GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When Florida coach Billy Napier took over the Gators 10 days ago, he said he wouldn’t add many recruits in the early signing period.
Which meant he was pleased with the nine prospects UF did sign Wednesday.
“I think it’s not necessarily to me about the volume of players,” Napier said.
His deliberate and patient approach is intentional, not spin. Transition classes are filled with attrition and busts. Before Thanksgiving, Napier had a relationship with only one of his signees: three-star Texas offensive lineman Christian Williams, who had been committed to him at Louisiana.
The seven others, including King High athlete Tony Livingston, were quickly evaluated to see whether they’d fit what Napier is trying to build.
Some of Napier’s vision is clear. He stressed verified speed and measurables like height and length. He knew Livingston’s height to the quarter of an inch and the size of his hands (11 inches).
The biggest hope for UF’s future, however, was how he closed the first day for a class that’s No. 62 nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings.
First Napier added Devin Moore, a four-star defensive back from Naples who was a previous Notre Dame commit. Then he added Kamari Wilson, a five-star safety at Bradenton’s IMG Academy.
Wilson is evidence that Napier can land the type of elite recruits necessary to win championships. His predecessor, Dan Mullen, signed only a pair of five-star high school prospects in his four recruiting classes at UF. Napier is already halfway there.
It’s still a long way, however, from what other SEC teams did. Texas A&M, Alabama and Georgia had the nation’s top three classes as of 6:30 Wednesday night.
“We’re going to acquire talent, too,” Napier said. “Just not as many (Wednesday) as they did. But this is our first class, and we’re going to make the best of it.”
Napier did not address the quarterback position, including the health of Anthony Richardson. On Wednesday, Emory Jones told Yahoo! Sports that he intends to enter the transfer portal after next week’s Gasparilla Bowl against UCF.
USF mines transfer portal
The Bulls’ class has a unique balance: 12 offensive players and 12 defensive players and, more importantly, 13 high school/junior college recruits against 11 transfers.
The portal pickups include three from coach Jeff Scott’s former school, Clemson (defensive back Ray Thornton, receiver Ajou Ajou and running back Michel Dukes). The transfers also include local flair; Ajou played at Clearwater Academy International and former four-star Armwood recruit Clyde Pinder Jr. (from North Carolina) was another headliner for a transfer portal class that 247Sports ranks as the best in the nation.
“We felt the transfer portal was something that would really help us being in the position that program is in,” Scott said. “We needed some depth. … We felt it would help us to get players who have already been in college two or even three years. I’m not saying it will be like this every year, but this year we felt like we needed to take advantage of the transfer portal.”
Knights’ big day
UCF boasted the nation’s No. 42 recruiting class. If that stands through February, it will be the highest-ranked class in Knights history.
One of UCF’s additions was Berkeley Prep running back Xavier Townsend, a three-star prospect who recently decommitted from Iowa State.
Like UF, Miami added a small haul (eight prospects), but it also included a vision for the future under new coach Mario Cristobal. The Miami native is an excellent recruiter in south Florida and showed that by snagging Nyjalik Kelly, a top-100 defensive lineman from Fort Lauderdale.
Times correspondent Scott Purks contributed to this report.