Signing Class Positional Grades - Defense
With the Class of 2016 in the books, today Inside the Gators awards grades to the defensive signing class on a position-by-position basis.
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Breakdown: The Gators were unable to sign a defensive tackle in the 2016 class.
Greatest Get: None
Biggest Miss: The Gators earned a commitment from four-star Shavar Manuel at the beginning of January, but saw him decommit on Signing Day and sign with rival Florida State. This left the Gators with zero options at the position. This should be a top priority in 2017.
DEFENSIVE END / RUSH
Breakdown: The Gators signed three solid additions at the defensive end spot in 2016. Headlining that group is five-star Antonneous Clayton, who is coming to Gainesville looking to contribute early. The Gators also added defensive end Jachai Polite, who has a ton of upside. Three-star defensive end Jordan Smith is also on campus as an early enrollee. During Signing Day media interviews defensive line coach Chris Rumph said Smith is up to 240-pounds.
Greatest Get: Easily this goes to the five-star Antonneous Clayton. His first step off the line is one of the quickest in the country. He is still adding weight, and will need to bulk up considerably once on campus. This is a guy coming in with the intention of seeing the field as a freshman.
Biggest Miss: The Gators had a chance to add Rivals100 wide receiver Brian Burns to an already impressive haul at defensive end. However, he chose Florida State over UF and Georgia on Signing Day. Coming out of his official visit to UF a few weeks back the staff felt good with where they stood with him, but the Seminoles received the final official visit and were able to snag him in the end.
Breakdown: Heading into the 2016 recruiting cycle Florida had signed just one linebacker in the last two recruiting classes combined. The Gators dealt with injuries at the position this year, really magnifying their lack of depth to recruits. The Gators received signatures on Wednesday from three-stars Vosean Joseph and Jeremiah Moon despite a late push from other schools. The Gators also currently have three-star David Reese on campus as an early enrollee.
Greatest Get: He still needs to add some weight to his big frame, but if he does so Jeremiah Moon is going to be a stud in Gainesville. He moves well and has a nose for the ball carrier. He is coming in at 207-pounds, so the strength coaches at Florida will need to get their hands on him.
Biggest Miss: After naming Florida his leader for the last year it was tough to see the Gators fall out of the running with five-star Lyndell Wilson. There seemed to be high interest (or at least he said so several times) in the Gators at one point in his recruitment, but pulling Wilson out of Alabama was always going to be tough. The loss of a five-star prospect still hurt nonetheless.
Breakdown: Florida may have lost Keanu Neal to the NFL draft, but still have quite a few talented guys on the roster. The staff reloaded adding three-star Quincy Lenton out of Mississippi and three-star Jeawon Taylor despite a late push from the Georgia Bulldogs. Both are guys that defensive coordinator Geoff Collins aggressively recruited.
Greatest Get: Taylor is a guy who put up solid number his senior season and lead his team to an 8-3 record. He was also a leader for his teams defense with 47 solo tackles and three interceptions on the season. Taylor is a hard hitter while also being solid in coverage as well.
Biggest Miss: The Gators didn’t pursue any other safties after landing commitments from Lenton and Taylor over the summer.
Breakdown: Rivals.com lists Chauncey Gardner as a cornerback where he played mostly in high school. While he will likely play some corner in college, his strongest position seems to be in the nickel. The Gators also added three-star Christopher McWilliams after late pushes from South Florida and Miami. The Gators also JUCO cornerback Joseph Putu – flipping him from Arkansas on Signing Day.
Greatest Get: Gardner is the real gem of this cornerback class for the Gators in 2016. He just missed five-star status in the final rankings by Rivals.com. In just about every live setting Gardner participated in he came away as a top performer, capping off his high school career with a solid performance in Orlando at Under Armour All-American practices. Getting him on campus in the spring as an early enrollee makes this addition that much sweeter.
Biggest Miss: The Gators fell just short of landing Rivals100 cornerback Kristian Fulton. It came down to the wire on National Signing Day, but the four-star chose to stay close to home and attend LSU. The Gators were very much in the mix to land Fulton after a strong official visit to Gainesville the weekend before Signing Day.