GAINESVILLE ó Florida coach Dan Mullen was sitting in Emory Jonesí living room when he pointed out the full-circle nature of recruiting.
Mullenís staff at Mississippi State was the first program to offer Jones a scholarship. Two and a half years later, his Gators were one of the last pursuing the four-star quarterback.
"God works in funny ways sometimes," Mullen said.
Whether it was divine intervention or just persistent recruiting, Jones signed with UF on Wednesday, the first day of the inaugural early signing period. He gives UF a dual-threat talent who will try to stabilize a position that began slipping after Mullen left to take over the Bulldogs after the 2008 national title.
Jones is UFís top ranked quarterback recruit since five-star Jeff Driskel in 2011. The Franklin, Ga., native is the nationís No. 40 overall prospect and No. 4 dual-threat quarterback, according to 247Sportsí composite rankings. He is expected to enroll early and compete with redshirt sophomore Feleipe Franks for the starting job.
Jones had been committed to Mullenís old boss ó Ohio Stateís Urban Meyer ó and visited Florida State last weekend. Meyerís Buckeyes still ended Wednesday with the nationís No. 1 class and 18 blue-chip signee (including Armwood running back Brian Snead), but Jonesí flip was Mullenís first big recruiting victory at UF.
"Those are the expectations here," Mullen said. "Maybe the first, but certainly is not going to be the last."
It wasnít. A few hours later, UF landed four-star safety Trey Dean, who also considered Alabama. UFís 13 signees included Calvary Christian athlete Amari Burney and four other blue-chip prospects plus former Ole Miss receiver Van Jefferson, vaulting a class that had been ranked in the thirties to No. 14.
As the Gators rose, rival Florida State continued to drop. A Seminoles class that was in the top 10 a month ago signed only three recruits and ended Wednesday at No. 64 ó below USF, Kansas, Western Michigan and Lovie Smithís Illini.
About the only good news for FSU is that some of its top targets remain unsigned. That list includes three of new coach Willie Taggartís former Oregon commits. Four-star Wesley Chapel defensive back Isaiah Bolden said heíll choose between FSU and Clemson on Friday, and the Seminoles are still pursuing two blue-chip prospects from Armwood (defensive end Malcolm Lamar and receiver Warren Thompson).
Like UF, USF might have found its quarterback of the future as part of a class sitting second in the AAC and No. 53 nationally. The Bullsí 15 signees included a pair of three-star passers ó Atlantaís Octavious Battle and Plant Highís Jordan McCloud ó who could compete with veterans Brett Kean and Chris Oladokun as Quinton Flowerís replacement.
Barring a transfer, USF appears poised to have at least four players vying for the starting job since the 2013 preseason (Matt Floyd, Bobby Eveld, Steven Bench, Mike White).
"You have two players here in the program, and weíre trying to sign us a quarterback, but itís going to be competition there," Strong said Monday.
Battle, the nationís 37th-ranked dual-threat QB, totaled nearly 4,000 yards as a senior (including 3,221 passing yards and 23 touchdowns), brandishing some Flowers-type elusiveness when his pocket collapsed.
McCloud is ranked five spots behind Battle in the 247 rankings. He totaled nearly 2,800 yards (26 passing TDs) with 389 rushing yards as a senior.
But the top class in the state belongs to Miami, which continued building on its first ACC Coastal Division title with its best haul since finishing No. 1 in 2008. The Hurricanes ended Wednesday sixth nationally, behind Ohio State, Georgia, Texas, Penn State and Alabama.
Twelve of Miamiís 18 signees were blue-chippers, and four were top-65 recruits: five-star running back Lorenzo Lingard (Orange City University), four-star cornerback Al Blades Jr. (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas), four-star receiver Mark Pope (Miami Southridge) and four-star tight end Brevin Jordan (Las Vegas).
The early signing period runs through Friday. After that, coaches will reset to prepare for the traditional national signing day Feb. 7.