Gators the frontrunner for this 5-star defensive tackle

·3 min read

Florida’s 2022 recruiting class is in major need of a boost. With only 10 players currently committed, there’s certainly time for things to change, but the class ranks just 18th in the nation and seventh among SEC schools, as things stand right now.

If the Gators want to see a major jump in that ranking, there’s one clear way to do it: secure the commitment of five-star defensive tackle Walter Nolen. The No. 3 recruit in the country (per the 247Sports Composite) and Tennessee product officially visited Florida on June 4, and two days later, he tweeted that he would be making a decision soon.

According to 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong, the Gators are currently in the lead to win the services of the 6-foot-4-inch, 300-pound defensive lineman.

“Florida looked like the team to beat, coming out of the official visit to start the month, and Florida’s really recruiting at an exciting level right now, beating Alabama for one of the more coveted linebackers in the country, Shemar James, last week,” Wiltfong said on the “247Sports Football Recruiting Podcast.” “To add Walter Nolen to a player like that would be a tremendous coup within their front seven on defense,” he continued. “And so, I still like where Florida’s at with Walter Nolen, in addition to his official. He returned shortly after that on the way down to Future 50 to do a photoshoot with his mom on the Gators’ campus.”

According to 247Sports’ Gabe Brooks, Nolen already possesses college-ready size, and he’s a physical player with a high motor who is great off the snap. He’d be an elite defensive player the likes of which UF hasn’t landed in quite some time, and his commitment could be a game-changer for the Gators’ class.

But they won’t secure his pledge unchallenged. The school considered most competitive with Florida in the battle for Nolen is Michigan. Nolen’s grandmother lives in the Ann Arbor area, and he took a visit to the Wolverines’ campus on June 18, which Wiltfong said went quite well.

“Well, this was Walter’s second time in Ann Arbor,” Wiltfong said. “Took a self-guided deal earlier in the spring. His grandmother lives in the area. If he chose Michigan, that would be one of the coolest things. He said, at the Future 50 event a couple weekends ago, he doesn’t get to see his grandma that much. So it would be awesome to play at Michigan and be around her. I think his dad talked about how they really like the scheme, talked about Jim Harbaugh and company being straight shooters and his dad mentioned to me in the past that they will be back for the Michigan-Ohio State game at the end of the year to soak in that atmosphere in Ann Arbor over Thanksgiving.”

Wiltfong added that other schools, like Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, are also squarely in the mix. If UF signed Nolen, it would be the third-straight class with a consensus five-star recruit after a gap from 2015-19.

The Gators still have a ways to go and some challengers to fend off if they hope to land Nolen, but it seems that as things currently stand, they’re the leader in the clubhouse.

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