2023 Recruiting Profile: Can Florida make late push for 5-star OT Samson Okunlola?

After missing out on most of the high-profile in-state offensive tackles, can Florida land this elite OT from the northeast?

When Billy Napier and his staff touched base with five-star offensive tackle [autotag]Samson Okunlola[/autotag] in February, the Gators were prioritizing in-state targets at the position such as [autotag]Payton Kirkland[/autotag] (Oklahoma), [autotag]Francis Mauigoa[/autotag] (Miami) and [autotag]Tommy Kinsler[/autotag] (flipped from Florida to Miami). All three of them landed elsewhere, and now Florida’s best shot at landing a blue-chip tackle might the top-20 recruit from out-of-state.

Okunlola is a big 6-foot-5-inch, 305-pounder out of Thayer Academy in Brockton, Massachusetts. He’s the kind of prep player that’s never truly been on a field of athletes that can match up to his size, and his ability has him ranked in the top 15 by most services. That’s top 15 in the class of 2023, not just at his position.

Of course, a talent like that comes with fierce competition, and the favorite to land him is the same school that’s been dominating the recruiting trail for the past couple of weeks —  Miami. The Hurricanes are a 95.3% favorite according to the On3 recruiting prediction machine, and the experts at 247Sports have also cast crystal balls in UM’s favor.

Alabama, Miami and Michigan State are the three schools that have hosted him on official visits so far, and he’s named six other schools to a top nine that he can pick from for his final two visits. Florida is one of those six schools and needs to get the official visit to make a late push.

There’s certainly a need at the position for Florida, and it would be easy to promise early playing time to a player of his caliber. Of the top 15 offensive tackles in the class, Okunlola is the highest rated at 14th overall on the 247Sports composite. [autotag]Zalance Heard[/autotag] and [autotag]Monroe Freeling[/autotag] are around the No. 60 mark and also options for the Gators.

2023 Recruiting Profile: Will 4-star S Jordan Castell commit to UF after moving decision date?

The Gators are looking to add four-star safety Jordan Castell to the class of 2023 on Saturday, July 30. He previously named Florida, Alabama and Tennessee to his top 3.

Florida missed out on consensus top-5 safety [autotag]Joenel Aguero[/autotag] on July 23 to Georgia but the Gators still have a chance to nab another four-star safety in West Orange’s [autotag]Jordan Castell[/autotag] before the month closes out.

Castell visited Florida and Tennessee in June and quickly moved up his commitment date to July 30. He named a top three of the Gators, Volunteers and Alabama Crimson Tide but hasn’t been to Tuscaloosa since the end of January.

That has many in Gator Nation believing that Castell will be picking up an orange and blue hat on Saturday, and the experts agree. On3’s recruiting prediction machine has UF as the 96.2% favorite less than a week out and 247Sports has six crystal balls logged in favor of the Gators. That’s about as sure as it gets, but we did just see four-star offensive tackle [autotag]Payton Kirkland[/autotag] pick Texas, a school he never visited, over Florida last weekend.

Nothing is official until the decision is in, but Florida seems to be in an ideal spot to add another name to the class of 2023 this week.

2023 Recruiting Profile: Can Florida land 4-star safety Joenel Aguero?

One of the top safeties in the class of 2023, four-star Joenel Aguero, has UF in his top four and will announce his decision on July 23.

One of Florida’s top out-of-state targets is four-star safety [autotag]Joenel Aguero[/autotag] out of St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts. He’s set to make his college decision on July 23 and will choose among the Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Miami Hurricanes and Ohio State Buckeyes.

Georgia is considered the heavy favorite with a 93.6% chance on the recruiting prediction machine, but Florida has done its best to compete with the Bulldogs for the former IMG Academy defensive back. Aguero has shown interest in reuniting with former teammate [autotag]Kamari Wilson[/autotag] in the Gators’ secondary and has developed decent relationships with safeties coach [autotag]Patrick Toney[/autotag] and cornerbacks coach [autotag]Corey Raymond[/autotag].

[autotag]Billy Napier[/autotag] and Co. hosted him on an official visit in June, but it was sandwiched between trips to Georgia and Ohio State, and Miami ended up getting the final visit. Mario Cristobal has been on a tear lately, so this would be a nice win over both UM and UGA for Napier if he can pull it off.

Here’s all you need to know about the blue-chip defensive back.

2023 Recruiting Profile: 4-star WR Eugene Wilson III deciding between UF and TAMU

The Gators could add another receiver to the class of 2023 if four-star Eugene Wilson picks UF over Texas A&M.

