While there were some top-end skill position prospects in attendance, for the most part this was a lineman-dominated camp. Part of that was because of a national 7-on-7 being held out in Las Vegas.
Prospects such as quarterback Adrian Posse, running back Treyaun Webb, receiver Tyler Williams, athlete Cedrick Hawkins, receiver Darren Lawrence, defensive linemen Gavin Hill, and Dylan Stephenson, and linebacker Adarius Hayes all were scheduled to attend, but didn't.
Note: Because of the lack of offensive skill position players, most notably quarterbacks, I didn't stay all the way through to see the receiver/defensive back one-on-one battles.
Even with those defections, there were still plenty of Florida targets in attendance.
* One of the first in-state visits new Florida head coach Billy Napier made back in January was to Lehigh (Fla.) to check in on five-star back Richard Young. It doesn't seem to have made much of an impression so far. When we spoke to him at this very event last spring, he seemed to be looking more at out-of-state programs. That still seems to be the case as he talked some Ohio State and Oklahoma while wearing an Alabama backpack. As quiet as he is, it's hard though to get a feel for what he is going to do. Florida's connection with his coach (Chaney) could certainly play in the Gators favor to a degree, but it doesn't feel like UF is in a great position early on.
* He still has three years of high school ball remaining, but North Palm Beach (Fla.) Benjamin running back Chauncey Bowens already has SEC type of size at 5-foot-11, 210-pounds. He said Florida State and Miami are recruiting him the hardest. He visited Florida last month and said he plans to return sometime this spring to watch a practice.
* Who knows what kind of reception Florida will get at Miami (Fla.) Edison after high school coach, Luke Campbell, put out a Twitter video criticizing Napier and staff for asking former Florida commit Francois Nolton to do a workout video. If UF is still able to, they might be a player for 2024 running back Gerald Modest. He isn't the biggest back, going roughly 5-foot-9, 160-pounds, but he showed some shiftiness on Sunday. He said Pitt is recruiting him the hardest right now, and that other staffs are telling him they want to see him in the spring.
* When Melbourne (Fla.) Holy Trinity 2024 receiver DayDay Farmer camped at Florida last summer, his high school coach told us that he was further along in his development at that stage than Marcus Maye was at the same stage. On Sunday, though he didn't know the official time, Farmer said that he was told that he ran one of the fastest 40 times. As far as recruiting is concerned, it's still early but said that he has 15 offers already and Florida, Georgia, and Miami are some programs that are sticking out to him.
* Though he is listed at 325-pounds, I would bet that Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips four-star offensive lineman Payton Kirkland is at least 25-pounds heavier than that. Despite the added weight, he still moved pretty well for his size. Two years ago – and yes that is forever in recruiting – Florida seemed to be the early team to beat, but then started to fade. The Gators are back in contention, and he said he will visit Gainesville the first weekend of March, but he also really likes Georgia and Ohio State.
* From when we saw him last year at this same camp, where he was named the Co-MVP of the offensive line, until today, Orange Park (Fla.) offensive lineman Roderick Kearney looks like he has put on a good 30 or more pounds of pure muscle. He was definitely one of the most put-together linemen at the camp. Last spring he told us he grew up a Florida fan, but as we highlighted in our Behind the Scenes feature of recruiting under Mullen, the previous staff ignored him for months. That gave other programs a chance to get their foot in the door. He arrived wearing an FSU camp t-shirt, but said not to read anything into it. The new Florida staff has been in contact, and have offered, but what could have been a slam dunk had the previous staff been on the ball, now looks like UF has some work to do.
Aside from the recruiting aspect of it. I was shocked when he was named the Offensive Line MVP. Yes, in a two-hour camp, the two-to-five reps kids get during one-on-one drills is a very small portion of the overall grade, but Kearney, who held his own at guard, got badly worked on his last two reps that I saw at right tackle. He might be slotted inside on the next level whether he likes it or not.
* On the other hand, someone who does move very well for his size is Clearwater (Fla.) CAI offensive tackle Lucas Simmons. During warmups, while other linemen were able to go down as far as mid-calf to their ankles while bending over, even at 6-foot-7, Simmons was limber enough to all but touch his palms on the ground. He also looked good where they do the drill sinking their hips. He is long and slender right now, but has the frame to be a monster on the next level. He visited Florida twice last season, including for the Alabama game. On Sunday he didn't talk about leaders, but said he wants to take upcoming trips to Florida State, Southern Cal, and Florida.
Simmons said that he doesn't have a leaderboard: “I'm just focused on building and developing relationships right now.”
As for the message from Florida coaches: “They're excited about me and want to get me to Gainesville ASAP.”
* Class of 2024 lineman Jason Zandamela hails from the same school. He goes about 6-foot-4, 270-pounds, and was manhandling kids two classes above him. He said that Florida State is standing out the most right now and he plans on visiting the Seminoles and Miami over the spring.
When asked about contact with Florida: “Not yet, but UF has always been up there in the schools I would like to go to. Hopefully, they get in contact with me and my coaches and maybe I could go to campus.”
* Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade Madonna had three big linemen out there in Elvin Harris – 6-foot-6, 300-pounds, Deandre Duffus – 6-foot-4, 320-pounds, and Willliam Larkins.
Larkins said that Florida, Indiana, Miami and Michigan are recruiting him. He has spoken with Florida's new offensive line coach. “I’ve talked to Coach Sale. He was just telling me that he wants me to go up there to watch some practices.”
