Inside the Gators’ polls such as the Hot 11, Terrific 10, and Great Eight are usually reserved for ranking the performance of University of Florida football players or recruiting targets remaining on the board.
However, this time around we are using it to predict which of the incoming freshmen will be the biggest difference makers during their Gator career.
Trying to predict which high school signees will or won't be capable of making a major contribution on the next level can be a tricky situation.
It is a given that any prospect signed by a major power such as Florida has talent, but what they do with that talent is still an unknown.
Will they continue to develop or have they reached their ceiling? Will they stay injury-free or be injury-prone? Will they have off-the-field issues or be solid citizens?
All of that is is still an unknown. However, with that in mind, here are the Great Eight signees in the class of 2022 based on need, ranking, ability, and future prospects.
8) Defensive End @Jack Py">Jack Pyburn
The Process: There's not much of a recruiting process to talk about. Pyburn was down to Auburn and Miami until Florida, the school his parents attended and he grew up a fan of, entered the picture. From there the Gators wrapped it up with a weekend official visit and an offer.
Constructive Criticism: If he were being projected to remain as an outside linebacker/Buck, yes he has a motor, but I don’t know if he would make the top eight here. However, if he adds just a little more size, he does have upside as a strongside defensive end and may even project better inside if he adds another 30 or so pounds.
The Bottom Line: I’m as big a stargazer as there is, but in this instance, Pyburn comes in as a bit underrated. You have to love his motor, and as a wrestler, his ability to utilize leverage and his hands. He’s probably about two years away from being a key cog somewhere along the line.
7) Running Back Trevor Etienne
The Process: This is one of the more interesting recruiting processes of the cycle in that you had to love Clemson (where his brother Travis Etienne played) or home state LSU. The Jacksonville Jaguars drafting his brother gave Florida and in, which they almost fumbled away when he had trouble contacting the staff over the summer. That got rectified, he visited then, came back for the UF-FSU game, and then on an official visit after he committed to the new staff.
Constructive Criticism: Though they may share a last name, he isn't his brother. Travis is taller, leaner, faster, and more explosive. Trevor is more of a workhorse type. Speaking of a connection to the Jaguars, he actually reminds me a little of former Jacksonville back Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Bottom Line: Etienne is a big recruiting win for Florida because of name and ranking, but I was tempted to put transfer Montrell Johnson in this spot. Like the last staff, Billy Napier and crew like to spread the ball around among multiple backs, so he should get his touches within the first two years.
6) Offensive Tackle Kamryn Waites
The Process: It doesn't appear as though there was a process for Waites. He transferred to Florida from Louisana Lafayette right after Napier took the job.
Constructive Criticism: He's raw, like raw, raw. Not even medium-rare type of raw. He signed with ULL though he didn't play high school football. As a true freshman last year he played in three late-season games with the Ragin Cajuns, but that is the extent of his football experience.
The Bottom Line: There’s no high school highlight tape to see (unless you go back and pull up his snaps late last season), but he does look mobile for someone his size in his basketball film. He is far from a finished project, but if we’re being honest, with as poorly as Florida has recruited across the offensive line, it isn't going to take a superstar to make a dent in the depth chart, and based on athleticism and size, he looks like he has the potential to be a starter down the road.
5) Linebacker Shemar James
The Process: As is the case during a down season or a season when a coaching change is involved, there was a little more drama than there normally would be with someone like James. Back early in the spring, he said Florida had a legitimate shot at him, in part due to his relationship with recruiting support staff member Chase Clark and linebackers coach Christian Robinson. He then narrowed his list to a final two of Alabama and Florida in early May before visiting those two along with Auburn in June. He committed to the Gators not long afterward. That pledge lasted roughly four months before he unofficially visited Georgia, and decommitted from UF in October. From there, it looked as if Florida was dead in the water, but the new staff was able to reel him back in, in part by keeping Clark on staff.
