ESPN’s Luginbill praises UF recruiting under Mullen
Prospects will put pen to paper Wednesday with the start of the early signing period, which runs this year from Dec. 16-19.
It’s the first opportunity for recruits to sign their letters of intent, and the majority of Florida’s verbal commitments will be making their decision official.
The Gators currently have 26 members in their 2021 class, which is ranked No. 5 nationally by ESPN and No. 7 by Rivals and 247Sports. After signing back-to-back top-10 classes the past two years, UF coach Dan Mullen could finish with his highest-ranked class in this cycle.
ESPN’s national recruiting director Tom Luginbill believes that success on the trail is a direct result of Florida winning more games under Mullen.
“When you’re recruiting well and then all of a sudden your production on the field increases significantly, what does that then do in turn for recruiting in the next cycle? You’ve now changed the perception,” Luginbill said. “You are viewed differently by half of the top prospects in the state. So I don’t think there’s any question that the trajectory of the attention that they’re garnering from prospects because of the success on the field is heading in an upward trend.”
Half of the Gators’ 26 pledges are ESPN 300 members, including four top-100 recruits in cornerback Jason Marshall (No. 42), quarterback Carlos Del Rio (No. 57), safety Corey Collier Jr. (No. 89) and defensive end Jeremiah Williams (No. 92).
Williams and four-star defensive end Tyreak Sapp, who’s ranked No. 112 nationally, are Luginbill’s favorite players on Florida’s commitment list.
“I really like the two defensive ends,” Luginbill said. “I think that the speed edge rushers of Jeremiah Willaims and Tyreak Sapp, those two guys with what (defensive coordinator) Todd Grantham wants to do from a pressure perspective is going to give them that look that they had two years ago with that front four that was just so destructive.
“So if I’m looking at a position or an area of strength that they’ve addressed, I think that’s an area where they’ve continued to add bodies and depth that add to what he wants to be on defense. They’re continuing to recruit on the defensive front, which I think is really important. Everybody is trying to keep up with the Joneses at those premium positions.”
UF still has room for a few more additions to the class and two targets deciding this week are four-star linebacker Xavian Sorey and four-star Tunmise Adeleye, both of whom attended the Florida-LSU game.
Sorey is scheduled to announce at 1:45 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and his finalists are Alabama, Florida and Georgia, with the Bulldogs considered the team to beat. Adeleye plans to release a commitment video Wednesday with Alabama, Florida and in-state Texas A&M — the odds-on favorite — in the running.
If the Gators land neither prospect, they still have big names on the board such as four-star safety Terrion Arnold and five-star offensive Tristan Leigh, two more visitors from Saturday. There’s also the possibility of adding another transfer like ex-Clemson running back Demarcus Bowman, who plans to enroll at UF in January.
Bowman will be the fifth former five-star recruit the Gators have landed via the portal, along with defensive end Brenton Cox Jr., running back Lorenzo Lingard, wide receivers Trevon Grimes and Justin Shorter.
“It’s crazy,” Luginbill said. “In fact, really too when you consider Shorter and Trevon Grimes. They’ve done a really good job of hitting on those guys. Bowman is an electrifying guy. He’s a different type of back than what they’ve been playing with the last couple of years.
“So I like the position Florida is in. Where they’re at on the field though, that just pays so many dividends. When we get into a normal cycle and you’re going into the home or you’re going into the high school, that Gator or that F on your chest, it’s going to carry some weight — maybe more so than it did four years ago because of the results on the field.”
The UF coaches weren’t able to make in-home visits in this cycle due to COVID-19 restrictions, but are still on the cusp of a top-five class. Luginbill acknowledged that the knock on Mullen has been his recruiting, but believes that should have never been called into question after the NFL talent he produced at Mississippi State.
“Listen, I remember the first year and a half that he was at Florida and there were a lot of concerns about the guys that they were going after and the level of recruiting that they were going to have,” Luginbill said. “And my response to that was, was anybody paying attention to the job that he was doing at Mississippi State and his evaluation practices?
“And not only the caliber of player they were signing, but then the player that guy became once he arrived in Starkville. So I was always of the belief that, let’s sit back here a little bit. Maybe we ought to trust that Dan Mullen might have an idea of what he’s doing and let it play out. And I think what we’ve seen is a team that has incrementally gotten better in a variety of phases.”
Click to Gatorsports.com for recruiting coverage starting Wednesday morning.