Billy Napier Responds to Criticism
Even before his first season as head coach of the Florida Gators, Billy Napier has faced many critics in terms of recruiting. The Gators seemed to be in a very good standing with 5-stars Tony Mitchell and AJ Harris, even being named as the favorites by some to land the pair earlier in the year, but lost the recruiting battles for the highly touted prospects to Alabama and Georgia, respectively. Following these major misses, 7th -anked QB Jaden Rashada seemed to be a lock to go to Florida, but ended up pushing his decision back to visit in-state rival Miami, committing soon after. In response to being the presumed leader for huge recruits and losing them to conference and state rivals, fans let Napier hear it, questioning his ability to recruit at the Power 5 level.
However, Napier faced the music and responded better than any Gator fan could expect, as he added a total of seven 4-stars since late June. We will dive into who the Gators currently have committed, as well as what is to come this summer.
All rankings cited in this article are according to 247 Sports.
Current Class Overview
- Eugene Wilson III #147 nationally #10 ATH
- TJ Searcy #153 nationally #20 DL
- Treyaun Webb #162 nationally #5 RB
- Isaiah Nixon #195 nationally #26 EDGE
- Sharif Denson #205 nationally #24 CB
- Gavin Hill #255 nationally #38 DL
- Aaron Gates #318 nationally #19 ATH
- Knijeah Harris #392 nationally #23 IOL
- Marcus Stokes #397 nationally #22 QB
- Creed Whittemore #471 nationally #34 ATH
- Bryce Lovett #594 nationally #50 OT
- Tyree Patterson #810 nationally #108 WR
What's To Come
CB Cormani McClain (#3 nationally #1 CB): Due to ranking and being an in-state recruit, McClain is the most important prospect left on the board for the Gators. This is also due to how Florida has been the presumed leader for quite some time now, so if the Lakeland native chooses elsewhere it will be seen as a major loss. McClain has recently taken an official visit to Miami, with Cristobal and staff feeling as if they've gained traction. Besides Florida and Miami, his top eight consists of Alabama, Georgia, Oregon, BYU, OSU, and Michigan.
Opinion: I feel as if other schools have made up some ground but McClain seems like he will want to stay home. I'm somewhat confident he will end up a Gator, but if he chooses elsewhere I would expect it to be Miami.
WR Aidan Mizell (#115 nationally #18 WR): The talented receiver from Orlando is a recruit that WR coach Keary Colbert has been working on for awhile. Mizell is a legacy of UF, as both his parents ran track for the school, which is a reason for him declaring the Gators as his current leader. However, he has enjoyed his official visits to Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, which will complicate things.
Opinion: I feel like people are just assuming Mizell is a UF lock due to both his parents and his many visits to campus, when that is not the case. This isn't as clear cut as it seems and I feel as if one of the other SEC schools involved can pull off a commitment, but as of now if I were to predict where he would end up, it would be Florida.
DL Will Norman (#116 nationally #17 DL): Napier hopes to add a second IMG product in this class to accompany Knijeah Harris, after Dan Mullen seemed to have absolutely pipeline from the powerhouse to Florida. The Gators are set up well right now with Norman, as the 6'5 290 defensive lineman claims Florida is in his top two, with the second school to be determined. It is assumed that the second school will be Penn State, although the fact that he is unaware at the moment is a good sign.
Opinion: There is still lots of work to do, as Norman's only official visit has been to Gainesville, so we don't know if a second official will completely sway him. However, the Gators are in the best position out of any school as of now, so I would not be surprised if he committed soon after officially visiting other schools.
WR Daquavyious Sorey (#178 nationally #26 WR): The in-state wideout is a prospect whom the Gators feel comfortable in landing, as it was even rumored he would commit July 4th. Sorey's cousin, Lamar Sorey, is a member of Florida's staff, which always helps. His current finalists include Alabama, Auburn, and Miami, with Auburn as the biggest contender.
Opinion: Even with Auburn as a contender, Bryan Harsin's staff feel as if Florida is the leader, which is generally a tell tale sign. With that being said, I'm confident Sorey will end up a Gator.
S Jordan Castell (#216 nationally #15 S): Anybody recruited by coach Corey Raymond is someone to look out for, which is the case for Castell. Raymond is recruiting the safety the hardest out of anyone, with schools like Tennessee, Auburn, and Michigan recruiting hard as well. The 4 star says he's aiming to decide by the end of the summer.
Opinion: I feel like Castell is set to be a Gator. He has noted that distance is a factor in his decision and is an in-state recruit, with the other schools pushing hard being out of state.
DL Kamran James (#250 nationally #37 DL): James is another in-state product with predictions to Florida, but his recruitment has been fairly quiet for a 4 star. The Gators are currently one of two schools to host the 6'6.5 265 defensive lineman, with the other being rival Georgia.
Opinion: Although clearly in a good position, I can't say that I am confident in the Gators landing James. Georgia is a team that has proven to be a force in recruiting, so this should be a fun recruitment to watch as time goes on.
CB Ja'Keem Jackson (#268 nationally #30 CB): Jackson is another defensive back recruited by Coach Raymond, but out of the three schools officially visited (Auburn, Penn State, Tennessee) Florida is not one of them, although he has visited multiple times. The Gators have received predictions for the in-state 4 star, but Oklahoma is another team to have received some buzz recently. The cornerback is set to announce a decision on July 28th.
Opinion: I honestly don't know what to make of Jackson's recruitment. Regardless of predictions, I can't say I'm confident Florida landing the prospect, although they are in a good position as of now.
WR Andy Jean (#299 nationally #38 WR): After officially visiting on June 24th, Jean had nothing but good things to say about the Gators. He said they are currently his leader, but has a top 5 of Alabama, Georgia, Miami, and Texas A&M. He has taken an official to A&M and will likely go visit Miami, as they seem to be pushing for the wideout.
Opinion: Unless he is not a take due to other wide receivers, I expect Jean to commit to Florida. He has a very competitive top 5 by including essentially all powerhouses, so take my expectation with a grain of salt.
- It is almost certain that the 2023 WR class will be the strongest position group, as there are already three commits already in Eugene Wilson III, Creed Whittemore, and Tyree Patterson, with potential to land 4 stars Aidan Mizell, Dayquavious Sorey, or Andy Jean. I could very much see the staff taking on two of the potential prospects who already seem to be Gator leans. This is a very solid start for first year WR coach Keary Colbert, some recruiting magic that did not seem to materialize while at USC.
- Land Cormani McClain. I know it's very easy to say that a school would be a lot better with a top five recruit, but it's not just the talent alone that McClain would bring. He would also bring the faith of the Gators being a threat for top prospects in recruiting again, which would also show 2024 prospects the seriousness of Florida as a program going forward.
- This secondary class can be sneaky good. Even if the Gators whiff on McClain, current commits Sharif Denson and Aaron Gates may be joined by Jordan Castell and Ja'Keem Jackson, which would result in a secondary group full of 4 stars.
- Linebackers look scarce. This may be a cycle where the staff is forced to dive into the transfer portal following the 2022 season to fill spots.
- Florida fans need to trust in Billy. It can't be expected for a first year coach inheriting a losing team should land all big recruits they are in the mix for, regardless of the recruits situations. Napier has displayed his ability to bounce back from criticism and losing recruits and has hit the recruiting trail harder than people notice.