A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning:
College football’s early national signing period, which began at 7 a.m. Wednesday, was already the most bizarre in the history of recruiting when the NCAA dropped a bomb that spread a mushroom cloud of weirdness nationwide. Here we were with recruiting classes being pieced together without so much the benefit of in-home visits by coaches or on-campus visits by players and parents when the NCAA declared a blanket waiver for transfers in any sport.
The blanket waiver will be felt immediately for college basketball, but it will have a profound effect on college football. After a season in which some conferences couldn’t get their collective acts together to run some semblance of a full schedule – the SEC will get in 67 of its 70 scheduled games while the Big Ten (Plus Four) and Pac-12 struggled to get in half that amount – you can expect something akin to the wild, wild west on the transfer front.
Let’s use Florida as a perfect example here. Despite all the handicaps and obstacles, Mullen and his staff signed a class currently ranked 7th by both ESPN and Rivals, 8th by 247Sports. It’s a class of 21 so far that will grow to 22 when Clemson transfer Demarcus Bowman signs his scholarship papers. Bowman, a former 5-star running back, will be benefit from the new transfer waiver ruling plus thanks to the NCAA earlier relaxing eligibility rules, 2020 won’t count against him (or anyone else) and he will have four seasons remaining.
Florida currently has room to add five more players on scholarship in February but with the new transfer rules, it might be a pipe dream to expect the Gators to be immune from transience. At this point we really don’t know how the NCAA will address roster sizes and scholarship counters but accommodations will have to be made because we might be seeing wholesale departures and arrivals throughout Division I.
So instead of figuring to sign five high school and/or junior college players in February, Mullen might be looking to bring in a few experienced transfers, particularly if he can find some plug and play types who could step into a position of need immediately. Mullen addressed this at his Wednesday press conference in which he discussed the incoming recruiting class.
“I think there’s so much uncertainty when it comes to the transfer aspect with the NCAA, what’s it going to be moving forward,” Mullen said. “In every area. I think we have a couple of spots for transfers still on our team. I think if you ask almost every coach around the country, they have a lot of concerns about the direction that’s heading.
“Let me explain it this way: not concerns of, ‘Okay, hey, we can’t let guys transfer.’ I mean, obviously that’s coming. I think coaches understand there’s going to be a lot of little things that go along with that that people don’t understand yet or don’t know yet, and all of a sudden, you’re going to look – and it might be a month from now, might be six months from now, might be two years from now – all of a sudden, ‘Hey, we didn’t realize all this would come with it and we better change a lot of different rules to get caught up.’ Because I do think a lot of the different rules that are in place don’t match the rules that they’re trying … the transfer rules that are coming, the current recruiting rules don’t match, they don’t meld. There’s a lot of concerns from coaches around the country about how that’s all going to work out.”
So take a good look at who Florida has signed so far and then take a look at the high school kids that are still on the commitment list. Understand that the only sure thing at this moment is the ones who have already signed are Gators. Some of the ones who didn’t sign early might find their scholarship taken by an experienced transfer who can step right in and play.
Nationwide, you can also expect a certain amount of apprehension among the kids who did sign early. When the transfer season heats up and high school kids who expected to play immediately see their position filled by an experienced transfer with two or three remaining years of eligibility, it might create a new wave of transfers, this one of kids who signed scholarships but who will never play a single down at the school they signed with.
FLORIDA’S EARLY SIGNING CLASS Of the 21 players signed by the Gators on Wednesday 12 play on the defensive side of the ball, which should let out a collective exhale of relief among Florida fans who have spent much of the 2020 football season in a state of constant dismay over the play of Todd Grantham’s stop troops. Florida signed four D-linemen, three linebackers, two corners and three safeties.
The defensive headliner has to be linebacker Diwun Black (6-4, 225, Kissimmee, FL/Perkinston, MS Gulf Coast CC), who originally signed with the Gators in the recruiting class of 2019. When he didn’t qualify out of high school, Black went the juco route and helped Gulf Coast win the 2019 junior college national championship. He is the number one junior college linebacker in the country who will be expected to play immediately at one of Florida’s critical positions of need. In addition to Black, the Gators signed a pair of 4-star linebackers in Jeremiah Williams (6-3, 225, Birmingham, AL Ramsey) and Chief Borders (6-5, 242, Franklin, GA Heard County). Borders could grow into a defensive end while Ramsey is a terror off the edge.
Depending on the recruiting service you trust most – Rivals or 247Sports – the Gators signed two 5-star defensive backs, who are ironically both teammates. Rivals lists safety Corey Collier (6-2, 170, Miami, FL Palmetto) as a 5-star while 247Sports lists corner Jason Marshall (6-2, 180, Miami, FL Palmetto) as a 5-star. Marshall is listed by ESPN as the #1 corner in the nation while Collier is listed as the nation’s #3 safety by both 247Sports and ESPN. Collier is a 4-star on 247Sports while Marshall is a 4-star at Rivals. Both are listed as 4-stars by ESPN. The other DBs in the class are 3-star corner Jordan Young (6-0, 185, Tampa, FL Jesuit), 4-star safety Donovan McMillon (6-2, 195, McMurray, PA Peters Township) and 3-star safety Dakota Mitchell (5-1, 185, Winter Park, FL).
On the defensive line, the headliner for the Gators is 4-star Tyreak Sapp (6-3, 260, Fort Lauderdale, FL St. Thomas Aquinas), rated the #8 defensive end in the country by 247Sports. The Gators got their version of Mount Cody in the middle in 4-star nose tackle Desmond Watson (6-5, 385, Plant City, FL Armwood), rated the #17 nose tackle in the country by Rivals. The other D-linemen in the class are 4-star rush end Justus Boone (6-4, 250, Sumter, SC) and 4-star tackle Chris Thomas Jr. (6-5, 300, Tallahassee, FL/Fort Myers, FL Dunbar).
