NSDXIX

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Updates

3:28 pm | Dec 19, 2018
WATCH: Mullen's NSD Press Conference

The Gators are practicing this afternoon in preparation for their Dec. 29 game against Michigan in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Afterward, Florida head coach Dan Mullen will hold a press conference to discuss National Signing Day.

Florida signed 20 players Wednesday, 12 from the state of Florida and eight from out of state (Georgia 3, Alabama 2, Virginia 1, Louisiana 1, Maryland 1).

Watch Mullen's press conference at approximately 6:15 p.m. ET.


3:16 pm | Dec 19, 2018
Inside Gators' Hub on National Signing Day

 

 


3:06 pm | Dec 19, 2018
Former Prep Teammate Wright Special Player in Russell's View

Randy Russell never shied away from contact as a hard-hitting defensive back at Carol City High in Miami. Running back Ney'Quan Wright would soon run over a defender as around him.

To keep two of the team's top players healthy, coaches limited their one-on-one battles.

"They felt like we would probably hurt each other at practice,'' Russell said Wednesday. "He is one of the hardest players to tackle I've ever played against."

A 5-foot-9, 195-pound mixture of speed, power and soft hands, Wright's addition to the roster Wednesday provides depth at a position that took a hit during the 2018 season. The Gators lost Malik Davis to a season-ending knee injury and Adarius Lemons exited the program early in the season, leaving veterans Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine as one of the SEC's top tandems.

Wright can relate to Davis, who has missed the majority of the past two seasons due to injury. Wright missed his junior season at Carol City due to injury but returned to have a strong senior season, drawing interest from some of the top programs in the country.

 
 
 
 
 
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They ain’t expect me to shake back like this but Ian do it God did .I give him all the glory ! I Owe God everything ! #LLP #POPBOY #LLK13 #LLT13 #LLCD #PlayforDre

A post shared by Nayquan Wright (@bossman_5) on

Russell, who has been a teammate of Wright's since they were in youth football, never counted out his longtime friend.

"He's one of the best players I've ever seen, ever played with,'' Russell said. "He is going to work harder than everybody. When we were young, he was always like the heaviest player. He would have to run around in sweat packs, run around and lose weight. He would be in the car with the heater on. For him to be that big, he was always elusive, very fast. And he can catch."

Russell teamed with Wright to win a state championship in 2016. He signed with the Gators in the 2018 class. However, Russell's career was derailed by a heart condition. He remains part of the team and kept close tabs on Wright's recruitment.

He hosted Wright on an official visit and when Wright returned for unofficial visits, Russell like Florida's chances of landing one of the state's top prep running backs this season.

"He's an elite back,'' Russell said. "We're getting a great player."

Despite missing his junior season, recruiters never backed off Wright because of his versatility. Not only is he a powerful between-the-tackles runner with good top-end speed, he is a good receiver. Wright rushed for nearly 1,800 yards and caught 13 passes his first two seasons at Carol City.

Wright's ankle/knee injury wasn't the first time had faced adversity. During a youth football league practice, Wright was once struck by a stray bullet.

Russell recalled Wednesday from what he heard, the bullet went through a shoulder pad to strike Wright. However, he eventually returned to the field to develop into one of Miami-Dade County's top prospects in this year's recruiting class.

"He fought through adversity and became the person he is,'' Russell said. "To be able to bounce back from [missing a whole season] and make the most of it ... it tested his character."


1:34 pm | Dec 19, 2018
ESPN analysts high on Lakeland trio

The Gators and head coach Dan Mullen shined in the spotlight on ESPN2 when the network went live to Lakeland High School for the National Signing Day announcements of Deyavie Hammond, Lloyd Summerall III and Keon Zipperer.

All three Dreadnaughts signed with Florida, boosting the Gators' class ranking seven spots (from 22 to 15) in the 247Sports.com composite rankings.

ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill knows the Gators well. He served as sideline reporter at four Florida games this season and considers the signing of Hammond, a 6-foot-4, 350-pound prospect ranked one of the best at his position, a big get for the Gators.

"Huge positional need,'' Luginbill said. "Early on in the season, this was an abysmal offensive front. I could make the argument that throughout the course of the season, they really dramatically improved, but they don't have depth. That's why the addition here is huge because not only do you upgrade your talent, you upgrade your depth."

Fellow analyst Trevor Matich, a former offensive lineman at BYU, agreed Hammond filled a primary need.

"It takes time to build up that depth, but now they've got another piece of the puzzle,'' Matich said.

Meanwhile, the 6-foot-5, 209-pound Summerall is an edge rusher who can play linebacker and defensive end. Summerall will need to add weight to his frame to fulfill his potential with a similar build as that of former Gator Alex McCalister.

 The rest should take of itself.

"You see the initial first step, the explosiveness, the ability to close to the passer,'' Luginbill said. "This kid's got a tremendous ceiling for development. They get better along the trenches, especially the ability to rush the passer."

