Since the news of Dan Mullen's departure, Florida has suffered two decommitments in the form of Isaiah Bond and Jamarrien Burt – while also receiving a pledge from four-star defensive lineman Chris McClellan.
That of course isn’t the end to what is sure to be more defections from the commitment list. If history is any indication, there will be further attrition from the current class. Some due to the prospects wanting to go elsewhere, and some due to the new coaching staff bringing in better options.
Today, Inside the Gators takes a closer look at the situation of all 12 of Florida’s current commitments and ranks them in order of least to most likely to be part of the Gators signing class when it's all said and done.
The ranking is based on the assumption that none of the current assistants are retained and that the new staff actually wants all 12 of these pledges to remain as part of the class. Neither of those assumptions is anywhere near a given.
12) Jalen Farmer: SEC programs such as Auburn and Mississippi State were already making inroads with him before Mullen was let go. With no Mullen or John Hevesy, though he is still publically committed, you would have to think that he is a bit more open. He isn't a big talker, so he hasn't come out and stated his intentions, but we'll watch to see if he takes any visits over these next few weeks.
11) EJ Lightsey: When he visited Florida for their Summer Kickoff Recruiting Event, he did so with the expressed intention to spend more time with Christian Robinson. The same was true when he returned to town for Friday Night Lights. When I spoke with him at the Alabama game, his second UF visit in three weeks, he also raved about Robinson. Clearly, Florida's main tie to him is his projected future position coach. What happens if Robinson isn't retained? He told me also that Alabama game weekend that Auburn, Georgia, and Kentucky were still in contact and then he unofficially visited Georgia earlier this month. Now, if Robinson is retained, he shoots up a good 4-5 spots on this list, but if not…
10) Nick Evers: This is likely the ranking the Gator Nation most hates seeing because of how well he projects to the next level and what he and his parents have meant for Florida’s recruiting to this point. While I do believe that he and his family have a genuine love of the University of Florida, more than any other prospect on this list, his fate will be determined by who the next head coach is. What kind of offense does he want to run? Does he have any ties to other quarterbacks in this cycle? The reason Evers is so low on this listing is that you have to keep in mind that three of Florida's last four head coaches – Urban Meyer (Josh Portis), Will Muschamp (Jacoby Brissett), and Dan Mullen (Emory Jones) – all added quarterbacks to their transitional class that weren't already on Florida's radar before they were hired. As Evers himself explained in a tweet earlier this week, the relationship between a quarterback and the head coach is unique because they have to be in lockstep with one another more so than at any other position. Who that next head coach is will be the biggest determining factor as to whether Evers is or isn't a Gator.
Note: Jim McElwain didn't add a quarterback in his first class, but he did have Clarabelle.
9) Tony Livingston: I am as torn on his level of commitment as I am on where he will eventually lineup on the collegiate level. If he insists on being a tight end – and he told Inside the Gators just a month ago he was down to 221-pounds and playing basketball as a high school senior – can the new staff do better? Is it too late to project what he may be as an offensive tackle given that it might take him two years just to gain enough weight to even compete at the position?
8) Jayden Gibson: Of the 12 current commitments my take on Gibson is that while he does have a great relationship with Billy Gonzales, he is the one who picked Florida in spite of the coaching staff, not because of it. The worry for the Gator Nation here is if this coaching change allows an opening for Georgia to get their foot in the door. Gibson himself told me that he wished the Bulldogs had started recruiting him earlier giving him the chance to get to know him better. If he doesn't sign in December, could this give them a two-month window to get more involved? You know Kirby Smart would love to inflict more pain on the Orange & Blue.
7) Terrance Gibbs: Though I do believe Gibbs is 100-percent in his desire to sign with Florida, he might be the most interesting case among the 12 pledges in that though he is a stud when healthy, is he going to be considered healthy enough to be a take for a staff with no previous ties or thoughts about him? When I saw him in person when he visited for the Alabama game, he said he is coming along in his rehab from a knee injury, but he still had a noticeable limp (that was two months ago). What will the new staff's assessment of him be is the question?
6) Trey Smack: His landing spot is here in the middle of the pack because I have no idea where he stands. He might be the only remaining prospect in this class who I have never communicated with one way or the other. It isn't a lack of effort (I have tweeted at him to follow or DM me at least five times) – we just haven't connected.
5) CJ Smith: As soon as the Mullen news broke, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Tennessee, South Carolina, Michigan, Ole Miss and Louisville all got in touch with Smith. As did Mullen himself, who advised Smith that he should stick with the Gators. While the father and son both love Billy Gonzales, the major factor we are being told is the next coach being on board with Smith also being permitted to run track. Smith is 'open' but committed to Florida and still plans on siging on December 15.
4) Francois Nolton Jr.: The question as to his likelihood of remaining in the class may fall more so on the new staff than on Nolton himself. His father told Inside the Gators earlier this week that they are 1,000-percent locked in with UF and that no other college programs had reached out to them since the news of Mullen's dismissal. That would indicate that there isn't a big market out there for him and Florida may be his best opportunity – leaving the question as to wether or not the new staff is in love with him as he is with Florida?
3) Jamari Lyons: Not only did he co-sign a tweet from fellow commit David Conner that he picked UF for the school, not the coaches, he told Inside the Gators that though several programs have reached out to him, including Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon and South Carolina, but he was also 100-percent going to stick with Florida. I would still be somewhat concerned that the Gamecocks could get in his head, but his mother and grandmother love UF and he wants to be near them.
2) @Chris McCl">Chris McClellan: He committed to Florida without knowing who the head coach would be or which assistant coaches would be retained. That is a pretty strong indication of where his heart is. Also, not to be a Debbie Downer and diminish the recruiting victory for Florida, but he didn't really have the option of picking all of his stated finalists. When you are struggling the way the Gators are, a win is a win, and you'll take them any way you can get them. He said he won't take any other visits other than to UF when the new coach is hired and he will sign in three weeks.
1) David Conner: Not only did he send out the tweet announcing that he picked Florida for the school, not the coaching staff, but he has also been solid in his stance since John Hevesy was let go. He told Inside the Gators that Virginia, FAU, Utah, and North Carolina have all been in contact, but his only upcoming visit is to Florida on December 10 and he will sign with the Gators on December 15.
- Note: This is recruiting, and things change quickly. Now Conner told me he might take a 12/3 visit somewhere, but he isn’t sure yet.