The Gators signed two quarterbacks, two offensive linemen, two wide receivers and two tight ends. On special teams they signed a long snapper.
Quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson (6-2, 215) is rated 4-stars by all three recruiting services. He’s rated the #9 pro style QB in the country by Rivals. The other QB in the class is 3-star Jalen Kitna (6-4, 205, Tacoma, WA/Burleson, TX Burleson), the son of former NFL QB Jon Kitna.
The offensive linemen in the class are 3-star Jake Slaughter (Sparr, FL Trinity Catholic), ranked the 10th best center prospect in the country by both ESPN and 247Sports, 4-star guard/tackle Yousef Mugharbil (6-4, 300, Murphy, NC), rated the #4 guard in the country by ESPN and the #40 tackle prospect by Rivals.
Wide receivers signed were 4-star Marcus Burke (6-3, 180, Jacksonville, FL Trinity Christian) and 4-star Daejon Reynolds (6-2, 210, Springfield, IL/Loganville, GA Grayson). Rivals ranked Burke the #28 wide receiver in the country and ESPN had Reynolds as the #41.
The tight ends signed were 4-star Gage Wilcox (6-4, 225, Tampa, FL Jefferson) ranked by ESPN the #2 tight end in the country, and 4-star Nick Elksnis (6-6, 240, Jacksonville, FL Episcopal), who got the #3 ranking from ESPN.
The Gators also signed long snapper Rocco Underwood (6-4, 215, Lake Mary, FL), a 3-star prospect rated the #3 long snapper in the country by ESPN.
Florida has commitments from the following: 4-star offensive tackle Javonte Gardner (6-5, 320, Orlando, FL Jones), 3-star offensive tackle Adrein Strickland (6-7, 320, Lynn Haven, FL Mosely), 3-star offensive guard Deyavie Hammond (6-3, 330, Lakeland, FL/Independence, KS Independence CC), 4-star wide receiver Trevonte Rucker (6-0, 160, Ocala, FL Vanguard) and 4-star athlete Charles Montgomery (5-11, 185, Seffner, FL Armwood).
OTHER RECRUITING NEWS FROM AROUND THE SEC
Here are the class rankings of all 14 SEC teams (national rank first, SEC rank second): ESPN (1-75): 1/1 Alabama; 3/2 Georgia; 4/3 LSU; 7/4 FLORIDA; 12/5 Texas A&M; 14/6 Tennessee; 19/7 Ole Miss; 21/8 Arkansas; 24/9 Auburn; 31/10 Missouri; 38/11 Mississippi State; 40/12 Kentucky; 56/13 Vanderbilt; 74/14 South Carolina 247SPORTS (All Division I): 1/1 Alabama; 3/2 Georgia; 4/3 LSU; 8/4 FLORIDA; 11/5 Texas A&M; 15/6 Tennessee; 18/7 Ole Miss; 19/8 Arkansas; 26/9 Missouri; 36/10 Mississippi State; 38/11 Kentucky; 40/12 Auburn; 48/13 Vanderbilt; 107/14 South Carolina
RIVALS (1-100): 1/1 Alabama; 3/2 LSU; 4/3 Georgia; 7/4 FLORIDA; 13/5 Texas A&M; 14/6 Tennessee; 18/7 Ole Miss; 20/8 Missouri; 22/9 Arkansas; 29/10 Vanderbilt; 34/11 Mississippi State; 44/12 Kentucky; 52/13 Auburn; NA/14 South Carolina
In the state of Florida, Miami cracked the top 10 by finishing 9th in the ESPN and Rivals rankings with the 10th-ranked class at 247Sports. FSU ranked 28th in the ESPN rankings, 31st at 247Sports and 38th at Rivals.
NEWS THAT ISN’T RECRUITING … IMAGINE THAT: Tom Rinaldi, one of ESPN’s most visible and best reporters, is leaving the network for Fox Sports. Rinaldi has been with ESPN since 2002 … Kentucky and North Carolina have scheduled a basketball game on the fly to be played Saturday in Cleveland. Kentucky was scheduled to play UCLA and North Carolina was scheduled to play Ohio State before the change in plans … Kentucky hired Los Angeles Rams assistant Liam Coen as its new offensive coordinator. The Wildcats hired former South Carolina assistant Eric Wolford as the new O-line coach ... Former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has interviewed for the vacant job at Illinois … The San Jose Mercury-News is reporting that Arizona is zeroing in on Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo as its new HBC … Coastal Carolina has signed HBC Jamey Chadwell to a contract extension through the 2027 season. Chadwell and Coastal are 11-0 this season and ranked 12th in the College Football Playoff Poll … Virginia Tech and Kansas State are opting out of a chance to play in a bowl game … New South Carolina HBC Shane Beamer has a 5-year deal that will pay him $2.75 million, making him the lowest paid coach in the SEC, a necessity since South Carolina is on the hook for $15 million with former head coach Will Muschamp … Tom Herman’s wife reports her husband did not inquire about the South Carolina job. The Post and Courier of Charleston, SC reported the Texas coach was quite interested in the vacancy after Will Muschamp was fired … According to USA Today the University of Florida ranks sixth nationally in assistant coach pay at $6,300,000 per year. Ranking ahead of UF from the SEC are (1) Alabama (2) Auburn; (3) LSU; and (5) Texas A&M. Todd Grantham is Florida’s highest paid assistant at $1,801,500. The report also says UF did not reduce coach salaries due to the pandemic.