* Rockledge (Fla.) offensive lineman Bryce Lovett was a standout at last summer's Elite Camp under the previous staff and then received an offer from the new staff.
The 6-foot-4, 315-pounder visited Florida last month and said he will return during the spring. He also is looking at Missouri, where his brother plays, Arkansas, where he will visit on March 5th, and Iowa State.
He said that there are no leaders: “All the schools I have are recuiting me pretty hard, so it’s hard to pick who’s sticking out right now.”
* Fort Pierce (Fla.) John Carroll defensive end Wilky Denaud camped at Florida last summer.
He then returned to campus for the Florida-Alabama game. He walked away with the Defensive Line MVP award on Sunday. He said he hasn't spoken yet with new Florida defensive line coach Shawn Spencer yet, but of course, being from Fort Pierce, he does have contact with Recruiting Support Staff assistant Jamar Chaney. He said that he plans on visiting the UF campus sometime in March.
* Though he came off the edge during one-on-one drills on Sunday, it may be too early to label Kissimmee (Fla.) Osceola defensive lineman Derrick LeBlanc as a defensive end or a defensive tackle. He has the burst to play outside, but he has the frame to eventually move inside to be a 300-pound tackle as well. Last year, before the bottom fell out, Florida was in very good shape for him, but then other programs started trending. After his unofficial in January, the Gators are once again gaining a foothold. He talked up Coach 'Chaos' and Florida has really made this a race. There are a lot of top programs on his list right now, including Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia. These are the kind of in-state battles though the new staff has to win.
* I don't care about the awards, the most dominant lineman during one-on-one drills was Kissimmee (Fla.) Osceola defensive tackle John Walker. Though bull-rushing isn't supposed to be allowed in a camp setting such as this, that is exactly what the 6-foot-3, 310-pounder did, getting up under the offensive lineman and walking him back to the quarterback. Walker is being recruited by the likes of Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State and others. He is wide open in recruiting but talked about enjoying his visit to Florida in January. He reminds me so much of former Florida tackle Ian Scott.
* It will be two more cycles before Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard defensive lineman Armondo Blount is on the clock, but he is already starting to garner major attention. He was singled out as a top performer post-game. As you might expect, he said his recruitment is 'neutral' but he plans on visiting Ohio State and Oklahoma this spring. No mention yet of the in-state schools. Keep an eye on this 6-foot-3, 245-pounder to be a major prospect down the road.
* Saint Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood's Isaiah Nixon is listed as an athlete because the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder could project to either defensive end, outside linebacker or tight end on the next level. Florida offered him a week ago and Auburn and Georgia quickly followed suit.
* One of the most disappointing performances had to come from Orlando (Fla.) Jones five-star Malik Bryant. He was listed with the linebackers, but instead chose to join the defensive line group. Though he has room to add weight, he doesn't have a lot of length, looking like he may be in the 6-foot-2 range. On the recruiting front he talked glowingly about his visit to Florida and how much he likes the new staff, but wasn't ready to talk leaders at this time.
* He hasn't gotten a great deal of attention to this point, but Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker Jamarcus Smith was one of the better-looking linebackers on Sunday. He has some smaller offers like Coastal Carolina and Marshall, but expect him to start to get some Power 5 looks as he hits the camp circuit over the spring and summer.
* He may only be in the Class of 2024, but Palm Coast F(la.) Flagler linebacker Rodney Hill was recognized as the best linebacker at the event. He still has a ways to go recruiting-wise, but said that Tennessee has already started recruiting him. He also said he would like to visit Florida's campus.
* Another linebacker who is still a youngster is Class of 2024 Nicholas Rodriguez out of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas. Of course you can't tell how physical a linebacker is in a setting like this, and he is a bit slender at 6-foot-2, 195-pounds, but he was the most agile linebacker at the event. He could actually be a defensive back.
* Miami (Fla.) Christian School 2023 cornerback Antonio Robinson was a standout during Florida's Elite Camp last June, so much so that he received one of the first invites for Friday Night Lights in July.
He is still a bit on the smaller side but is getting a ton of interest. He said he is hearing from North Carolina, Penn State, Pitt, Arkansas, Mississippi St., South Florida, West Virginia, Wake Forest, and Ole Miss. He has an ambitious spring-summer campus tour schedule of 14 stops, including one to Gainesville.
* Venice (Fla.) four-star safety Elliot Washington is currently committed to Alabama, and said that he will visit the Tide on March 5. However, he said he is still hearing from other programs, including Georgia, Penn St, Ole Miss, FSU, Michigan St., and Florida.
* We first saw Lake Wales (Fla.) three-star cornerback Jaremiah Anglin at a camp session last summer. A high school teammate of Florida defensive tackle Gervon Dexter, he plans on visiting the Gators in March. He also likes South Carolina and Florida State early on.
* While Florida is chasing big dogs such as AJ Harris, Cormani McClain, and Tony Mitchell they haven't been after Tampa (Fla.) Wharton three-star Dijon Johnson to this point. He has interest from Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State, but said he hasn't spoken with Florida's Corey Raymond yet and doesn't have a trip planned to see the Gators. Obviously, if UF can close on the top three kids at the position, there's little chance of going this far down the board, but he's still a name to keep an eye on just in case.
* I didn't get a chance to speak to them to see who they like early on in recruiting, but Miami (Fla.) Edison 2024 linemen Chenellson and Dinellson Exume are two prospects to keep an eye out for.