2018 National Signing Day Notebook: Florida teams and Central Florida recruits

By Chris Torello, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 06, 2018, 3:03 PM EST

This has been one of the most interesting years for recruiting in college football.

We saw Miami take the reigns as top dog among Florida teams; Florida and Florida State both brought in new head coaches; UCF and USF are battling for position within the top five of their conference’s recruiting class rankings. 

• Miami is poised to finish ahead of both Florida and Florida State in the national recruiting rankings for the first time since 2008. 
• Florida and Florida State enter 2018 with new head coaches – the first time that has happened since 1960. 
• UCF and USF are both poised to finish with top five recruiting classes in the American Athletic Conference for the fifth consecutive year. 

The biggest difference was having the first ever Early Signing Period back in December. Back in the spring the NCAA created a 72-hour window (Dec. 20-22) to allow players to commit ahead of the traditional February signing period that had always been the most exciting times of the college football offseason. According to 247Sports.com 36 of the Top 50 recruits in the 2018 national recruiting class signed their National Letter of Intent for their college team during that 72-hour window right before Christmas. 

But there is still plenty of drama left for the regular National Signing Day tomorrow. 

MIAMI

Miami has the top class in the ACC and has the 5th-best recruiting class in the nation. It has been a strong resurgence for the Hurricanes under head coach Mark Richt. This 2018 class is going to be Miami’s first top ten recruiting class since 2012 (10th in the nation). Their last top five recruiting class was when they had the number one recruiting class in 2008.  Two reasons for this high ranking are both from Central Florida and already enrolled on campus:  Lorenzo Lingard (University High) - number two running back in the nation – and three-star defensive lineman John Campbel (Dr. Phillips).

FLORIDA STATE

“Have a great (signing) day, if you want to!”  Florida State has been picking up plenty of recruiting steam riding the Willie Taggart bus. The Noles have had 13 players commit during the Taggart Era. One major criticism of former coach Jimbo Fisher (now at Texas A&M) was that roughly a month before Fisher left FSU he and his staff had stopped putting effort in recruiting players with the same intensity as in the past. Taggart’s ties to the Bay Area, and the state of Florida as a whole, made for a relatively strong transition of power between the coaching regimes. FSU is currently 15th in the national rankings – seven commits who are ranked in the top 15 at their position - and third in the ACC behind only Miami and Clemson.

FLORIDA

The Gators welcomed back Dan Mullen and made him the head coach in The Swamp. Currently ranked as the 18th best class in America (5th best in the SEC), the Gators have found their footing under Mullen – and possibly a quarterback? The commitment of four-star dual-threat QB Emory Jones (Franklin, GA) caused a cheer all over Gator Nation. Even without Jones this is a strong class: like FSU the Gators have seven commits ranked in the top 15 at their position. The Gator logo is such a compelling brand that commits were holding through the long wait of nearly a month between the firing of Jim McElwain and hiring of Dan Mullen. Florida already has eight early enrollees and five more NLIs signed for a total of 13 ironclad commitments.

UCF

UCF had gotten used to a frost being around Orlando. Then came a deep and unwelcomed thaw of reality – Scott Frost was headed home to Nebraska. When Frost left for his alma mater there was a true consensus around Orlando that if anyone internal would succeed him, it would be defensive coordinator Erik Chinander. There were some talk of interim head coach Troy Walters, who served as UCF offensive coordinator, but both he and Chinander wanted to be with Frost in the Big Ten. However, new coach Josh Heupel has weathered the storm and has taken a tumbling recruiting class and stabilized it with 13 early signees. The Knights’ class recently jumped from sixth to fourth in the AAC thanks to five verbal commitments between January 22nd and February 3rd. The team has the 72nd best class in the nation and climbing fast. In other words, the Knights are continuing to “Charge On!”

USF

USF was happy to keep head coach Charlie Strong despite his low key meetings with both FSU and Arkansas officials to discuss those job openings back in early December. Strong has built a fantastic relationship with local high school coaches in the Bay Area, but has also done an impressive job of extending his reach to Central Florida, up to Jacksonville, as well as down to the Miami area.  The Bulls have reeled in the number two recruiting class in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and hold a national ranking of 62 for 2018. The Bulls already have 24 signed NLIs, which is tied for the most among all AAC teams. USF is only expecting two more commitments on Wednesday. That number was supposed to be three, but George Jenkins three-star defensive end Jordan Domenick de-committed on Monday night.

Central Florida Players in 247Sports Top 100 – Not Signed

William Barnes - Apopka 

#2 OT in the nation, #10 overall in FL 2018 rankings - UNC, Florida, (maybe Auburn) – The feeling is UNC on Wednesday.

Justin Watkins - East Ridge 

#21 WR in the nation, #20 overall in FL 2018 rankings - VERBAL to Florida (1/20/18) - had been committed to FSU and Texas at different times during process…so the drama isn’t over until he signs! 

Jashaun Corbin - Rockledge 

#6 APB in the nation, #49 overall in FL 2018 rankings  - FSU, Texas A&M the strong front-runners. 

Dennis Briggs - Gateway

#24 DT in the nation…#57 overall in FL 2018 rankings – COMMITTED TO FSU on 1/28/18.

Antoine Green - Rockledge

#60 WR in the nation...#61 overall in FL 2018 rankings - FSU, Georgia, UNC and Ole Miss are involved – Looks like Georgia and UNC are battling for his services above any of the other teams. But watch for FSU.

Ed Montilus - Apopka

#23 OG in the nation…#89 overall in FL 2018 rankings - UNC, Florida and Auburn are in the picture. There is a very real chance that Montilus and Barnes end up together at UNC.  It would be a double-victory for the Tar Heels on Wednesday.