Dan Mullen’s return to Gainesville brought excitement back to the University of Florida’s football program.
The recruiting trail for Mullen, who was Mississippi State’s head coach before taking over the Gators, led him to Bradenton’s IMG Academy on Tuesday when he arrived in a helicopter.
Mullen’s first signing class is taking shape with eight of the 13 early signees already enrolled and offensive lineman Griffin McDowell’s commitment flip from Mississippi State to Florida on Jan. 30.
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Mullen is familiar with Gainesville and the pressure that comes with being the face of Gator Nation: He was an assistant on Urban Meyer’s staff from 2005-08 and helped Florida win two national titles.
That success helped Mullen land the head coaching position at Mississippi State, where he went 69-46 in nine seasons, including 5-2 in bowl games, before returning to Gainesville.
As of Friday, Florida had the No. 17 national recruiting ranking, according to 247Sports, and the No. 5 class in the Southeastern Conference, behind Georgia, Alabama, Auburn and LSU.
With National Signing Day approaching, the Bradenton Herald breaks down UF’s 2018 signing class.
Based on the 247Sports composite rankings, here are the Gators’ early enrollees, early signees and top targets for an #AllBite18 recruiting class that’s expected to have 9-10 open slots when signing day arrives on Wednesday:
- Quarterback Emory Jones, Heard County (Ga.)
- Safety Amari Burney, Clearwater Calvary Christian
- Safety Trey Dean, Dutchtown (Hampton, Ga.)
- Running back Dameon Pierce, Bainbridge (Ga.)
- Athlete Iverson Clement, Rancocas Valley Regional (Mount Holly, N.J.)
- Offensive lineman Noah Banks, Iowa Western Community College
- Offensive lineman Chris Bleich, Wyoming Valley West (Plymouth, Pa.)
- Safety Randy Russell, Miami Carol City
- Linebacker David Reese, Vero Beach
- Tight end Kyle Pitts, Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.)
- Safety John Huggins, Daytona Beach Mainland
- Tight end Dante Lang, Boca Raton
- Kicker Evan McPherson, Fort Payne (Ala.)
- Offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere, Tampa Berkeley Prep
- Offensive lineman William Barnes, Apopka
- Cornerback Noah Boykin, Woodson (Washington, D.C.)
- Defensive lineman Andrew Chatfield, Plantation American Heritage
- Wide receiver Jacob Copeland, Pensacola Escambia
- Offensive lineman Richard Gouraige, Tampa Cambridge
- Wide receiver Justin Watkins, Clermont East Ridge
- Defensive lineman Dorian Gerald, College of the Canyons (Valencia, Calif.)
- Defensive lineman Caleb Johnson, Northside (Columbus, Ga.)
- Offensive lineman Griffin McDowell, Lee County (Ga.)