Wide receiver was a position of need for [autotag]Billy Napier[/autotag] and the Florida Gators coming into the 2023 recruiting cycle. Adding [autotag]Ricky Pearsall[/autotag] through the transfer portal and earning commitments from [autotag]Tyree Patterson [/autotag]and [autotag]Creed Whittemore[/autotag] might be enough to fill the holes in Florida’s depth chart, but there’s another pass catcher that Napier and Co. are looking to add: four-star Gaither High receiver [autotag]Eugene Wilson III[/autotag].

A Tampa-area product, Wilson is among the uncommitted receivers left at the top of Florida’s board and things look good for the orange and blue. He’s called UF his dream school in the past and quickly picked up recruiting predictions from both 247Sports and On3 after visiting campus in early March.

He’s since returned to Gainesville on three more occasions, including what’s looking like the final official visit of his recruitment (June 17). Texas A&M is the other school left in the race, and there’s some confidence that it’s a toss-up between the two programs, but Florida is considered the favorite here.

While he doesn’t have a specific date in mind for when he’ll announce his commitment, Wilson says a decision is close. Here is a deeper look at one of Florida’s top offensive targets:

2023 Recruiting Profile: 4-star Will Norman would shore up Florida’s DL

The Gators are well-positioned to land a commitment from four-star IMG Academy defensive lineman Will Norman, who hopes to decide before his senior season starts.

It’s no secret that [autotag]Billy Napier[/autotag] is looking to bring IMG Academy’s best to Gainesville, and he’s managed to do it a few times already in his short time as Florida’s head coach. Five-star safety [autotag]Kamari Wilson[/autotag] headlined the transition class and will be a true freshman this season, and four-star [autotag]Knijeah Harris[/autotag] is committed to the Gators’ recruiting class of 2023.

Now, a third Ascender is close to joining the mix, four-star defensive lineman [autotag]Will Norman[/autotag]. Experts from 247Sports and On3 have predicted that he’ll land at Florida, and he outright said that UF was in his top two following a June official visit (the only one he took over the summer break).

Penn State has a crystal ball logged in their favor by a Florida State insider, but that came months before the others and it seems like Norman is Florida’s to lose at this point. Although the other team in his top two is unknown, it’s likely one of his previous top five and the Nittany Lions fit the bill.

Landing Norman would be huge for Florida considering Gervon Dexter could be headed to the NFL draft after this season. Adding depth to the trenches has been a priority for Bill Napier since arriving at Florida, and a commitment would shore things up for the future on the defensive line.

Norman’s plan is to make a decision before his senior season begins, and it appears he’s still on track with that timeline.

2023 Recruiting Profile: Will 5-star OL Francis Mauigoa stay in Florida?

Five-star offensive lineman Francis Mauigoa keeps coming back to Florida and Billy Napier’s staff keeps impressing him. Could the blue-chip recruit wind up a Gator?

Florida’s new head coach [autotag]Billy Napier[/autotag] broke the IMG Academy curse almost immediately after taking over at UF by landing five-star safety [autotag]Kamari Wilson[/autotag] out of the Bradenton powerhouse. He’s added four-star interior offensive lineman [autotag]Knijeah Harris[/autotag], but one of the biggest targets Florida has out of IMG is five-star [autotag]Francis Mauigoa[/autotag].

At worse, he’s a top-25 prospect and his ceiling is being the best offensive lineman to come out of the class. It’ll take a lot of work to get there, but Mauigoa plans on making it to the NFL so he can return home to American Samoa and share his success.

Mauigoa has kept a steady line of communication with the Gators over the last year or so. Offensive line coaches [autotag]Rob Sale[/autotag] and [autotag]Darnell Stapleton[/autotag] have taken the lead and the rest of the staff has gotten to know him as well after several visits to the Swamp.

His most recent trip on June 14, which was one of his five official visits, was the best one yet. He’s developing relationships with players and coaches alike and Florida seems well-positioned to stay near the top of his recruitment down the stretch.

2023 Recruiting Profile: 5-star QB Dylan Lonergan still an option for Florida?

Florida hasn’t locked in on one quarterback just yet, but Dylan Lonergan remains an option after naming the Gators in his top five.

Billy Napier did add three-star quarterback [autotag]Max Brown[/autotag] in his transitional 2022 recruiting class, but there’s still pressure on the first-year coach to strike big in the signal-caller department after getting a full year to recruit. One of those options is four-star Brookwood (Georgia) quarterback [autotag]Dylan Lonergan[/autotag].

A standout athlete in two sports, football and baseball, Lonergan has narrowed down his options to just five schools and Florida made the cut. The Gators appear to be the weakest link as of now with official visits scheduled with three other programs in his top five, but that could change if Napier is able to get Lonergan on campus.

Being able to play baseball in college is a big part of his decision, and there’s no guarantee [autotag]Kevin O’Sullivan[/autotag] makes it work. [autotag]Miguel Mitchell[/autotag], a defensive back signee in the 2022 class, is expected to play both sports though, so it’s likely an option if the football team wants him that badly.

