It’s never too soon to start looking at top draft prospects, and there’s a Gators offensive tackle, who is already turning heads. Florida lineman Jawaan Taylor, who declared a year early for this April’s NFL Draft, appears to be someone that teams selecting in the top 15 should be paying attention, as the process continues to unfold this Winter.
And, as it turns out, all three state NFL teams: the Bucs, the Jaguars and the Dolphins, are not only picking in the top 15 in this upcoming draft, but are all in need of a tackle, too.
First, Taylor’s stock is on the rise, because of the improved play overall of the Gators in 2018 under new coach Dan Mullen. Taylor started 12 games a year ago on a Gator squad that ended up 10 – 3 after their Peach Bowl victory over Michigan.
The 6’5, 335 pound Taylor obviously stood out coming out of Cocoa High School, where he was 4A First-team All-state offensive lineman. And, previous Gators coach Jim McElwain and staff we’re so impressed with Taylor in 2016 that he started, as a true freshman, for 12 games gaining valuable experience.
He further showed versatility in his sophomore season starting 9 times at right tackle, but playing the final two games that season at left tackle. This will only help in his evaluation, as he has the potential to be play the more lucrative position protecting quarterbacks blindsides in the NFL.
It’s that versatility that has some prominent draft analysts and observers already alerting everyone that it’s not going to take long to call Taylor’s name on night one of the upcoming draft.
Then, another prominent draft analyst, Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network put out his list of his top 15 players for the 2018 NFL draft, regardless of position, and guess who was at #13?:
— NFL (@NFL) February 10, 2019
Again, these are just a couple of opinions, but Jeremiah is highly respected as a talent evaluator, who used to scout for NFL teams. And, if he has Taylor as one of his top 15 players that he’s reviewed and analyzed, then it carries weight.
Taylor did not play in either the East-West Shrine Game or get an invite to the Senior Bowl last month. He is however, one of eight Florida players who take part of the NFL Scouting Combine starting later this month in Indianapolis.
And, if he is impressive there, look and listen for his name to get brought up more and more over the next couple of months.
Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday
The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.
The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:
Coast to coast❗
🐻 at 🐊 2026
🐊 at 🐻 2027#GoGators
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 7, 2020
A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.
With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.
As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.
Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.
It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.
Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.
Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools
National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.
The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of former DB C.J. Henderson.
Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.
The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.
Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?
Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.
The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.
Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.
Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.