Meanwhile, tight end Keon Zipperer (6-2, 242) joins a young position group that returns Kemore Gamble, Kyle Pitts and Lucas Krull next season.

Luginbill is impressed at the way Zipperer moves.

"Still developing as an in-line blocker,'' he said. "Really a sharp route runner for a big kid. Boy, have they upgraded in terms of talent and depth."


1:18 pm | Dec 19, 2018
Mullen: 'There will be great competition'

Gators head coach Dan Mullen recently joined former UF receiver Chris Doering on the SEC Network to discuss Florida's signing class today.

Mullen is enthusiastic about his team's improvement heading into his second season this spring.

"There will be great competition in the spring,'' he said.

Here is the interview --


12:40 pm | Dec 19, 2018
Two More Lakeland Gators

Florida's National Signing Day performance received a big boost in the last hour when three players from Lakeland High -- offensive lineman Deyavie Hammond, linebacker/end Lloyd Summerall III, and tight end Keon Zipperer committed to Florida on ESPN.

Check out Summerall's announcement --

And here is Zipperer, rated one of the top tight end prospects in the 2019 recruiting class --

 


12:37 pm | Dec 19, 2018
Lakeland OL Hammond on Choosing Gators

Florida's National Signing Day performance received a big boost in the last hour when three players from Lakeland High -- offensive lineman Deyavie Hammond, linebacker/end Lloyd Summerall III, and tight end Keon Zipperer committed to Florida on ESPN.

Check out Hammond's announcement:

 


12:19 pm | Dec 19, 2018
QB Jones Ready to Compete, Add a Statue

Dan Mullen's retooling of the Gators' quarterback room, highlighted by the improvement of starter Feleipe Franks this season, added another player to the mix today in signee Jalon Jones.

A former Mullen pupil played a key role in Jones coming to Florida.

"It’s Florida. I grew up watching Florida, watching Tim Tebow win the Heisman and going to the national championship. Watching him play the game, really, made me fall in love with football and made me realize this is something I really wanted to do,'' Jones said Wednesday. "That was my ah-ha moment: I want to do what Tim Tebow is doing. I want to be that guy for that campus, for the city, for the state, and just be that type of player. I knew the best place I could do that is Florida. My goal is to put another statue in front of the stadium.”

Lofty goals for sure, but Jones comes from an impressive background in athletics and understands the competitive nature elite athletes must maintain.

His father, former Colorado linebacker Michael Jones, was team captain on the Buffs' 1990 national title team. His mother, Tanya Hughes, competed in the high jump in the '92 Olympics in Barcelona, and his sister, Jocelyn, plays basketball for North Carolina.

After he sent in his National Letter of Intent to Florida, Jones took a moment to reflect with his dad.

“I didn’t even think I was going to get this far,'' he said. "All the hard work, to have this part of the journey out of the way, is big. I’ve gotten this far and all the hard work has paid off. Now it’s continuing to work hard and make everything a competition and keep pushing to go even further.”

Jones first developed a relationship with Mullen and his staff while they were at Mississippi State. He committed to the Bulldogs at one point, but after Mullen came to Florida, their connection didn't dim.

The opportunity to be coached by someone with so much success at developing quarterbacks intrigued Jones.

“He’s just a great man and a great coach,'' Jones said. "He’s somebody I really trust and somebody I really appreciate. I feel like he’s the best person for the job of getting me ready for the NFL and getting all my talent out so I can show it on the field.”

Jones starred at Henrico High in Richmond, Va., this past season, and spent his junior season at St. Francis High in Baltimore.

Jones said he first started taking football seriously after his parents put him in tennis, volleyball, soccer, swimming and various other sports.

"It was inevitable,’’ he said. “They always knew the day was going to come when I was going to pick up a football and start playing.”

The mental approach of playing quarterback comes naturally, Jones said.

"The leadership comes from my father. He is a strong figure in my life, somebody I really looked to to model myself after,'' he said.

Jones knows his (recent) Gators history. When asked how a kid in Virginia gets away with being a Gators fan growing up, he reminded the curious mind that former UF receiver Percy Harvin is from Virginia.

On a visit to UF in October, Jones checked out the three Heisman statues outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Later, he met one of them in person.

Yeah, Tebow.

"I had a fanboy moment, I’m not going to lie,'' Jones said. "It’s very rare that I get star struck. Seeing him, I almost cried. I was about to tear up."


10:10 am | Dec 19, 2018
Closer Look at Mohamoud Diabate, 15th Player to Sign

Just got off phone with Gators signee Jalon Jones, a quarterback from Virginia. Very impressive presence and maturity for a high school senior. Will post something on him soon.

First, linebacker Mohamoud Diabate is officially signed, the 15th player to send in his National Letter of Intent this morning.

