Barring another signing day shocker next week, Florida’s Big Three will hit a new low for in-state recruiting — at least by one measure.
The Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes are on track to sign only three Florida natives who are ranked among the nation’s top 100 prospects, according to the 247Sports composite. That’s the lowest number of the modern recruiting era; they landed four in three of the past four cycles.
The figure was supposed to be four this class, too, but Cormani McClain — the five-star cornerback from Lakeland High — chose not to sign with the Hurricanes in January and recently flipped to Deion Sanders’ Colorado Buffaloes. It’s the second year in a row that “Coach Prime” has poached an elite prospect from a state school; he got Travis Hunter to switch from Florida State to Jackson State in the 2022 class.
This cycle’s drought isn’t the product of a weak in-state crop of talent, either. Florida has 18 prospects ranked among the nation’s top 100 (excluding transplants at Bradenton’s IMG Academy or Clearwater Academy International). That’s the state’s most since 2011. That means Florida’s Big Three had a historically high miss rate in an especially top-heavy in-state class. The losses include five-star Berkeley Prep edge rusher Keon Keeley (who signed with Alabama despite plenty of interest from Florida) and the nation’s top running back, Orlando’s Cedric Baxter (who stuck with Texas despite a late push from Florida State).
Another concerning figure: Georgia will end up signing more of the state’s top recruits (six) than the Big Three combined.
The numbers change slightly if you add UCF to the mix. The Knights beat Florida to sign John Walker, a four-star defensive lineman from Kissimmee. The No. 100 overall recruit is UCF’s top-rated prospect of the modern era. We’ll see whether the Knights can land more prospects like Walker as they move from the Group of Five into the Big 12.
Though Florida’s Big Three struggled to keep the top recruits home, they have made some notable gains. Miami signed three top-110 players from IMG Academy. We didn’t include them because they’re not originally from Florida, but a pipeline to Bradenton is a notable boost. It’s the same at Florida, which rarely lands IMG Academy players but got top-500 prospect Knijeah Harris (a Port St. Lucie native). Florida State nabbed blue-chip offensive lineman Lucas Simmons from Clearwater Academy International, another major producer of talent.
The Big Three also had success slightly lower in the rankings. Receiver Eugene Wilson (Gaither High), safety Dijon Johnson (Wharton High) and offensive lineman Roderick Kearney (Orange Park) fell just outside the top 100 but all signed with the Gators.
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And even without the highest-rated prospects in the state, all three major programs are making progress in recruiting. The Seminoles have the nation’s No. 2 transfer class. Assuming the Gators sign blue-chip offensive lineman Caden Jones on Wednesday, UF will have 18 signees who are four- or five-star recruits. That will be tied for their most since 2010. The average rating for Miami’s class is the program’s best in at least 13 years.
But all three coaches want to shine in local recruiting. On early signing day, the Gators’ Billy Napier pointed to the “inside-out approach” his staff is taking, with 14 signees from Florida.
“Now, obviously there’s a lot of others out there we’d like to have too …” Napier said.
He’s not alone.
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