Early signing day: Live updates on Florida Gators, FSU, USF and Miami Hurricanes

The Gators are reportedly set to add Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz through the transfer portal, and a Lakewood star flips from UF to UCF.
Quarterback Graham Mertz is set to transfer from Wisconsin to Florida, according to a report Wednesday by The Athletic.
Quarterback Graham Mertz is set to transfer from Wisconsin to Florida, according to a report Wednesday by The Athletic. [ CHARLIE NEIBERGALL | AP ]
Published Dec. 21, 2022|Updated Dec. 21, 2022

5:15 update: This will likely be our last update as we work on a final, overarching story, but the last update is a big one. The Gators announced the signing of blue-chip quarterback Jaden Rashada from California. He’s Florida’s highest-rated passer since Will Grier in 2014.

UF’s class has 20 players, including 14 from the state.

4:00 update: USF’s official haul is 16 players (12 from high schools or junior colleges and four transfers). One of the more recent additions was Steinbrenner High receiver Demitrius Carter.

Since our last update, Florida State signed five-star receiver Hykeem Williams, one of the Seminoles’ best recruits in years.

The Gators also officially landed Wharton High’s Dijon Johnson, a four-star prospect and top-100 national recruit.

Noon update: This will be the final one for a bit as I prepare to head to Gainesville for Florida coach Billy Napier’s news conference.

The current class rankings, according to the 247Sports composite: Miami is third, Florida is 11th, Florida State is 19th and USF is 86th.

The Gators’ most recent signees include top-120 recruits Aidan Mizell and Roderick Kearney. UF also kept four-star receiver Andy Jean despite a late push from Florida State.

10:55 update: We have our first notable flip of the day. Isaiah Nixon, a four-star edge rusher from Lakewood High, has committed to UCF. He originally pledged to the Knights in April before flipping to Florida in June and, now, flipping back to UCF.

USF has landed a transfer from Florida: defensive end Lloyd Summerall. He was a top-250 national recruit out of Lakeland in the 2019 class and appeared in 28 games for the Gators.

10:15 update: USF coach Alex Golesh picked up a commitment from James Jenkins, a three-star offensive lineman from Carrollwood Day. Jenkins decommitted from Cincinnati last week and took a recent visit to East Carolina.

9:50 update: Miami has signed its first five-star prospect of the day. It’s offensive tackle Samson Okunlola.

The Hurricanes are still waiting, however, on a signature from their top commit, No. 2 overall recruit Cormani McClain from Lakeland High. His mother said on Twitter that McClain will not sign today.

USF is up to eight signees. The latest include three-star Georgia running back Jaylen Johnson and Georgia receiver Keshaun Singleton.

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9:30 update: Though today is traditionally known for high school recruits, it’s a big day for transfers, too.

The Athletic is reporting that quarterback Graham Mertz is set to transfer from Wisconsin to Florida. The Kansas native was a top-100 national recruit in high school and had a historic first start (20-of-21 passing for 248 yards and five touchdowns against Illinois in 2020).

After that, Mertz was merely fine. His career numbers with the Badgers: 38 touchdown passes, 26 interceptions, a 59.5 completion percentage and 127.7 passing efficiency. The move has not yet been officially announced by Mertz or the Gators.

Florida State has added two of the top 20 transfers in the portal: South Carolina tight end Jaheim Bell and UTEP offensive lineman Jeremiah Byers. Bell was a rushing and receiving threat for the Gamecocks, while Byers was an all-conference tackle who started 30 career games for the Miners.

In traditional recruiting news, the Seminoles have signed four-star offensive lineman Lucas Simmons. He’s a 6-foot-8, 300-pound Sweden native who played at Clearwater Academy International.

8:30 update: The Florida Gators’ six early signees include their top defensive commit, Kelby Collins. He’s a 6-foot-4, 259-pound defensive lineman from Alabama and is ranked as the No. 60 player in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite.

Miami’s latest signees include three top-200 prospects: defensive lineman Reuben Bain, Orlando linebacker Malik Bryant and running back Mark Fletcher. Fletcher is notable because he recently committed to Miami over Florida; now his choice is official.

Related: The grading curve is over for Billy Napier, Florida Gators

Florida State is up to eight recruits, with four-star running back Samuel Singleton being among the most recent additions.

USF has added four players so far. One of them is Nikola Milovac, a three-star offensive lineman from Clearwater Academy International.

