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2018 Recruiting Momentum from Florida’s Friday Night Lights Continues for McElwain and the Gators

Gators pick up another commitment from 2018 WR Tyquan Thornton

McElwain with campers at 2017 Friday Night Lights courtesy of

Jim McElwain and his staff have been scrutinized for their inability to start fast in recruiting and have begun to change that tune.

The Florida Gators held their annual Friday Night Lights Camp over the weekend that featured some of the best recruits from across the country. Established under the Meyer staff, FNL proved to be a cutting-edge recruiting tool and a way to get recruits on campus in large numbers to interact with the coaching staff and current players.

Rarely did a summer go by where Florida was not able to use this weekend to their advantage, rounding up blue chip commitments and starting recruiting momentum that rolled into the fall. In his two-plus years, McElwain has yet to secure those highly-sought prospects early enough in the recruiting process that they would be able to have a positive affect on the still uncommitted.

McElwain and the Gators staff were able to reverse that narrative for the time being by landing the nation’s No. 7 overall prospect and No. 2 QB in the Rivals 250, 5-star Matt Corral from Long Beach, CA. The 6’2, 185lb QB was in attendance for FNL and is being recruited heavily by all of the heavy hitters since his de-commitment from USC earlier this year.

Before the weekend, recruitniks placed Florida firmly in the hunt to land either Corral or Justin Fields as their future QB and the Gators were able to secure his commitment, essentially wrapping up the position for the 2018 cycle.

As the recruiting rankings currently stand, Corral (No. 7) would be the highest ranked QB the Gators have ever signed; a list that includes Tim Tebow, John Brantley and Jeff Driskel. Fields more than likely will not commit until after his senior season or signing day and the UF staff feels comfortable going forward with Matt Corral being the next to throw himself onto the QB Carousel in Gainesville.

Who else?

Along with the big news of the Corral commitment, the Gators were able to haul in 5 commitments last week and another Tuesday in Tyquan Thornton, a 2018 WR from Booker T. Washington in Miami. The 6’3, 175lb prospect is currently a 3-star prospect but is athletic and has room to grow into his long frame. Thornton is just another example of this staff’s preference for tall, athletic receivers.

Three other big names to commit last week and over the weekend were 4-star New Orleans native WR Ja’Marr Chase, 4-star TE Kyle Pitts from Pennsylvania and 4-star OG Curtis Dunlap. Dunlap is originally from Jacksonville, but will finish his high school career at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL.

Complete list of recent 2018 commitments:

Who’s Next?

The Gators hope to add two more skill players in 4-star Pensacola WR Jacob Copeland and American Heritage Track superstar 4-star Anthony Schwartz who has been clocked at 10.15 in the 100-Meter Dash. The offensive line, an area where McElwain has done well but hopes to continue success with the addition of Brad Davis, looks to add in-state prospects OG William Barnes from Apopka and OT Richard Gouraige from Tampa.

Why is this a big deal?

The momentum the UF Staff has to close the summer cannot be understated. Coach McElwain has returned Friday Night Lights to its former prestige among elite recruiting circles and looks to have his future QB in the bag. Matt Corral announced yesterday that he is on track to graduate early from high school and enroll early at UF in January. He also cancelled his remaining visits (UGA among others) and has begun recruiting on social media for #AllBite18.

This scenario is reminiscent of Tebow being able to help in the recruitment of Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes and others after his early commitment to UF in December of 2005. The ability to have another 5-6 recruiters on the trail this early on behalf of UF will give the coaching staff an added advantage of having their 17 year old commits recruit their own teammates. The coaching staff hopes Corral, Chase, Dunlap, Pitts and crew can help attract more elite talent to the Swamp in this class and classes to come.

Six commitments do not make a recruiting class, but having a head start and a solid foundation of 14 commits is something the McElwain staff has not done in Gainesville to date. Other notable trends are that McElwain has been able to go deep into LSU territory for elite recruits, something that previous Florida coaching staffs have struggled with.

Adding Brad Stewart last cycle and Ja’Marr Chase this cycle certainly bodes well for recruiting in Louisiana in the future. Another place this coaching staff has broken through is in Bradenton at the IMG Academy where the Gators have been continuously unsuccessful on the recruiting trail. Securing a commitment from Curtis Dunlap shows this staff’s ability to mend broken relationships and establish new inroads with powerhouse programs in Florida.

McElwain has made it a point to elevate the recruiting abilities of the coaching staff and so far the additions of Brad Davis (Offensive Line) and Ja’Juan Seider (Running Backs) have proved to be invaluable.

Gator fans should be on the lookout for more commitments coming in the next few weeks as the coaching staff continues to ride the momentum into fall camp. For now, celebrate with coach McElwain and staff as the Gators make a splash in the recruiting world.