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Florida’s DJ Lagway focus of The Athletic’s SEC recruiting roundup

It was a brutal finish for the Florida football program in the 2024 cycle, which saw the Gators tumble from among the top three schools in the rankings to the mid-teens by the end of the signing period. It was a demoralizing stretch that had many wondering what the heck was happening in Gainesville.

However, not all was lost in the hailstorm of decommitments as Billy Napier and Co. managed to hang on to their prized possession in the clas — five-star quarterback DJ Lagway.

The Athletic’s college football staff took a recent look at the outcome of the latest recruiting cycle for the Southeastern Conference and Lagway’s name came up frequently. Firstly, as noted before, simply making it through the signing period gauntlet without losing their potential star gunslinger was a coup in and of itself.

“Florida’s ability to retain five-star quarterback DJ Lagway,” Grace Raynor offers in response to the question of the biggest development. “The Gators had another losing season in 2023, which raised all sorts of questions about coach Billy Napier’s future. From November to January, Florida had nine prospects decommit from the program, in addition to star running back Trevor Etienne hitting the transfer portal. Hanging on to Lagway and five-star defensive lineman LJ McCray was simultaneously impressive and surprising.”

Ari Wasserman was more surprised by Napier and Co.’s collapse during the home stretch. “Florida’s class taking a massive hit,” was his initial answer to the query.

“I agree with Grace’s assertion that the Gators did a good job of holding on to Lagway. The quarterback prospects are always going to reign supreme in the court of public opinion. But Napier’s entire existence as Florida’s coach is to be an outstanding recruiter, and it was surprising to see him lose so many of the top prospects in the class,” he continued.

“Yes, recruits want to see wins on the field, but Florida’s future was so promising with the core of players it had. Lagway is already enrolled, but the vibe of the Gators’ program would be entirely different right now without all of those decommitments.”

As for the question of which 2024 recruit was most likely to start a game this coming fall, the panel was unanimous.

Graham Mertz is the most experienced returning starting quarterback in the league (43 starts, 2,806 snaps), but Napier is going to be under a lot of pressure to show he’s building something going in the right direction,” Manny Navarro notes. “There’s no better way to show that than having the No. 2-ranked quarterback recruit in the 2024 cycle in the lineup and playing more than a handful of plays a game in special packages.”

“It’s got to be Lagway,” Raynor responded. “The second Napier is in hot water, he’ll need to prove there is hope for the future.”

“He is the bridge to the future, and as Grace pointed out, Florida may want to tap into that resource, even if we have heard about Mertz’s tremendous development since arriving in Gainesville,” Wasserman adds.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire