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GOOD NEWS: continue to stockpile talent in impressive defensive class

With the addition of five-star LJ McCray, the Gators add to an already loaded 2024 defensive class.

 

 

On Saturday, the Florida staff celebrated landing five-star defensive lineman LJ McCray, adding to its already-stacked 2024 class, which ranks No. 3 nationally. Several of the impressive additions to this class find themselves on the defensive side of the ball.

 

McCray, whom Florida battled Georgia, Florida State, Miami, and Auburn for, ranks No. 6 nationally, the No. 2 defensive lineman prospect, and the No. 3 player in his home state on the 247Sports standalone rankings, giving the Gators a massive recruiting win to bring the class up to 22 commitments.

 

 

When speaking to 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong during the broadcast, where he announced his commitment exclusively, McCray voiced his confidence in the progression of the Florida program.

 

I wouldn’t say there is a limit, McCray said when talking about the Gators potential moving forward. I feel that way.

I’ve been around them and the guys they bring around the program, and I feel like they have the ability to do it (win a national championship) with the plan they have, the guys they have right there, and the aura around the program.

 

According to 247Sports rankings, six out of seven of Florida’s highest-ranked prospects are defensive players. The lone offensive player in that cluster is five-star quarterback DJ Lagway.

The Gators took a heavy defensive focus for the 2024 cycle, which has paid dividends, landing blue chip after chip on the defensive side of the ball.

 

 

Two of Florida’s three five-star players are on defense: Texas safety Xavier Filsaime and McCray. In the Top247 rankings, Florida has eight defensive prospects.

 

The Gators are still looking to add more interior defensive linemen, as four-star Nasir Johnson remains the only true interior defensive lineman in the class.

This is a role that always needs to be addressed to be competitive in the SEC trenches. Looking ahead, Johnson could line up next to McCray, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound behemoth with a lightning-quick get-off.

 

Florida wanted to focus on EDGE rushers this cycle. So far, so good, with names like four-star Jamonta Waller and four-star Amaris Williams, two long-term prospects who play with speed.

Three-star defensive lineman commit Kendall Jackson could also end up as an EDGE, giving the Gators plenty of quickness and length in the group.

Florida could have a bright future with Waller and Williams on the field simultaneously, providing an electric pass rush from both edges. This is something the program will need to reach the top of the SEC standings again.

 

 

Linebacker could be the best position group of the Gators’ impressive 2024 class, as they have three top-200 players in four-stars: Myles Graham, Aaron Chiles, and Adarius Hayes.

This group has the ability to make an early impact. Florida could sprinkle in these three backers to get early experience as freshmen.

Jay Bateman cleaned up on the trail to replenish his linebacker room with talent, landing prospects who fly around but are disciplined in both coverage and run defense.

 

Florida has Filsaime, four-star Wardell Mack, and three-stars Teddy Foster and Josiah Davis at defensive back.

The Gators could have a reliable three-year starter in Filsaime if he performs as his ranking suggests, as safety depth remains a concern.

Mack, a Top247 prospect, joined the Gators over in-state LSU, Texas, and FSU, giving them a hard-hitting cornerback who plays with a chip on his shoulder.

Foster’s game is based on his fluidity and lateral speed behind his lanky 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame. He’s raw in some areas of the game, but Florida loves his upside.

 

 

One thing in common with most of Florida’s 2024 defensive class is that they play fast and aggressively, two traits defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong covets in the evaluation process.

If Florida can retain its current defensive class, as other schools are still chasing some of their current commits, it could boost the Gators in 2024.

It’s been an impressive sight seeing the additions on the recruiting trail coming into an already young defensive roster, with a mix of speed, size, and length on the way.

