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As the early signing period ends, what’s next for Florida, FSU?

With the early signing period ending today, the Gators and Seminoles can look to February and 2021.
Although Florida signed 22 players in the early period, coach Dan Mullen says the Gators still will identify key spots to fill before traditional signing day in February.
Although Florida signed 22 players in the early period, coach Dan Mullen says the Gators still will identify key spots to fill before traditional signing day in February. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Dec. 20, 2019

College football’s early signing period ends today. Because almost all the limited drama took place Wednesday, don’t expect much (if any) action in the coming hours.

Florida probably won’t add to its 22-member class (including Texas transfer Jordan Pouncey) that’s ranked No. 8 nationally and sixth in the SEC. Nor will Florida State add to its 18-member class (also including a transfer, Jarrett Jackson from Louisville) that sits 21st nationally and fourth in the ACC.

Related: Florida Gators signee Jonathan Odom: This class will bring a national championship to UF

So what’s next for both programs heading into the traditional February signing day?

Both the Seminoles and Gators have an obvious need at running back. FSU was thin at the position this season and loses star Cam Akers to the NFL. Although the Seminoles added Tampa Bay’s top prospect, four-star back Lawrance Toafili from Pinellas Park, there’s more work to do at the position.

“Running back is going to be a position that we’re going to continue to work hard to identify and fill with the right young men,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said during his signing day news conference.

Pinellas Park's Lawrance Toafili will be one of the new recruits looking to fill Cam Akers' cleats at Florida State.
Pinellas Park's Lawrance Toafili will be one of the new recruits looking to fill Cam Akers' cleats at Florida State. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]

The Gators didn’t sign a back at all Wednesday after missing out on targets like Lakeland five-star athlete Demarkcus Bowman (Clemson) and four-star talent E.J. Smith, the Stanford-bound son of former UF/NFL star Emmitt Smith.

UF coach Dan Mullen said he wasn’t disappointed that he didn’t sign a back “because recruiting is not over.”

“We have six weeks from now, we do it all again,” Mullen said.

Related: Chubba Purdy, Tate Rodemaker end FSU’s prep quarterback drought

Mullen’s Gators also missed on some receiver targets, although they had one more receiver this year than the 10 Mullen prefers to have on his roster. With four of them graduating and two coming in, Mullen would like to add one more in the coming weeks, either through traditional recruiting or the transfer portal.

FSU’s offensive line improved slightly this season but still struggled. Norvell said the position was a need for his ’Noles, and they addressed it with a trio of three-star signees. When Norvell was asked about the line Wednesday, he said he’s excited about the talent base of the current group from what he has seen during practice for the Sun Bowl. But…

Related: National signing day: Florida Gators’ class is better, but is it good enough?

“With having the second signing day there in February, with having potential transfers that could become available, we’re always going to explore options of what we can do to help improve our football team…” Norvell said.

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Both Norvell and Mullen seem to be taking the right approach to February.

There’s a high rate of attrition with coaches’ first classes, especially since the dawn of the early signing period, because coaches don’t have as much time to evaluate a prospect on and off the field. So Norvell said he might leave some scholarship slots unfilled this cycle.

“Everybody can go and look at a scholarship chart and say, ‘We need one here. We need one here,’” Norvell said. “I'm not looking to sign a number. I'm looking to bring the right young men into this football program that are going to elevate us to where we want to go. If that means not utilizing a number this year, then so be it.”

Mullen is obviously in a different situation with his third class and a roster with fewer holes. Much of his staff’s focus is turning to the 2021 class because his Gators will only be recruiting a handful of prospects who will sign in February.

Related: College football bowl guide: A reason to care about all 40 games

Aside from maybe another receiver or back, Mullen is keeping his options open on which players he’ll target with those few remaining spots.

“For this one, just best available player,” Mullen said.