Still, things have been relatively quiet between Florida and Lonergan since he named them in his top five and the recruitment of [autotag]Jaden Rashada[/autotag] might be a sign that the Gators are moving away from him. A decision is expected to come in July, so Florida would need to get him on campus quickly to jump back into the conversation.

Peter Woods’ Recruiting Profile


2023 Recruiting Profile: 5-star CB Tony Mitchell among nation’s top DBs

Here is how things break down for Florida’s pursuit of 5-star CB Tony Mitchell.

Cornerback [autotag]Tony Mitchell[/autotag] from Alabaster, Alabama, is a blue-chip prospect out of Thompson High and among the top defensive backs in the 2023 recruiting class. The 6-foot-2-inch, 180-pound high school junior is viewed overwhelmingly by the major scouting organizations as one of the best talents in the nation who projects to be a major game-changer at the next level.

According to 247Sports’ Cooper Petagna‘s scouting report, Mitchell possesses a physique that is well suited for the game and should be able to bulk up down the road. His athleticism in the defensive backfield derives more from the smoothness of his motion rather than raw explosiveness possessing above-average play speed. Mitchell appears to be capable at all spots in the secondary but fits best in the slot and as a deep safety — the latter of which he is likely to land though he is perfectly capable at the corners as well.

Mitchell has amassed 123 solo and 78 assisted tackles over the course of his high school career, with 16 coming for a loss, while snagging seven interceptions for 301 return yards along with three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries for 112 yards returned. Playing some wide receiver his freshman year, Mitchell also tallied 69 yards on three receptions thanks to a longest play of 58 yards.

He originally committed to the Tennessee Volunteers when he was in eighth grade but decommitted prior to starting high school after feeling uneasy about the decision.

Tony Mitchell’s Recruiting Profile


5-star EDGE gets Gators visit despite commitment to Notre Dame

The Gators are hoping to flip this in-state stud to the Orange and Blue.

Florida football recruiting remains in high gear as the program transitions from the spring practice schedule into the summer season, both traveling great distances to meet with some of the best of the 2023 prospect class while welcoming others on campus for a tour of what the university has to offer.

College football recruiting has become a high-stakes game with teams constantly looking to undercut their opposition to land the top prospects in the land. The Gators have no qualms with this reality as new head coach [autotag]Billy Napier[/autotag] and his staff look to rebuild a once-proud program left in shambles by the previous regime.

One of Florida’s top targets among those already taken is five-star EDGE [autotag]Keon Keeley[/autotag] from Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep, who is currently committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach [autotag]Sean Spencer[/autotag] made the trip down I-75 on Thursday to check him out after returning from a swing through Texas to visit recruits in the Lone Star State.

Outside linebackers coach Mike Peterson has been at the forefront so far, spending the most time among the Gators staff with the blue-chip prospect. During the time spent with him, Keeley shared the following with 247Sports on what his recruitment has entailed so far.

“Just how I’d fit in the defense and being the Jack on the defense, playing the edge, roaming around, rushing the passer. Just using speed, length, athleticism just to help the defense and going a couple different positions, different formations and just helping out the team where they see me fit in that kind of position.”

The 6-foot-5-inch, 240-pound EDGE defender does not have any future visits to Gainesville set yet but has not ruled out the possibility of returning to campus despite his current commitment. He is currently ranked No. 9 overall and No. 1 at his position nationally by the 247Sports Composite while the On3 Consensus has him at Nos. 9 and 1, respectively.

On3’s Recruiting Prediction Machine has Florida in second place for his services with a 20.7% chance of flipping him to the Orange and Blue.

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2023 Recruiting Profile: DL Derrick LeBlanc is one of UF’s top targets

Here is how things break down for Florida’s pursuit of 4-star DL Derrick LeBlanc.

Defensive lineman [autotag]Derrick LeBlanc[/autotag] out of Kissimmee, Florida, is a blue-chip prospect out of Osceola High and one of the best the 2023 recruiting class has to offer on the defensive side of the trench. The 6-foot-4-inch, 270-pound high school junior is a bit up-and-down in the prospect rankings depending on which you look at but nonetheless is still among the best in the country at his position.

The scouting report according to 247Sports’ Cooper Petagna describes LeBlanc as a versatile athlete with an ideal frame that still has potential for more growth along with a great deal of flexibility in the lower body. He has the ability to slot in at multiple positions on the D-line, and while his tools still need refining, he has the natural talent necessary to make the jump to the next level.

Over his three-year varsity high school career, LeBlanc has recorded 48 solo and 51 assisted tackles while amassing 17 sacks and 15 QB hurries along with six passes defended, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 31 games. In his junior season alone, he tallied 38 total tackles while sacking the opponent eight times.

Derrick LeBlanc’s Recruiting Profile