Diabate starred at linebacker for Auburn High in Auburn, Ala. Diabate is already very familiar with Southeastern Conference football growing up in a town dominated by a program that produced SEC legends such as Bo Jackson and Cam Newton.

However, his story runs deeper than football.

"I am who I am,'' Diabate told Will Sammon of TheAthletic.com, "not who you want me to be."

If you are interested in a deeper look at one of the Gators' newest players, check out the story below --


9:06 am | Dec 19, 2018
Hopper, Hill Stay True to Gators

When Will Muschamp coached the Gators, he had some success in the flipping game, perhaps most notably snagging Dante Fowler Jr. from Florida State on National Signing Day.

Now at South Carolina, the Gamecocks made a strong push late for Gators commits Jaydon Hill, a defensive back, and linebacker Ty'Ron Hopper.

No go. Hill and Hopper stayed committed to Gators, giving head coach Dan Mullen and his staff a couple of big wins in the recruiting battle with their SEC East foes.

Both Hill (Huntsville, Ala.) and Hopper (Alpharetta, Ga.) are out-of-state products.

 

For a closer look at the Gators-Gamecocks tug-of-war on the 2019 recruiting trail, check out story below --

 


8:40 am | Dec 19, 2018
Kimbrough Kept Eyes on Gators

Defensive back Chester Kimbrough starred at Warren Easton High in New Orleans, a city that produced current Gators safety Brad Stewart.

Who can forget Stewart's interception return for a touchdown in Florida's win over LSU in October?

Kimbrough can't.

Kimbrough and Stewart are good friends and as Kimbrough weighed his college options -- he had offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU and others -- he kept telling Florida's recruiting staff that as a kid he always dreamed of playing for the Gators.

Kimbrough turned his dream into a reality this morning when he officially signed with the Gators, the 12th player to send in his National Letter of Intent so far.

 


8:21 am | Dec 19, 2018
Gators Add Another Whittemore

One of the first players to officially sign with the Gators this morning was athlete Trent Whittemore out of Buchholz High in Gainesville.

Whittemore was a two-way standout for the Bobcats whose versatility is a plus. Meanwhile, if his name rings a bell to longtime Florida fans, it should.

His mother is former Gators volleyball All-American Missy Whittemore, who remains close to the program as a TV analyst.

Missy Whittemore has been busy this month working as an analyst for ESPNU during the NCAA Tournament.

More on the football player in the family below:

 


7:45 am | Dec 19, 2018
Tebow Has Already Met QB Jones (Yes, Another One)

The Gators signed QB Emory Jones a year ago.

They officially added QB Jalon Jones on Wednesday, a player with deep ties to UF head coach Dan Mullen and his staff. Jones committed to Mississippi State when Mullen was in Starkville.

However, he pulled back to explore other options after Mullen came to Florida and eventually settled on the Gators, providing more young depth at a position that is starting to take shape under Mullen and QBs coach Brian Johnson.

The newest Jones already has met the most famous Gators quarterback of all ... (sorry Steve and Danny) ...

 

 
 
 
 
 
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I got to meet one of my childhood heroes🐊🐊

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7:20 am | Dec 19, 2018
OL Michael Tarquin is a Gator

 

 


7:11 am | Dec 19, 2018
Gators 2018 Newcomer of Year

As we wait for the first official National Letter of Intent to roll off the fax machine (wink, wink), who is your 2018 Gators Newcomer of the Year.

Transfer receiver Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes both contributed significantly. Freshmen Dameon Pierce, Trey Dean III and Evan McPherson played important roles.

Freshman quarterback Emory Jones didn't play much but stayed in the conversation.

Here is our first NSD Poll ...

 

 


6:28 am | Dec 19, 2018
Good Morning from Swamp; Gators Ready

The tone inside Florida's football offices leading up to today's early National Signing Day has been optimistic, anxious, excited, full of adrenaline. There's also more of a calmness, certainly compared to a year ago.

Remember, a year ago during the three-day inaugural early signing period, Gators head coach Dan Mullen had been on the job barely three weeks. As he worked to assemble his first Gators recruiting class, he was busy trying to hire a coaching staff and support personnel to launch the program he envisioned.

A year later, Mullen has a 9-3 first season in the books, an upcoming Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Michigan, and a bunch of goodwill from Gator Nation for turning around the program in Year 1 and adding fun back into the mix.

The positive momentum has helped the Gators on the recruiting trail. They are expected to sign at least 15 players today and add another batch of newcomers on the February National Signing Day.

Some well-known Gators are helping Mullen spread the news.

Meanwhile, check back with us here on our FloridaGators.com National Signing Day blog for updates throughout the day as National Letters of Intent begin to arrive.

The first ones are expected in the next hour.

As for me, I'm already on my second cup of coffee. And for the second year in a row -- one of the new storied traditions here at UF -- we stopped by to say hello and offer a cup of coffee to the Heisman statues outside.

They didn't seem interested, already awake as usual.