The Gators landed a huge verbal commitment Monday from 4-star cornerback Quincy Wilson from American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He chose UF over Miami, Georgia, Ohio State and Southern Cal.
“I love Florida,” Wilson told SEC Country. “I have a really strong relationship with the coaches. They talk to me almost every day. I love that about them. I see what they’re doing over there.”
The 6-foot, 180-pound prospect is ranked No. 27 nationally at his position, but appears to be much more elite with an offer list of more than 30 schools. His missed his entire junior season due to a torn ACL, which hurt his rankings.
Wilson is the younger brother of Florida junior cornerback Quincy Wilson, a former Under Armour All-American who has played in every game the past two seasons with 11 starts.
UF is up to 13 members in its 2017 class, and nine of them are rated 4-star prospects by at least two recruiting services.
What it means: Cornerback may the biggest priority for the Gators in this cycle, and they now have a pair of 4-star commits (Elijah Blades and Wilson). Florida is expected to land two more cornerbacks this month in Shawn Davis and Brad Stewart, which would certainly fill the needs at the position from both a quality and quantity standpoint.
Unless otherwise indicated, ratings and rankings come from the 247Sports Composite.
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Houston said he tore his ACL a few weeks ago running a route as a tight end during a 7-on-7 competition, but that didn’t stop schools from continuing to pursue the 6-foot-1, 225-pound prospect.
“A lot of colleges stayed on me after the ACL, but I just felt like Florida was really just home for me,” Houston said. … “They know I’m gonna come back stronger, faster, and they still believe in my ability.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida held its Next Level QB Camp on Thursday in the indoor practice facility.
UF coach Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier had several high-profile quarterback trainers on hand, including Elite 11 coach George Whitfield, Jr.
Gators commit Jake Allen won’t throw until Friday, which allowed 2018 quarterback Artur Sitkowski (Old Bridge, N.J.) to steal the show. He was the top performer among the campers Thursday.
“I learned so much from these coaches today,” Sitkowski said afterward. “Coach Nuss, coach McElwain, coach Whitfield — the staff they assembled for this camp was second to none. It’s an incredible experience.”
Sitkowski is ranked the No. 4 pro-style quarterback and No. 71 overall recruit in the Class of 2018. He told SEC Country he wanted to camp at Florida because of the QB track records of McElwain and Nussmeier.
“It’s the Florida Gators,” Sitkowski said. “Coach McElwain has had a lot of success coaching quarterbacks, and so has coach Nuss. So just the attraction of SEC football, big-time quarterback play, that’s probably the two biggest reasons why.”
Sitkowski already holds offers from more than a dozen schools, including Michigan, Ohio State and South Carolina. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound passer probably could have landed a UF offer without camping, but he wanted to earn it.
“My parents instilled in me at a young age that you have to work hard for things in life,” Sitkowski said. “If something is given to you in life, it’s not worth it. I’m going against the best quarterbacks in the country out here. There’s some elite arms out here throwing, so I’m just competing and trying to earn that offer.”
The Gators will likely pull the trigger following his impressive workout, and they could become a major player in his recruitment.
“It would be huge for me,” Sitkowski said of the potential offer. “Florida is a state that I have family in. My aunt and grandmother live (in Tampa). My aunt is a season ticket holder. She’s a Gator fan, so I have a little soft spot for the Gators.
“She’s pulling for the Gators (in recruiting). She wants to see me more often. She tells me I look good in blue and orange.”
The 4-star quarterback attended Florida’s regular season finale against rival Florida State in 2013.
“That was insane,” Sitkowski said of the gameday atmosphere. “I can really see myself going to class here, being a student here, playing football here at the University of Florida. This is one of the few schools I can actually see myself at.”
Sitkowski said North Carolina, Ohio State and South Carolina are the schools sticking out to him right now, but he likes the idea of playing in the SEC.
“It is the best conference,” said Sitkowski, who plans to make his decision next spring. “On Saturday night, who’s playing? SEC teams. Alabama, Florida, South Carolina. They get all that exposure. A lot of players that get drafted come out of the SEC.”
Other passers at the camp will include Zack Annexstad (Bradenton Fla.), Cade Fortin (Suwanee, Ga.), James Foster (Montgomery, Ala.), Michael Johnson Jr. (Sunnyvale, Ca.), Swift Lyle (Mobile, Ala.) and Mike Penix (Tampa, Fla.).
Allen, one of 24 quarterbacks who competed, didn’t place in the top 12 and earn an invite to The Opening, Nike’s annual football camp for elite recruits. But the signal-callers who did make it there spoke highly of the future Gator.
Alabama QB commit Tua Tagovailoa (Elite 11 MVP): “Jake is an enthusiastic guy. That’s probably one of my best friends I made at this camp. He’s just a funny, lovable guy. He’s awesome, man. He’s not only a vocal leader, but he can spread the ball out. He has a great arm. Florida is lucky to get someone like him. I think he’s going to do something special. With his leadership and talent, he’s a pro-style (Tim) Tebow.”
Georgia QB commit Jake Fromm: “Jake is a great QB but a great guy as well. I ended up rooming with him. I thought it was kind of funny because of the Florida-Georgia rivalry. We didn’t pull any pranks on each other, though. But he’s someone I’ll have to compete against for the next four years, and I’ll enjoy it. He’s very knowledgeable. He can read defensive coverages and knows where to go with the ball.”
