide receiver Andy Jean last year, there was talk up until signing day that he might flip to Florida State only for him to ultimately sign with Florida. That is the talk this year with Hayes and Miami, who similarly hosted the blue-chip prospect over the last available weekend of the cycle. However, unlike with Jean, Hayes reportedly stood up Napier and Gators coaches who were traveling to Largo for an in-home visit with his family. (The specifics of that situation have not been shared.) In other words, Hayes feels more likely to flip than Williams, but there is a high level of expectation from those involved in their recruitments that UF could lose both players to start the day. Flip likelihood: 70%

Should both players exit the class, prior to any additions, Florida would sink to No. 16 in the 247Sports Composite team rankings with others potentially jumping it via acquisitions. (Despite reports and rumors, there are no 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions for either player to flip as of press time.)

Flip candidates

Five-star WR Jeremiah Smith (No. 1 overall): There was one point early in the season where it appeared Florida might actually be a player for Smith. However, the Gators basically played their way out of his services with FSU emerging as the most likely contender should he leave Ohio State, where he’s been committed for a calendar year. Smith officially visited Florida State on Dec. 8 and had Napier to his house one last time on Dec. 15.

Announcement: Wednesday
Finalists: Florida, Ohio State, Florida State, Miami
Prediction: Ohio State | Confidence: 85%


Four-star DB Zavier Mincey (No. 55 overall): It would be a coup for the Gators to add Mincey to the class, particularly after losing Filsaime. The Daytona Beach prospect will not announce his commitment until Jan. 6, but he is expected to sign over the next three days and remain silent. It has been tough to get a read on what Mincey will do, but Florida is up against in-state competition and Alabama for his services. The Gators long seemed to have the inside track, but have his thoughts on the program changed? If so, it might be the Hurricanes earning his services.

Announcement: Jan. 6
Finalists: Florida, Alabama, Florida State, Miami
Prediction: Florida | Confidence: 50%

Four-star RB Jadan Baugh (No. 385 overall): Decommitting from Arkansas on Monday, he has been considering both Florida and Alabama ahead of signing day. Baugh took his last official visit to Gainesville on Dec. 8 but tripped to Bama last. This appears to be a complete toss up.

Announcement: 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday
Finalists: Florida, Alabama
Prediction: Florida | Confidence: 50%

Three-star WR Gregory Smith III (No. 546 overall): A consistent target for Florida, Smith has never provided any indication to those covering recruiting closely that he was wavering from his projected commitment. His offer list is nowhere near as stout as many other prospects the Gators are pursuing, and he did push back his planned commitment a week, but few appear concerned.

Announcement: Wednesday
Finalists: None
Prediction: Florida | Confidence: 95%


This might be an extraordinarily rough signing day for the Gators. Assuming the losses of Williams and Hayes while giving Florida the benefit of the doubt with potential commitments of Mincey, Baugh and Smith, the Gators would sit around No. 11 in the rankings barring movement from other programs. It would require Williams sticking along with that trio committing for Florida to move well inside the top 10. Either result would at least be palatable considering the alternative — a finish outside the top 15.

As Napier famously said upon being hired, this is a talent acquisition business — now more than ever before. And Napier’s greatest strength was supposed to be talent acquisition. Yet he was unable to close strong with the Class of 2023, and while it looked like the tide had completely turned this cycle, it’s possible the Gators suffer another deflating close to the Class of 2024. The caliber of player Napier has acquired is undoubtedly better, but the class rankings may not show the significant overall improvement Florida needs to compete with perennial national championship contenders.

Coupled with on-field failings — not just in the win-loss record but in terms of game management — head-scratching staff decisions and the nation’s most difficult schedule next season, the writing could potentially be on the wall barring an absolute miracle in 2024.

That’s a conversation for another day — perhaps Thursday. For now, Gators fans wait and see whether some of that momentum can be regained Wednesday with Napier potentially holding off poachers and landing some prospects of his own on National Signing Day.


DJ Lagway (4)
LJ McCray (6)
Myles Graham (81)
Fletcher Westphal (124)
Aaron Chiles (138)
Amir Jackson (139)
Kahnen Daniels (187)
Jerrae Hawkins (229)
D'antre Robinson (252)
Tawaski Abrams
Jadan Baugh
Josiah Davis
Mike Williams
Gregory Smith III
Teddy Foster
Michai Boireau
Marcus Mascoll
Noel Portnjagin
Brien Taylor (9-juco)

All rankings via 247Sports / 247Sports Composite

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