GAINESVILLE — Florida, the laughingstock of college football in 2013, couldn’t convince dynamic five-star talents Adoree’ Jackson (athlete), Lorenzo Carter (defensive end) or Damian Prince (offensive tackle) to come to Gainesville next season, but coach Will Muschamp capped National Signing Day with a consensus top-10 class dominated by defensive standouts and UF’s quarterback of the future.
“It’s still the University of Florida,” Muschamp said. “It’s one of the few places in the country where you can realistically win a national championship on and off the field. You’re going to get a great education, and you can win big on the field as well … We’re talking about [one bad] season, not talking about seasons.”
The Gators poached Booker T. Washington duel-threat quarterback Treon Harris from Florida State, while holding the pledge of four-star Immokalee cornerback J.C. Jackson, who flirted with Miami before officially announcing his final intentions Wednesday morning.
Florida also added three-star offensive tackle Andrew Mike, who flipped to UF from Vanderbilt on the eve of National Signing Day, while South Dade wide receiver C.J. Worton, formally committed to FSU, also signed with the Gators.
According to Rivals, Florida’s 2014 class ranks No. 8 nationally with 24 signees, but Muschamp was more pleased with filling needs than securing stars.
“Somebody said Tom Luginbill [ESPN’s national director of recruiting] was the No. 1 junior college quarterback when he came out, but I intercepted Tom Luginbill so that will tell you how important those rankings are,” Muschamp quipped.
The Gators had their worst season (4-8) since Jimmy Carter was president, but Muschamp’s newly minted staff did an excellent job filling needs at quarterback (Harris, Will Grier) and offensive line (six signees headlined by four-star tackle David Sharpe). Florida also reloaded in the secondary and improved its depth up front.
Grier, the two-time North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year, is considered the crown jewel of the class as UF’s prospective quarterback of the future. The early enrollee tossed 77 touchdowns as a senior and set the national record for most passing yards in a single game (837).
“We had a rough fall,” Muschamp said. “But I think recruiting is building those relationships. … Some of those young men saw us win 11 games the year before. They understand where we’re headed with the program, and they’re excited about the future.”
Missing on Jackson — an electric game-changer for UF’s putrid offense — could hurt Florida for seasons to come, but UF fought an uphill batting trying to pry the prospect from Southern California’s backyard.
The same could be said for Carter and Prince, who stayed in state to play for Georgia and Maryland, respectively.
The Gators also missed out on South Florida duo of Dalvin Cook and Ermon Lane, two FSU signees and former Gator commits, but Muschamp refused to dwell on missed prospects.
“We’ll talk about the guys who are here,” he said. “They’ll all have successful careers, but we’re going to talk about our players.”
• Muschamp announced that redshirt junior safety Cody Riggs, who started all 13 games last season, is transferring. According to Muschamp, Riggs “wanted a fresh start,” and is on track to graduate in June. … Junior tailback Matt Jones underwent his second surgery on his torn left meniscus Wednesday and will miss spring practice.