Take Five: A final look at the 2018 cycle
Beginning Thursday Inside the Gators will begin taking a closer look at the prospects in the Class of 2019 with out Ten Top Targets In-State.
However, now Now that Signing Day has come and gone, and Florida Gators football signees are officially in the books, it’s time to take one final look back at the Class of 2018.
FIVE MOST LIKELY TO MAKE AN EARLY IMPACT
This is NOT a listing of who I believe will be the five best players of the signees see my Great Eight for that.
These are the five signees who I believe are most likely to make an early impact.
1) Justin Watkins - Even with the two transfers, Florida is still short at wide receiver. He could also be tried out in the secondary. He is definitely someone who could be utilized in the return game. Regardless of the situation, Watkins should see the field plenty as a freshman.
2) Noah Banks - Florida returns 10 deep along the offensive line, but there are still some question marks at offensive tackle. It wouldn't be surprising to see Banks and Jean Delance battle for a starting job outside. Banks could also move inside as well.
3) Emory Jones - I believe that Feleipe Franks will hold the starting job - but much like with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow during Tebow's freshman season, I believe Dan Mullen will find spots to insert Jones into the lineup in certain packages or perhaps for a series.
4) Jacob Copeland - You have to believe that Mullen is already planning ways to get the ball in Copeland's hands. He is more of a streetball type now than a proper route runner, but he can make things happen when he gets the ball in his hands.
5) David Reese - While I think he is a top prospect and in the long-run he is the pick of the litter in this class, it will be harder for him to make an immediate impact. In high school he was a 220-pound, hand in the dirt, defensive end. He won't be that in college, so it may take some time to find a role, but he is too good not to make a difference in some way early on.
FIVE LEAST LIKELY TO CONTRIBUTE MUCH OR AT ALL
At this point a certain segment of those reading this are fuming. They believe this line of commentary is incendiary. These are Florida signees, they are God's gift to the Gator Nation and each and every one of them is destined for an All-American type of career.
Therefore, nothing like this should ever be written about any of them.
That is the fandom side of things. The reality is, if the numbers hold true, roughly a third of a signing class won't pan out, or play at all for various reasons including academics, injury, off-the-field issues or a flat out lack of talent.
While any one of the following three could go on to achieve heights no Florida player has ever seen, these are the signees that I believe will have an uphill battle for one reason or another.
1) Evan McPherson - What, how can the No. 1 player at his position be included on the list of those least likely to contribute? He isn't a wide out, where the seventh or eight player on the roster can still see the field. Because he is a kicker, he either wins the starting job or he watches from the sidelines. Yes he is rated No. 1, but he only hit 50% of his field goals as a senior. Though Eddy Pineiro has moved on, McPherson won't be handed the job, he will still have to beat out however many walk-ons Florida lines up to face him.
2) Dante Lang - He played defensive end before transitioning to tight end this year. The positive for him is that he is coming into a position that isn't exactly stocked as it is. The downside is that he isn't exactly an elite athlete and isn't exactly a playmaker. I wouldn't be shocked to see him moved to outside linebacker/rush end at some point.
3) Dameon Pierce - With six scholarship backs on the roster and only one a senior, someone is going to get lost in the shuffle over the next two seasons. There's only one ball, and in Dan Mullen's offense, the quarterback is going to eat up some of the carries. He is a workhorse type of back who gets better as he is fed the ball. I don't see him getting the carries he is going to need to set himself apart from the pack. When Malik Davis is healthy, Pierce is likely fifth or sixth on the depth chart this year, fourth or fifth next year.
4-5) Chris Bleich and Griffin McDowell - I can't make a case that either of these two won't contribute. I actually have more faith in them then I do several of the current offensive linemen on the squad. I had to fill out the five though, so I included these two.
TOP FIVE FLORIDA PURSUED BUT GOT AWAY
1) Justin Fields - Without question the most highly sought after prospect on Florida's board this cycle and the player most talked about and followed by the fans. Had Dan Mullen and Company been in Gainesville at the start of the cycle, the Gators may have pulled this one off. As it is, they will be facing him for the next several seasons.
2) Nick Petit-Frere - Though he is ranked second here, this one stings the most because it happened on National Signing Day. Though the perception was that Florida was the leader up until the end, he - or anyone around him - actually ever said that. Going forward, considering his ranking, potential, Florida's need and the area from which he hails, this is the type of player the Gators have to close on to get back to contending for National Championships.