Constructive Criticism: Standing next to him, he isn't the biggest guy. I've seen him listed as high as 220-pounds. If he is, he carries it very well. He definitely needs to gain some size and strength. Plus, where is he in the process of recovering from the injury that cost him some of his senior season and caused him to have to sit out the UA All American Game?
The Bottom Line: He brings something to the table that Florida has been lacking recently, a linebacker with the athleticism to drop into coverage. However, he does look like he will need a year or two in the weight room before he is anywhere near SEC ready.
4) Safety Kamari Wilson
The Process: This was a true definition of a roller coaster recruiting ride. Florida was very much in the picture early on, then it looked like he was trending to Georgia. A summer visit had UF sitting pretty once again, but then when the season came undone it looked like the Gators were on the outside looking in. The catalyst for Florida landing him was the hire of Jamar Chaney to the support staff.
Constructive Criticism: As was clearly on display during UA All American week, he is without questions a physical presence, but he struggles in coverage.
The Bottom Line: Wilson is an in-the-box, safety who will excel playing the run, and while we know he has issues playing man, how does he fare patrolling the middle of the field in coverage? That will be what determines how effective he is in an ever-increasing pass-happy SEC.
3) Offensive Guard Jalen Farmer
The Process: He looked the part back during the summer when he was a standout at a so-so edition of Friday Night Lights. When I saw him, I asked his name and high school, and when he initially told me Eastside, I assumed he meant Gainesville (Fla.) Eastside. Of course, it turned out that it was Covington (Ga.) Eastside. When Florida offered, the other schools showing interest were East Carolina and Georgia Tech. Then, multiple SEC programs offered. It looked like he was heading to either Auburn or Kentucky until Alabama not only offered, but stole UK's offensive line coach, but the Gators withstood the charge from the Tide. He might be the biggest recruiting win for Florida this cycle.
Constructive Criticism: I don't know if there is anything on the field, but off the field, in today’s NIL state of football, he is incredibly quiet. He doesn't talk to the media or get on social media much. That may hurt his earning potential opportunities. I can't think of anything else.
The Bottom Line: After seeing him in person a couple of times, he has legitimate size. When I saw him leaving his official visit, he looked more like an offensive tackle, but he is starting out at guard for the Gators.
2) Cornerback Devin Moore
The Process: Florida was the clear-cut leader back in the spring before he committed to Notre Dame. He visited Gainesville for the game against Alabama and said then that the Gators and Tide were two programs still recruiting him. It began to look like UF was strongly getting back in the picture even before he decommitted from the Irish. Then he had to sort through coaching changes at both UF and ND.
Constructive Criticism: Where the criticism should be directed here is at the recruiting services who didn't bump him up after his showcase week out in San Antonio for the All-American Bowl. If there’s a negative here, it is that he doesn't look like he has spent a great deal of time in the weight room, meaning the UF strength and conditioning staff have a blank canvas to work with.
The Bottom Line: Throughout the process, when he kept saying he was being recruited as a cornerback over and over again, it was brushed off because of his size potential. Even after he looked the part in Texas, three of the four recruiting services list him as a safety. We’ll see if he sticks at corner, or if he becomes a safety with coverage ability.
1) Offensive Guard O'Cyrus Torrence
The Process: It was interesting because you would assume that with Florida’s need along the line combined with the Gators hiring his former coaches at ULL, it would be a slam dunk for UF. However, his mentor told Inside the Gators early in the process that Torrence had a list of top programs, and that while the Gators were in the running, they weren’t the favorite. He visited Auburn and LSU before making an official visit to Florida. At that time he narrowed his list to UF and LSU before picking the Orange & Blue.
Constructive Criticism: What possible negative could there be about gaining a transfer from an All-American? There’s nothing there. The only downside is that he is one good year away from potentially declaring for the NFL, making him just a stop-gap along the line.
The Bottom Line: We were told that he will be inserted at right guard and Florida will build their line out from that. He is the rock.