Wednesday was an early Christmas for college football fans. The early National Signing Day provided some fans with something new to look at aside from this past season. Today is a look into the future, and for teams around the State, the mood coming into the day was different for all the prominent state schools.
For Miami, they wanted to forget a disappointing season and see what coach Manny Diaz could do on the recruiting trail to look forward to his second season. Florida State fans were looking to see how new coach Mike Norvell saved a class that had been hurt by the firing of Willie Taggart. And, for the Gators, they were excited to see how Dan Mullen reloaded a team he has led to a 20 – 5 record, so far, in his first two seasons.
The Gators ended the day with the best class in the State. Already, clearly the best team in Florida, the Gators continued the potential future dominance. With the 8th ranked class in the nation right now, the Gators reloaded their defense with ten four-star players signing on that side of the ball. They landed three early enrollees, including the number five ranked dual-threat QB Anthony Richardson.
The Gators are not done yet, either. They are still trying to land the number 2 ranked safety, Avantae Williams, who is also considering the Miami Hurricanes. The Gators also have two verbal commits unsigned and will have to wait for February, but overall though, a very solid day for the program.
The Miami Hurricanes had a disappointing season finishing 6-6 before the bowl. They were able to win on NSD, however. The Canes have a top 20 class the second-best in the ACC and the State. The Canes will have no issue at running back, landing two top 10 backs. Don Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton will look to make an impact early and help relive the passing game. Diaz, now having a whole season under his belt, delivered a pretty solid class and will look to build on that already having the number 5 ranked class for next season.
Florida State came into the day looking to salvage the class with a new coach and make a little noise. They were able to accomplish that. The Noles landed corner Demorie Tate to headline their class on the defensive end. On offense, the Noles were able to flip Louisville commit quarterback Chubba Purdy, the sixth-ranked dual-threat QB in the country. FSU currently has the 21st ranked class, a position they are not used to. New coach Mike Norvell did a good job to save this class, but all eyes will be on him this season both on the field and the recruiting trail.
USF and new Coach Jeff Scott only landed 12 recruits on the early signing day. They were able to get a few power five transfers, though. QB Cade Fortin will come from North Carolina. Running back Darrian Felix makes his way to Tampa all the way from Oregon. And, fellow running back Lavonte Valentine from South Carolina. Scott, who joined late in the game, will now focus on gaining a few more commits before the last signing day in February.
In Orlando rival, UCF landed 19 commits and a power five transfer of their own, offensive tackle Marcus Tatum comes in from Tennessee. The Knights also reloaded at the skill positions, including getting speedy WR/ATH Johnny Richardson from Lake Wales, as coach Josh Heupel has settled in with having to find his own talent for year three.
Three state receivers look to make Senior Bowl impression
A trio of Florida collegiate pass catchers will look to make an impact at Saturday’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and it’s very possible that one will be selected the opening night the NFL Draft in April.
First, the Gators have a duo of receivers working out for the South team in this week. As wideouts, Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland have been going through practices and getting attention this week. Obviously, their experience against SEC competition is a key to helping them prepare to take on the North squad Saturday afternoon on the NFL Network.
Cleveland was a late add to the South roster only being notified on late Monday afternoon about the prospect of joining the senior All-Stars in Mobile.
And, as SI.com profiled earlier this week, both Florida guys are anxious to demonstrate what they can do and are grateful that they have each other in Alabama for the experience.
“I’ve seen Mr. Nagy (director of the Senior Bowl), and I heard him say something about Tyrie, so I was like, I was trying to creep in to see what he was talking about,” Jefferson admitted to the site.
“Then he looked at me and said ‘I invited your boy!’, and I asked who and he said ‘Tyrie!’, and so I went and called Tyrie, I’m like ‘Tyrie, where you at?’, and Tyrie’s already in Mobile, so my man, my dawg is here, so it’s just got the week much better, I’m excited to go out there and practice with him for the last time, play in a game with him for the last time, it’s exciting.”
Jefferson, who’s the son of former NFL receiver Shawn Jefferson, had two solid but not spectacular seasons in Gainesville after transferring from Ole Miss catching for just over 1,100 yards and 12 TDs in 23 games.
Likewise, Cleveland does not have fantastic numbers and some of that had to do with the shaky quarterback play at times during his career at Florida.
Still, they are both large bodied and Cleveland ran a sub 4.4 (unofficial), 40 yard dash this week, too.
Now, the probable first round pick from the state as a receiver is FAU tight end, Harrison Bryant. While he’s not a household name on the national scale, Bryant has outstanding hands and put up monster numbers for a tight end in 2019.
Flourishing and former coach Lane Kiffin’s system Bryant (above) led all tight ends in FBS with 65 catches, 1,004 yards and 7 TDs, as the FAU owls rolled to a second Conference USA championship in 3 years.
Bryant also has some raving about his route running, hands and his blocking from the practices this week in Mobile, too:
I watched this kid, Harrison Bryant that plays Tight End for FAU all day yesterday! He is very very good! I like everything about this kid from his route running, his catching ability and his physicality. Gotta be the 1st Tight End off the board. https://t.co/HwOzymrcMK
— Footwork_King 🤴🏾 (@footwork_king1) January 23, 2020
Sure, there will be a lot more time for scrutiny of these guys after the Senior Bowl is played from the scouting combine to their individual workouts and team interviews. Still, they are three names to keep an eye on Saturday and beyond, as the draft process continues.
Former Gators QB Franks transfers to Arkansas
Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks has decided on a new spot for his final year of eligibility and he won’t even leave the SEC. The Gators starting quarterback on and off for the last three years announced on Monday night that he will be transferring to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Franks help lead the Gators resurgence two years ago under first-year coach Dan Mullen, including a Peach Bowl New Year’s Six game victory over the Michigan Wolverines. Florida finished 10-3 with momentum headed into this season.
However, with sky high expectations for Franks, Mullen and the Gators this past season (they were a preseason top 10 team) Franks played inconsistently for a lot of the early part of the season. Then, things ended horrifically as Franks suffered a nasty fractured leg at Kentucky ending his season.
The 6’6 Franks finished his Gator career with 28 starts 4,500+ yards passing and 28 TDs. However, his at times poor play, including crucial interceptions enraged Gator fans. Next, he announced December 1st that he would be transferring for one more season, as a graduate to be eligible immediately.
Arkansas is in desperation to rebuild after having fired coach Chad Morris after two horrible seasons. They hired Georgia former offensive line coach Sam Pittman at their head coach and Franks will be playing for new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who spent last season with FSU.
Arkansas is in desperate need of a quality proven quarterback, as they had just three scholarship signal caller options in senior Jack Lindsey, redshirt-sophomore John Stephen Jones and redshirt-freshman K.J. Jefferson. Jones, who is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is considered the most experienced of the group. But to show how bad it is, he’s thrown for just 106 yards and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in six career games.
So, clearly Franks, if/when fully healed from the ankle fracture will be heavily counted on for 2020.
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