3) Nesta Silvera - Even after committing to Miami early on, he insisted that Florida was still in play and even after the coaching change still took his long talked about official visit to Gainesville. I don't know if it was as close as some paint it to be in the end, but there's no doubt the Gators came in second place.
4) Kevin Austin - This one was already decided before the new staff came aboard. Florida was in the mix last spring under the old regime, but wasn't able to land a spot in his final four. Regardless of rankings, he was the gold standard when it comes to in-state wide receivers this cycle. The total package.
5) William Barnes - Florida, the one time overwhelming favorite, was never really in it, much less able to surpass North Carolina, after the coaching change.
FIVE I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE SEEN FLORIDA PURSUE HARDER
Disclaimer No. 1: I don't know that Florida didn't do some initial research into these kids and found something that would disqualify them from pursuing and/or offering them.
Disclaimer No. 2: Perhaps Florida did inquire about the young man and was simply told to go away.
Disclaimer No. 3: I am a firm believer that the University of Florida should recruit the Sunshine State first and foremost - followed up by South Georgia. The only time I would ever leave the immediate area is if the best of the best from out of the area were interested (Think, Haden, Dunlap, Harvin, Spikes, etc...) otherwise, go with the instate kids. Which is why all five of these players are from in-state.
1) Joey Gatewood - Having seen him play several times, to me is a much better athlete than he is a quarterback. And as an athlete/tight end is where I would have pegged him. You may have had to tell him quarterback to get him on campus, but to me, he closely resembles Jordan Reed more so than he does Cam Newton. These are the kind of players that Florida can't let get out of Jacksonville going forward.
2) Ken Montgomery - Florida spent the last month of the cycle chasing Noah Boykin - a Maryland commit - when the time may have been better spent pursuing Montgomery, a Tampa athlete committed to Maryland.
3) Curtis Dunlap - The one time Florida commit was cut loose when the new regime came aboard. To me, that was backwards. As we saw back in the spring, when Dunlap is in better shape he can be a beast, throwing defensive linemen around like rag dolls. He let himself go over the fall, gaining a lot of bad weight, and if it were still Mike Kent running the show, I can see not taking the chance, but this is exactly the type of reclamation project that is made for Nick Savage.
3) Anthony Schwartz - It was always Urban Meyer's intent to field the fastest team in college football. I assume Dan Mullen has similar goals. You get that kind of speed on campus and then find out what to do with him later on.
4) Sevyn Banks - It is harder to put this list together this year with the coaching change - because perhaps the new staff would have made him a priority. Florida struck out entirely at cornerback, but here's one right down the road good enough for Ohio State to take early in the process. It always amazes me to see out-of-state programs fight tooth and nail for an in-state kid, while the in-state programs, with the built in advantage head out-of-state for a similar kid.
FIVE WHOSE RANKINGS LIKELY WON'T MATCH THEIR PRODUCTION (OVER/UNDERRATED)
1) Amari Burney (over) - His measureables are Rivals250 worthy, but his production isn't. He has the tools to perform much better than he did as a senior when he recorded but 18 tackles on defense with but one interception, one tackle for loss and one defensive touchdown. He added 500 yards and five touchdowns on offense. Hardly the difference making type of stats you would expect from someone with his size and speed going against 4A level of competition.
2) Iverson Clement (under) - After being ranked in the Rivals250, because he didn't play in any of the All-Star games, he seemed to be forgotten down the stretch in the last two rounds of ranking updates. Clement, who also participates in track, averaged over 7 yards per carry against New Jersey competition. He is a bit shorter than listed, and may not have sub 4.5 type of speed, but he is fast enough and a damn good overall athlete. Because he can be utilized in multiple ways, he stands a very good chance of outperforming his ranking.
3) Kyle Pitts (over) - I hesitate to include him here because this is one that can come back to really bite me. There is no denying the skill set is there. The issue is he had a sub par senior season at tight end (18 catches) and in a couple of events now the book on him has been that he becomes disinterested and goes through the motions if he isn't kept fully involved.
4) Justin Watkins (under) - Early in the process he was much more highly rated and thought to be someone who may push for five-star status. Three high schools and three commitments later, of course his star lost some of its luster, but based on ability he is a Rivals100 type of player. He is certainly better than the 67th best player in the state of Florida.
5) David Reese (under) - If you haven't figured it out by now, with this being the last paragraph you will read as we finish recapping the Class of 2018, let me spell it out for you, Reese is much better than his ranking. I see him as having the highest ceiling of anyone in this class. He has always had the size, speed and athleticism and as a senior his production caught up with his promise. The sky is the limit here.
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