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Florida Gators’ top-10 recruiting class now looks like one of its worst of the Rivals era

Four-star receiver Arjei Henderson is the fifth departure from a recruiting class that was No. 9 nationally but now looks more like No. 17.
Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen winces while looking at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter in a game against the Georgia Bulldogs at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.  [ TIMES 2018 ]
Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen winces while looking at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter in a game against the Georgia Bulldogs at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [ TIMES 2018 ]
Published Aug. 16, 2019
Updated Aug. 16, 2019

Before the traditional signing day in February, I wondered whether Florida coach Dan Mullen could have his Gators recruiting at an elite level.

The answer, a few hours later, seemed to be yes. UF ended Mullen’s first full recruiting class there with the No. 9 class in the country.

RELATED: Matt Baker’s preseason AP Top 25: Florida Gators in top 10, UCF cracks the list

Six months later, that class continues to lose some of its luster. The latest example came Friday, when The Athletic’s Will Sammon reported that four-star receiver Arjei Henderson is being released from his letter of intent. He hadn’t yet joined the program because of academics.

Henderson became the fifth member of the Gators’ 2019 recruiting class to leave. The other four were also four-star prospects: defensive back Chris Steele (transferred to USC), quarterback Jalon Jones (left after being accused of sexual battery), linebacker Diwun Black (going to a junior college) and offensive lineman Deyavie Hammond (junior college). Another signee, Wardrick Wilson, hasn’t yet joined as his visa situation plays out.

RELATED: How concerned should the Florida Gators be after Chris Steele’s transfer?

Take away the departures, and UF’s recruiting class falls from ninth to No. 17, between Notre Dame and South Carolina. That’s three spots lower than last year and would be the program’s second-worst finish of the Rivals era.

The class still has potential, of course. All three defensive backs —Kaiir Elam, Chester Kimbrough and Jaydon Hill — should contribute this season. And the transfer portal has made it easier for teams to replenish their rosters in place of traditional recruits. That’s what Miami has done this offseason. UF’s certainly class looks better if you include Louisville transfer Jonathan Greenard and recent five-star Georgia transfer Brenton Cox.

But a recruiting class that looked like a sign of good things to come for UF now looks like another question mark in a rocky offseason.

RELATED: The Florida Gators keep losing their top recruits. Chris Steele is just the latest

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes