Over the last two weeks of spring football, Inside the Gators has hit the road in order to see eight of Florida's top in-state targets in person. After speaking with each of them, as well as those surrounding them on a daily basis, here's our Recruiting Road Trip Insider Notes.
LAKELAND (FLA.) LAKE GIBSON
* The No. 1 overall prospect in the state, Cormani McClain, told Inside the Gators that he was still standing on the top eight he released back in February. Though he said he is still considering Alabama, BYU, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, and Oregon, he told me that there are three who will be there until the end. Actually, at first, he said Alabama and Florida and then added Miami at the end.
As always, you have to be concerned with the Tide, they have a history of cherry-picking the Sunshine State, but in this instance, it feels a whole lot like he is Florida's to lose at this point.
It's one thing when you see him or talk to him on campus and get the feeling that Florida is the runaway leader for the services of That is expected to a degree. However, when you see him light up and talk so glowingly of what Florida has to offer from amenities to the coaching staff to proximity when he hasn't been on campus for a couple of weeks, you really start to feel like his inking with the Orange & Blue is becoming all but a forgone conclusion.
In Conclusion: This is an SEC battle between Alabama and Florida with the Gators holding a pretty sizeable lead.
* 2023 three-star offensive lineman Gernorris Wilson has visited Florida a few times this spring, but he hasn't been on the Gators' radar as of yet. He does have some big offers though, from the likes of Kentucky, Louisville, and Oregon. He is sitting out the spring while nursing a knee issue, which he was wearing a brace, but said he should be fine by the summer.
In Conclusion: Florida isn't likely to offer Wilson.
*2024 four-star safety Brayshon Williams has been to Florida on multiple occasions over the spring and he has continued to pick up offers. So far, Florida, Georgia, and Miami are some of the biggest names after him. Yes, the Gators are in good shape early on, and it will only strengthen if (when) his teammate McClain becomes a Gator, but there's still a long way to go here before what he says and feels becomes pertinent.
In Conclusion: The Gators look good early on, but of course, there’s still a long way to go for a prospect still a cycle away. The key here is for UF to continue to get Williams on campus.
* The No. 28 ranked prospect in the state, wideout Tyler Williams is hard to get a read on. Though he has released a top 10 consisting of Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Stanford, Southern Cal, and South Florida, he's hard to get a read on. He has only been at Lakeland for a little over a year to this point, so he doesn't have maybe the ties to the program that other Dreadnaught players have that led the school to be a pipeline to Gainesville. He unofficially visited UF in April and has official visits set to Clemson and Georgia.
Talking to some around the program on my visit there, no one really had a feeling for where he is leaning.
Florida is definitely going to need to get him back on campus to become a bigger factor for him.
In Conclusion: Though Florida made his initial list, the Gators have some work to do in order to be a bigger player for his services.
* A Lakeland player who does have ties to Florida is 2023 wide receiver Daidren Zipperer, the brother of Gators tight end Keon Zipperer. He is approaching 10 offers, and actually, earned one from Kentucky the day I visited for practice.
In Conclusion: ven though UF's receiver board isn't incredible, it's doubtful they will need to extend and offer here.
* As always, Lakeland is loaded with athletes, but other than Williams I don't know if any will rise to the level of being recruited by the SEC. Linebacker Twan Wilson could be a name to keep an eye on.
ORLANDO (FLA.) BOONE
* I didn't stay to watch practice since wideout Aidan Mizell, the No. 21 ranked prospect in the state, didn't participate in football that day while prepping for this weekend's State Track Championships. On the record Mizell didn't really go much into who he is currently interested in, saying he will release a top seven this coming Friday. However, he did have some good things to say about Florida (his parents' alma mater) and the current coaching staff. It goes without saying that the Gators will be included on his leaderboard. One thing he made clear though is that football will be what he bases his decision upon, not football and track. Though he wants to run track on the next level, it won't be his priority.
In Conclusion: If the old staff was still in place, he wouldn’t be included in this write-up, they bungled his recruiting that badly. With the new staff though, Florida is not only in the picture, but should be a shoo-in to be included in his top seven next week. From there, it will take getting him back on campus over the summer and then get an official visit this fall.
ORLANDO (FLA.) EDGEWATER
* As a rule, you follow what a prospect does more so than what he says. Well, the No. 9 rated prospect in the state, running back Cedric Baxter Jr. showed up to practice wearing a Miami Hurricanes shirt. He said that it didn't signify anything, but obviously he at the very least likes those colors.
Earlier this spring I felt like Florida had some ground to make up with him, and obviously, they have, to the point that I included him in my updated Mock Class two weeks ago. However, as I clearly state in each write-up, it is based on where I believe the prospect would sign on that day.
In Conclusion: If you asked me today, to me it would be a toss-up between UF and UM. It's close. Maybe even a coinflip at this time.
* A name that could be rising up the rankings over the summer after he participates in some camps is 6-foot-5, 210-pound tight end Camp Magee. Clemson had two coaches out evaluating him (they were watching him, not Baxter) this week and he said that they told him that they want to see him at camp before they offer. Miami and Vanderbilt are also in the mix. He averaged over 20 yards per catch last year as a junior.
The most interesting part of our conversation is that he said he visited Florida State, but he really didn't enjoy the vibes. It's hard to get a prospect to come out and say he didn’t like a visit. That doesn’t happen often and shows that either he is an anomaly, or there might be some disfunction up there.
In Conclusion: Is he a tight end or a big receiver? With Florida’s tight end board being all but non-existent – perhaps they kick the tires here down the road?
ORLANDO (FLA.) JONES
* Florida assistant coach Jay Bates was on hand the same day Inside the Gators was there to see the No. 10 prospect in the state, linebacker/defensive end Malik Bryant. Though he lists Alabama, Florida, Miami, Southern Cal, and UCF, many believe it is a battle between the Tide and the Gators.
He will officially visit Florida on June 10th and then Miami and Southern Cal in June as well.
Now the interesting part, he said that when he announces his choice on July 23rd (he'll have three official visits in the books), it won't necessarily be the end of his recruiting process.
I have been told that if Alabama wants him to visit in the fall, he will do that and no matter where he pledges in two months if the Tide apply pressure, they will be hard to beat.
In Conclusion: It may not matter what happens in July if the Tide comes in later on and pushes for his services.
* 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end Dylan Wade is starting to see his stock tick upward. He has recent offers from Kentucky, Maryland and West Virginia. Florida hasn't got involved with him yet, but he's worth keeping an eye on.
In Conclusion: Much like with Camp above, with the tight end board in the shape its in, will UF be forced to go back and take a closer look at some of these in-state tight ends?
* We first laid eyes on 2024 defensive tackle D'Antre Robinson at a Florida camp last June. The Gators previous staff offered immediately after the camp and the new staff has stayed in contact. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder also has offers from the likes of Florida State, Georgia, Miami, and Tennessee. He doesn't have any early favorites but should come up with a list after taking some visits this summer.
In Conclusion: There’s still a ways to go with a 2024 prospect, but without a doubt, he made it clear that Florida will be a contender.
KISSIMMEE (FLA.) OSCEOLA
* I've spoken to defensive tackle John Walker, the No. 18 ranked prospect in the state, multiple times over the last couple of years and I've always gotten an out-of-state vibe from him. Speaking with him and some of those around him on Thursday, despite his visit to Florida on Friday, I still get that feeling.
When I asked him for a leaderboard he replied he had a top six. When I asked him to name them, he replied, “Alabama, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Central Florida, Michigan, and Miami” before adding that it is actually a top seven, including Florida. That would lead you to believe that the Gators are in seventh place. However, when I asked about his official visits, he said he has four set up in June to see the Buckeyes, Knights, Trojans, and Wolverines and will take his fifth and final one during the season to Florida – which would lead you to believe that UF is in at least his top five.
One thing is, he said he wouldn't make his decision until after he takes all five official visits.
In Conclusion: To be frank about it, I don't know where Florida stands. At the very least, he said that the Gators will get an official visit and you can probably count on him making a few more visits to UF over the summer and into the fall.
* In our on-camera interview, one of the first things I said to defensive lineman Derrick LeBlanc – the No. 14 ranked prospect in the state – was to joke about him being at Florida so much that they should start charging him rent. Two days later, he was back in Gainesville once again.
The top seven he listed in December – Central Florida, Clemson, Florida, Miami, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Penn State – are still his top seven today. He added that OU, PSU, UF, and UM are four programs that he feels will be there until the end.
On and off camera he spoke highly of the Gators' new coaching staff. One thing he is still trying to figure out is his official visit schedule. He has Florida and Penn State set up for June but doesn't have dates for the other three.
The third of the three Orlando area prospects announcing on July 23rd, LeBlanc said that when he pledges that day, that will be the end of the recruiting process, so, if another program is to be a real factor – and I expect Miami to be – they would have to get that visit set up soon.
In Conclusion: You can't spend five minutes with him without coming to the conclusion that not only is Florida in damn good shape here, but something would have to change for him not to choose the Gators in July. Miami is a program to keep an eye on though.
* With what Florida currently has on the board at cornerback, it would probably take the bottom falling out for Florida to make a run at Ja'Keem Jackson, the No. 105 rated prospect in the state for this cycle. He has heard from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, and Miami, but really likes Tennessee and Penn State early on. He looks like he has the size to play safety on the next level.
* Class of 2025 running back Taevion Swint already has offers from the likes of Florida, Florida State, Michigan, and many others. He said he, obviously, doesn't have any leaders or get the feeling that any one or two programs are recruiting him harder than the rest. If he stays healthy and continues to develop at this pace, he will be – at least – a top 20 type of prospect in-state a couple of years down the road.
ORLANDO (FLA.) DR. PHILLIPS
* The No. 52 ranked prospect in the state according to the On3 Consensus, offensive lineman Payton Kirkland has a stated final five of Alabama, Florida, Miami, Michigan State, and Oklahoma. Interestingly enough, he will officially visit all but Alabama in June – and said that's all he will take before announcing his decision on July 23.
Regarding that announcement, unlike Malik Bryant, who said that the announcement won't mean the end of his recruiting process, Kirkland on the other hand said that once he commits, it's over.
As of today, next to Cormani McClain and Derrick LeBlanc, you would have to like Kirkland as being the third most likely prospect in this update to actually end up in this class. Though UF leads, you have to watch out for Miami here as well.
To gauge how important a prospect he is for Florida, both Rob Sale and Darnell Singleton were also at his scrimmage.
In Conclusion: With his mother playing such a big role in his life, and his decision, it's hard to imagine him going out of state. Florida is the favorite, but Miami isn’t giving up (they had their offensive line coach out there Thursday as well).
* 2025 defensive tackle Jowhar Franklin is an unknown, for now at least. The 6-foo-t5, 320-pounder is just starting to hear from college coaches after sitting out the 2021 football season because of transfer rules. Right after Florida coaches saw him on Thursday, Joe Hamilton, Jay Bateman and Darnell Stapleton all started following him on Twitter.
Another 2025 name to know at running back is Amari Major. He is originally from the Muck and has already visited Florida a couple of times.