LSU QB commit Myles Brennan: “Jake is accurate and precise. He’s big and has a powerful arm. He goes through his progressions. He’s an all-around great quarterback. I spent a lot of time with him because he was in my group the whole time. He was always leading our group. Him and I became really close. I think there’s big things to come for him. He’ll be in a great system at Florida and I hope to see him on Saturdays.”
Ohio State QB commit Tate Martell: “Jake’s a great player. I’ve been around him a lot, going to Steve Clarkson’s camp and then at the Elite 11. I have nothing but respect for him. He can gel with all his guys on the field pretty fast, and that’s a good strength for him to have. As a quarterback, he’s an accurate passer that can deliver the ball on time. He’s also consistent. I have no doubt he can make an impact at Florida.”
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Pineiro enters the season with high expectations, especially considering he was the No. 1 junior college prospect at his position, and because the Gators had such trouble with their kicking game a year ago.
Pineiro lived up to expectations in the spring game, kicking field goals of 56 and 52 yards. However, he also missed two kicks of 50-plus yards. He’s not automatic, but he has the leg, and he’s working hard at his craft. Good for the Gators.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Football prospects are advised against committing to a coach in the recruiting process.
Staff changes happen regularly, and chances are a player will have more than one position coach, coordinator and/or head coach during their college career.
And yet, kids rarely commit to a school. Recruiting is all about relationships. Playing time, proximity to home and other factors can also influence a prospect’s decision.
Florida freshman Jeawon Taylor, however, based his choice primarily on the school itself.
“If you couldn’t play football and you still had to be there for four years, is that where you would want to go? Every recruit has to answer that question,” Taylor said.
Taylor answered his on Aug. 1 of last year when he first visited Florida. The No. 1 safety in the state of Alabama fell in love with Gators.
“When I went there on that trip, I wanted to commit,” Taylor said. “Campus was a perfect spot. Nice weather, great fans, great student body and alumni. DBU. It checked every box for me.
“I had to make sure it was OK with my mom and my dad. Once they gave me the green light, I did it.”
Taylor’s recruitment slowed down after that, but the coaching carousel put it back in motion. Florida fired assistant Kirk Callahan in January, a move that upset Taylor because of their relationship.
He was personally recruited by Callahan, although defensive coordinator Geoff Collins coaches his position. Regardless, Taylor didn’t waver on his commitment.
“The coaches are important in the decision, but that’s not why I made the decision,” Taylor said. “I didn’t commit to Callahan or Collins. I committed to Florida. Coaches don’t make you. It’s about the scheme fit and the school overall. That’s why I didn’t de-commit.”
But Callahan’s departure opened the door for other schools to make a late run at Taylor. Maryland coach D.J. Durkin and Georgia coach Kirby Smart, two of the top defensive minds in college football, both tried to flip him.
Smart, who had been recruiting Taylor for several years, even secured an official visit for UGA. Taylor gave the Bulldogs consideration, but he wasn’t abandoning Florida just to play for Smart.
“There’s no way I could do that,” Taylor said. “Kirby was my guy, but he’s not bigger than a school. You can’t expect to have somebody switch after you’ve offered them so late. Once a person falls in love with a school, it’s hard to get them out of it.”
As an Alabama prospect who didn’t get an offer from the Crimson Tide, Taylor liked the idea of going to UF and creating a new trend.
“I wanted to start a tradition for Alabama kids with (Florida signees) Lamical Perine and Jeremiah Moon,” Taylor said. “You don’t have to go to Bama or Auburn to be considered a success. Do your own thing and go somewhere else. Dare to be different.
“There are other schools out there. You just have to find the right one.”
MIAMI — The recruiting process can start as early as freshman year with some high school football prospects.
For C.J. McWilliams, however, it took time for colleges to come after him.
“After my third season of high school, I wasn’t getting interest from any schools,” said McWilliams, a 3-star cornerback from Miami. “Coaches don’t really come by my high school (Southwest). Finally a big college noticed me and saw what I was capable of doing, so it was a dream come true.”
On May 1 of last year during spring football, McWilliams was called out of class a couple hours before his practice.
“I came down to the office and standing there was Randy Shannon,” said McWilliams, who only had one offer (Florida Atlantic) at the time.
The Florida linebackers coach and Miami area recruiter had watched McWilliams’ tape and came to evaluate him in person that day.
“He called me after practice and told me he liked my length and speed, but most importantly he was impressed with the way I play,” McWilliams said of his first conversation with Shannon. “He likes how I hit. I’m not scared to come up and make tackles, that’s why he offered me.”
A couple days later, McWilliams committed to the Gators. Cincinnati, Louisville, Miami and Nebraska offered him in the two months after his decision.
McWilliams appreciated their interest, but took it with a grain of salt.
“Every offer was a blessing to have,” he said. “But at the same time, I figured other schools just offered me because I had a Florida offer. They were kind of following the leader. That always crossed my mind.”
Central Florida, South Florida and North Carolina joined the race at the end of senior season. McWilliams had multiple coaches stopping by his school and house in the final month of the recruiting cycle.
“What those colleges saw in him late we’ve seen here at Southwest the whole time,” Southwest coach Tim Neal said. “He’s always been an explosive kid. I think when he excelled in track, that really opened up a lot of eyes around the country (10.73 in the 100 meters).
“But Randy Shannon came in right away and saw the ability of C.J. from the ground level. Coaches like that will be around for a long time. He realized right away the talent that everybody wanted in the end.”