The Tampa Bay area’s top prospect, five-star Berkeley Prep linebacker Keon Keeley, made his commitment official by signing with Alabama. Another prized local recruit, four-star receiver Bryson Rodgers from Wiregrass Ranch High, has signed with Ohio State.

7:45 update: The signatures have started to arrive across the state. The Gators have signed two players: four-star defensive lineman T.J. Searcy and three-star offensive lineman Bryce Lovett.

Florida State’s three signees are all four-star prospects: receiver Vendrevius Jacobs, defensive lineman K.J. Sampson and defensive lineman Lamont Green Jr. (the son of the former FSU captain).

USF has officially added a pair of transfers, former Oklahoma cornerback Kendall Dennis and Weston Wolff, a tight end from Maryland.

Miami’s first three official recruits were four-star cornerback Robert Stafford, three-star offensive lineman Tommy Kinsler and four-star receiver Nathaniel Joseph.

One of the Tampa Bay area’s top prospects has also signed today. Four-star offensive lineman Clay Wedin from Carrollwood Day was the first recruit to ink with Auburn.

Our original story is below:

College football’s early signing period begins today with moments that will shape programs across the state and country. Though the date has lost some of its luster because of the transfer portal, make no mistake: The sport’s top teams build their rosters through high school recruiting first and foremost.

We’ll update this post throughout the day, but here are a few notes and things to watch:

Where do the Gators end up?

The Florida Gators have a top-12 class entering signing day.
The Florida Gators have a top-12 class entering signing day. [ JOSHUA C. CRUEY | Orlando Sentinel ]

As of late Tuesday afternoon, Florida’s class ranked 11th in the country in the 247Sports composite. It’s comparable to where Dan Mullen’s classes usually fell, but Billy Napier’s first full crop is deeper and has more high-end prospects. UF’s top commitment is from blue-chip quarterback Jaden Rashada from California, but this class has a notable local flavor, too. The Gators have non-binding pledges from four-star Wharton High safety Dijon Johnson, four-star Gaither High receiver Eugene Wilson and four-star Lakewood High edge rusher Isaiah Nixon.

They’re also in the mix for top-50 edge rusher Jaquavious Russaw, top-50 defensive lineman James Smith and top-200 athlete Jyaire Hill. All three are expected to announce their choices today.

Does Miami finish in the top three?

Despite a 5-7 first season, Miami coach Mario Cristobal is on track to sign the Hurricanes' best class since 2008.
Despite a 5-7 first season, Miami coach Mario Cristobal is on track to sign the Hurricanes' best class since 2008. [ AL DIAZ/ADIAZ@MIAMIHERALD.COM | Miami Herald ]

The Hurricanes were there as of Tuesday afternoon thanks to a trio of five-star commitments. If it stands, Mario Cristobal will sign Miami’s top class since the ‘Canes finished No. 1 nationally in 2008. The top prize is Lakeland High’s Cormani McClain, one of the nation’s top two prospects.

What can USF do in Alex Golesh’s sprint?

USF coach Alex Golesh didn't have much time to build this 2023 recruiting class.
USF coach Alex Golesh didn't have much time to build this 2023 recruiting class. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Do not judge Golesh by how he finishes in the recruiting rankings. His first full day as head coach was two and a half weeks ago, and transition classes are always a challenge. USF’s haul was No. 89 nationally (ninth among current AAC members). The Bulls got their top commitment so far Tuesday in Bradenton IMG Academy’s Jarvis Lee, a three-star cornerback who recently decommitted from Georgia Tech.

Related: Is new USF football coach Alex Golesh the next Jim Leavitt? Or another Jeff Scott?

Does Florida State avoid any negative surprises?

Florida State coach Mike Norvell will try to seal or improve upon a top-20 class.
Florida State coach Mike Norvell will try to seal or improve upon a top-20 class. [ JOSHUA BESSEX | AP ]

The Seminoles were the biggest national story last year when they lost the nation’s top recruit, Travis Hunter, to Deion Sanders and Jackson State. FSU enters today with the nation’s No. 18 class, led by five-star receiver Hykeem Williams. Mike Norvell’s ‘Noles are a finalist for top-200 recruit Damari Brown. A strong finish to the class would be another sign of progress for Norvell in what ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill has described as a “slow burn.”

Related: What the ‘Fire Mike Norvell’ Twitter Spaces guy thinks of FSU football now

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