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Entering the month of June, the Florida Gators and every other program in college football were faced with the unique challenge of packing months worth of recruiting activity into a few short weeks. The strategy devised by head coach Dan Mullen and his recruiting team was to front-load their efforts and allow for players who came away particularly impressed time to schedule another visit.
Four players committed to Florida during the month: CJ Smith, Shemar James, Trey Smack, and Jamarrien Burt. Perhaps more interesting, though, is the insight we were able to glean about which players they’re still chasing. There’s a long list of guys who the Gators would like to persuade to come to the Swamp, so we put together a sampling of the players who stand out from what we’ve read and heard.
The players are listed by position group rather than ranked order, but their 247Sports assigned star rating and placement in the composite national rankings are included with each player. Additionally, not every player on this list is leaning toward a Florida commitment, but that isn’t going to stop the team from trying to win them over.
Let’s dig in!
WR Evan Stewart (5 stars, No. 35)
The top wide receiver in the 2022 class, Stewart is available on the recruiting market after decommitting from the Longhorns this spring. The Gators have been a consistent voice in his process and are considered one of the teams who have a real shot to reel in a pledge. He's an explosive athlete who can get downfield in a hurry and his catch radius is expansive despite not having the longest levers. https://twitter.com/itsbcarroll/status/1403729549918101505 Stewart took an official visit to the Swamp in early June and came away impressed with the environment around the team. "It was actually amazing. I mean, I loved it. I enjoyed it. It was very fun,” Stewart said. Fellow Texas native and Gators recruit Nick Evers has been in Stewart's ear as well, using his personal relationship with the wideout to mold his opinion of Florida.
WR Jayden Gibson (4 stars, No. 226)
The Gators wanted to add three wide receivers to the program in this recruiting class and could consider four if the right situation falls in their lap. They've already brought in an immense amount of speed at the position with CJ Smith and Isaiah Bond. By targeting Jayden Gibson, they're looking at adding another dimension to the position: length. Towering above most cornerbacks with his 6-foot-4-inch frame, he has a tall catch radius and there's plenty of room for him to add muscle. https://twitter.com/CraigHaubert/status/1383841231835303946 Gibson is seriously considering committing to play for the Gators, and the team's coaching staff is doing everything they can to help him make an informed choice. He was at the recruiting barbecue on June 1st, and they welcomed him for a second visit to Gainesville late in the month. Unsurprisingly, he came away from his one-on-one with Billy Gonzales feeling optimistic about Florida's coaching and is planning on coming back again for an official visit before making a commitment. Gibson recounted his conversation with Gonzales in detail for 247Sports in an interview that's definitely worth checking out.
WR Jay Fair (3 stars, No. 539)
Florida and Auburn are the finalists for Fair, and he's had his list narrowed down to those two programs for most of the summer. “Any new schools that come into the mix or any other schools that might be late on recruiting me, I don’t think will really play a factor in my overall decision,” he said. Used primarily as a vertical outside threat as a high schooler, I’d like to see him take on a different role if he winds up playing in the Swamp. https://twitter.com/thebettermarkle/status/1397455374492569600 He’s a little small to be taking on outside corners on deep balls, and the Gators are able to consistently bring in other, bigger downfield weapons with speed. He might do better in an intermediate role, tasked to hunt soft spots in the second level, take dump-off passes, and do damage with the ball in his hands. Mullen doesn’t have that kind of playmaker in hand as of right now, but Kadarius Toney proved how valuable the role could be in a Florida offense.
TE Jaleel Skinner (4 stars, No. 78)
There's a pair of tight ends at the top this class who fill similar roles as maxed-out receivers who win with their physicality – Oscar Delp and Jaleel Skinner –and there's not much consensus on which is better. 247Sports prefers Skinner, which is just as well, because it appears the Gators have lost too much ground on Delp to expect a commitment is a serious possibility. https://twitter.com/Rivals/status/1401693134971568139 Thanks to his background as a both a wide receiver and a track runner, Skinner has great ball skills and controls his large frame well. As a result, he has a huge catch radius and is terrifying to line up against. However, it also means bulking up will need to happen in his near future to be a successful blocker against SEC defenses. "They're a great school. They have great coaches and are great people all around," said Skinner after his visit to the Gators.
RB Terrance Gibbs (4 stars, No. 187)
It's been broadly reported that the Gators are looking to add two running backs out of the 2022 class. They're closing in on a first in Terrance Gibbs. He's visited the team at least twice in June and raved about both visits. "With Florida being a constant in this recruitment, Gibbs also seems very high on the in-state Gators as well and he is friends with a few players on the roster as well," wrote 247Sports' Blake Alderman. https://twitter.com/mTerrance122/status/1113044174998265856 Gibbs isn't a power back; instead, he's a three-sport athlete who can make things happen with his speed. He also has a little wiggle in the passing game, which gives him the flexibility the Dan Mullen likes in his running backs. His skills are comparable to that of Malik Davis or Nay'Quan Wright, do-it-all backs who contribute in multiple phases of the offense.
OT Tyler Booker (4 stars, No. 42)
Booker is the Gators' most wanted recruiting target in the 2022 class. At least, that was the assertion of 247Sports, who pegged him with that description in mid-June. He has mutual interest in the program, as author Blake Alderman noted that he likes the fact he could make an instant impact on the program if he came to Florida. He'll be a tough player to reel in, Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia are also suitors. However, the Gators appear to have the best angle on Booker. https://twitter.com/Rivals/status/1380555101450817546?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1380555101450817546%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fgatorswire.usatoday.com%2F2021%2F06%2F16%2Fflorida-football-recruiting-tyler-booker-247sports%2F The skills that Booker brings to the table are suited for a run-heavy offense like the one Mullen tends to favor. "More than capable of winning at the point of attack with a well-timed punch," wrote 247Sports' Andrew Ivins. "Latches onto his target and is able to quickly find some leverage before steering would-be tacklers out of the way. Agile enough to get outside the tackle box and open up run lanes." Booker is from the Gators' backyard. He fills a position of need. He's a scheme fit for the Mullen offense. He's talented enough to make an on-field impact right away. He'll need to improve some aspects of his game, for instance, his lateral agility, but he's a huge priority for this recruiting cycle.
OL Jacob Hood (3 stars, No. 431)
The Gators have already struck out with a few of their targets along the offensive front, most recently, tackle Qae'shon Sapp. As a result, they've been turning their attention to late bloomers who have only popped late in the recruiting cycle. A standout among those players is Jacob Hood, who has mostly flown under the radar until in-person recruiting re-opened. The Gators offered him a scholarship on June 16th. They want to bring him to campus, which he seems amenable to, and they could strengthen their case considerably with a face-to-face. https://twitter.com/jacobhood2022/status/1378404493667229698 With June in the rearview mirror, he's sitting pretty with 22 offers from schools across all the best conferences and in no hurry to shut his recruiting down. He packs quite a whollop in him enormous 6-foot-8-inch frame and has the guard/tackle flexibility that the Gators like to see in their lineman. He may wind up on the interior long-term, but could thrive there, with the power to resist bull rushes and the fleet feet to battle the ever-increasing number of penetrating defensive tackles.
DT Walter Nolen (5 stars, No. 3)
The highest-rated player on this list, Florida is in a good position to snag the nation's best defensive lineman. He's disruptive and has violent hands, which helps him stay clear of unwanted contact. With the explosion off the line of scrimmage, he is even more dangerous as a pass rusher. One he gets the first step on a high school offensive lineman, they don't stand a chance. He's routinely beaten the best lineman in the country in showcases. The game is just too easy for him at the high school level. https://twitter.com/Rivals/status/1408222407970541570 Although Florida leads in his recruitment at the moment, there will be other schools vying for his affection until the day he enrolls. The program is in the best position to snatch him away is the Michigan Wolverines, who have rolled out the red carpet for him, and as an added bonus, play in his grandmother's hometown. Be careful not to count your chickens before they hatch, but it'd be tough to blame anyone for getting excited about Nolen.
DE DJ Wesolak (4 stars, No. 178)
The Gators have cultivated a relationship with a wide range of defensive ends in this recruiting class, but they've given special attention to Jihaad Campbell and DJ Wesolak. After Campbell's commitment to the Clemson Tigers, Wesolak is left to move up the team's list of recruits. He's a scheme-versatile player who can be molded to fit the Gators' 4-3 front. https://twitter.com/AllenTrieu/status/1394276772485738501 Wesolak plays hard and is a load off the line of scrimmage, but he doesn't have much of a bag of tricks against a skilled passing offense. The problem isn't his inability to learn, but rather, he's never been challenged enough to force him to grow as a player and will likely hit a speed bump in his first year or two in the SEC.
LB Jaron Willis (4 stars, No. 153)
Willis committed to Georgia Tech a full month before in-person recruiting activities reopened, but the Gators got him on campus for the June 1st recruiting barbecue and managed to turn that into an official visit scheduled for September. It's remarkably difficult to flip a committed player, but the Gators haven't given the kind of attention they're affording to Willis to any other school's commit. https://twitter.com/BSonnone/status/1392947444128829440 What appeals to the Gators about Willis is obvious. They're rebuilding the program with speed as the core focus and he's a rangy linebacker with god coverage instincts. He's remarkably in-shape and can deliver hard hits to opposing ball carriers. Between Willis and recent commit Shemar James, the Gators are working on creating a no-fly zone for intermediary passes. His build is a bit tweener-ish because he is converting from a hybrid role that a also saw him deploy as a safety. It's likely an easily solved problem from a physical standpoint.
DB/WR Azereyeh Thomas (4 stars, No. 100)
A legitimate prospect on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, Thomas is viewed by the Gators as a defensive back. Accordingly, defensive backs coach Jules Montinar has been in constant contact with him throughout his recruiting process. Florida was in good spot after an official visit with Thomas, but has since been usurped as the leader for his college commitment. https://twitter.com/SethSnwfdn/status/1335033129220907008?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1335033129220907008%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fgatorswire.usatoday.com%2F2021%2F06%2F24%2Fflorida-football-recruiting-lsu-tigers-azareyeh-thomas%2F All signs point to him signing on to play with the LSU Tigers, who blew him out of the water on his official visit. The enthusiasm of the coaching staff is what swayed his choice the most, and he came away thinking that he's viewed by the team as their next great defensive back. There's still a possibility that he eventually commits to play for the Gators, and although it's slim, the team really likes him and they'll put up a hard fight.
DB Nick Cull (3-star, No. 370)
The Gators already have two defensive backs committed to the team for the 2022 cycle – Jamarrien Burt and Julian Humphrey – but they're still looking for more bodies at both corner and safety. Georgia-born corner Nick Cull recently placed the team among his six finalists, and his addition could be a savvy move by Florida's recruiting team. https://twitter.com/thebettermarkle/status/1410465999799869442 The Hurricanes are the current leader for Cull, but the Gators should be making a final push for him. He's a bit of a project, but he clearly relishes getting his uniform dirty and making his presence known to opposing players. That makes him an excellent addition to Humphrey and Burt. He'd allow Humphrey to match up against speedier receivers while protecting Burt from overexposure while he improves his game.