On Wednesday I discussed the offensive talent the Florida recruiting staff are prioritizing during the final weeks before national signing day.
Today I’ll take a look at the defensive side of the football and the areas the Florida Gators are pursuing to fill.
Before we dive into the list of prospects the Gators have on their radar, let’s recap the early signing period defensive prospects.
Early Signing Period Review
Battling through a depleted and injury-prone secondary this season, Dan Mullen hauled in four safeties for the 2018 class to accumulate depth.
Florida has labeled itself as “Defensive Back University” throughout recent years, and with the addition of several top safeties in the 2018 class, the Gators certainly can get back to their tenacious and stout form.
With new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham following Mullen from Mississippi State, a new scheme will be implemented to the Gators defense. Traditionally, the Gators have played in a 4-3 schematic defense. However, Coach Grantham executes his defenses from the 3-4 philosophy.
The biggest question surrounding the new strategy is whether Florida has the correct personnel on the roster to properly run a 3-4 front seven.
Limited with players at linebacker last year due to injuries and suspensions, Florida struggled at rotating productive players at the position. During the early signing period Florida added another versatile piece to their linebacking unit with a commitment from David Reese II (Vero Beach, Fla.).
The 6-foot-3, 213-pound prospect can fly around the football field and play a multitude of positions. Coach Mullen emphasized multiple times during his early tenure he wants versatility and flexibility in his players. Reese certainly checks off that criteria.
Remaining Wish List
After starting two true-freshman on the outside last year, Mullen is hoping to acquire more depth at the cornerback position.
Patrick Surtain Jr. (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) – Surtain Jr. is the number one overall corner in the country and has the perfect frame to be an elite college defensive back. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 195-pounds, Surtain Jr. has the ability to cover the largest receivers.
The 5-star corner holds 32 offers from around the country and the LSU Tigers have seemingly been the favorite throughout his recruitment. However, Mark Richt and his Miami Hurricanes have recently turned up the notch on their pursuit of the Surtain.
In order for the Gators to have a dog in the fight, they must unleash their best pitch and land the 5-star corner on campus for a visit before signing day. The tradition of Florida simply being “DBU” won’t be enough — Mullen and co. must swing for the fences on this prospect.
Tyson Campbell (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) – Campbell plays on the opposite side of the field of Surtain Jr. at American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale. Florida will attempt to land one of the two marquee prospects.
Campbell (6-foot-2, 180-pounds) amassed 22 scholarship offers from Division -I programs. The Miami Hurricanes have been in hot pursuit of the number three ranked corner in the country, and he has been in attendance for several Hurricane games this season.
Florida will have a lot of ground to make up with a new coaching staff in Gainesville. However, with the right message, and a history of sending defensive backs to the NFL at a high-rate, never count the Gators out of a defensive back battle.
Florida needs to bring in impact players along the defensive front. Switching to a 3-4 defense usually calls for a two-gap read for the defensive linemen, and the Gators need to add more beef to the interior.
Noah Jefferson (Las Vegas, Nev.) – The astounding 6-foot-6, 330-pound monster is a prototypical defensive tackle in Grantham’s scheme. Jefferson can clog the interior of the line and force double teams, allowing linebackers and other free defenders to continue their pursuit to the ball carrier.
This is a prospect Florida feels comfortable in landing, as Jefferson included the Gators in his top four schools earlier in December.
New Top 4 ‼️‼️ 1.Florida 🐊
2. Ole Miss 🔴🔵
3. Arkansas 🐗
4. Lousiville 🔴⚪️
— Noah Jefferson (@noahjefferson_) December 12, 2017
At the moment, the nation’s number seven ranked junior college defensive tackle has visits planned to Ole Miss and Louisville in January. Expect a visit to Gainesville as well.
Dorian Gerald (Florence, S.C.) – Gerald (6-foot-3, 260-pounds) is the top-ranked junior college defensive end and has Florida squarely in the mix for his signature. The former Tennessee pledge won’t close down his recruitment process until the national signing day period.
Florida will host Gerald on an official visit the weekend before the signing period and have a final opportunity to sway him to join the #AllBite18 class.
Andrew Chatfield (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) – Chatfield is another member from American Heritage that is highly considering signing with the Miami Hurricanes. The nation’s 13th-ranked defensive end unofficially visited Gainesville about a month ago for their game verses Florida State and several Florida coaches visited Chatfield the following week.
Chatfield (6-foot-2, 220-pounds) holds a great frame for an outside linebacker/defensive end. His versatility and quickness allows him to move around the front seven of the defense.
Florida will need to hire a defensive line coach and host Chatfield on campus before signing day to increase their chances with the Fort Lauderdale prospect. Coach Mullen and his staff closed the first signing period strong and will look to do the same over the final 40 days.
Malcolm Lamar (Seffner, Fla.) – The 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end has a strong relationship with current FSU coach Willie Taggart. Lamar initially pledged his commitment to the Oregon Ducks until the departure of Taggart. With Taggart now in Tallahassee, many believe FSU is the lead school for the in-state prospect.
However, Florida has shown interest in the 4-star prospect. Fortunate for Mullen, Lamar already took his official visit to the Noles earlier in December.
If Taggart was able to convince Lamar to leave the Sunshine State for Oregon, it would be a surprise if Lamar did not end up at Florida State.
Nesta Silvera (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) – The current Miami Hurricanes commit has shown interest in the Gators this season. At 6-foot-2, 308-pounds, Silva could come in and generate early playing time with his frame. He reacts off the ball extremely well for his size and creates havoc for quarterbacks and ball carriers.
Florida must get Silvera on campus for an official visit to have an opportunity of flipping the Canes’ pledge. Earlier this month, Silvera met with former defensive line coach Chris Rumph and Ja’Juan Seider. I’m not confident in the Gators securing a commitment from Silvera, but he will be pursued.