Some extra insight into new five-star Florida commit LJ McCray

Auburn’s route tree isn’t much different from other schools, at least in my opinion. Much of this offense is designed around running option routes, meaning that you read the defense and adjust your routes to find the open spots.
Those are still routes that need to be run to specific depths while being on the game page with the quarterbacks. Freeze said on Thursday night that they’ve actually done a good bit of slanting but haven’t been able to make that work.
It’s more than a route-tree problem for Auburn’s passing game. Not enough separation has been the biggest issue, at least in my opinion.
Depending on winning 50/50 balls can’t be the best option in the passing game. It’s something you need to do at some point, but every throw can’t be that way.
AUB4EVER: How is basketball recruiting going? With Flanigan gone, has Coach Williams been as strong of a recruiter as expected?
I think it’s going pretty well so far. They have had some strong visitors on campus already, and another Texas kid is coming in for the Ole Miss weekend, 4-star forward Nicolas Codie from Carrollton, Texas.
The 6-9 forward is ranked as the No. 46 player in the country. Continues what has been some big visit weekends for the Tigers.

 

  • Greg1716: Can you describe and educate me on fall baseball, please?
  • Are pitchers working to get to maximum effort?
  • Is it an evaluation of the pitching staff to determine starters, bullpen, and slots?
  • Hitters are taking live BP every day, or machines/live BP: staff evaluating defense and who
  • plays where? And how much leads into the preseason for determining initial playing time?

From a pitching perspective, this fall is about ramping up towards the season. You won’t get anywhere close to a pitch count with the guys in the fall. Normally, it’s going to be 25–30 pitches or so.

They are trying to get a feel for who could be a starter, who will be on the back end, middle relief, etc. They do BP off machines, but also live BP and a lot of scrimmage situations.

This is just a part of what goes into the fall and who the coaches might have leading at certain positions going into practices next spring.

Aujrob: What change(s), if any, would you make on the football team at this point?

I have been pretty vocal about the need for tempo, and that’s where I would start. This is an offense designed to go fast, and two coaches (Freeze and Montgomery) have both played that way their entire careers.

I know the need to help out the defense is important, but nothing helps out a defense more than scoring points. I just think right now that’s where things would start with me.

 

Izaiah Williams News

 

AUtigeritaville: What’s the latest grumbling on an apparel contract?

I think there are going to be plenty of discussions going on with several different groups, but from what I have been told, Under Armour has really stepped up to the plate.

 

I think there’s going to be a pretty wide gap between what they would offer Auburn and what companies like Nike and Adidas would offer. I know there are things more important than money, but if it’s a bunch of money, that’s going to be hard to turn down, IMO.

5WFSHR: Why the heck do we pull RA out of the drive vs. LSU to put in Thorne? That totally kills momentum. And are our coaches recognizing the mistake they made by saying they are going to use tempo now?

 

They actually pulled Thorne last week and put Robby in to finish things off with a touchdown. I think there are certain sets and situations for certain quarterbacks that are part of the plan going into the week, and that is who has been repped for those.

I do agree. I think I would leave Ashford in the game after a drive and when it gets to short yardage, but I’m sure it’s all about a certain scheme or set they want to run.

No7Tiger: Has Jalen McLeod gotten fully healthy? Anyone else that could provide a pass rush off the edge from the Jack or DL positions?

He’s been playing, but I don’t think he’s been close to 100 percent this season. I just haven’t seen the burst that we saw in preseason camp. I think it has been a huge blow to this defense because it took away the only legit pass rusher on the front for the Tigers.

As for someone who could step up other than Keldric Faulk, I’m not sure there’s another real threat for this team. I would like to see Cam Riley get a few more chances to rush the passer off the edge. I think he could bring some speed to a defense that needs some.

 

 

AuburnForLife1979: With all the problems we appear to have in the receivers room, is it the coach or the players? Do you think Camden Brown, Fair, and Burton will be the go-to guys going forward?

 

I think Marcus Davis is a good young coach, but this is just such a mixed bag at wide receiver at the moment. Auburn went out and got some bigger receivers from the transfer portal to try to add some size to the group, but to this point, that hasn’t worked out.

You mentioned three guys that I believe will get more work moving forward, along with Ja’Varrius Johnson. It’s not the biggest group, but you’ve got to have some guys that can separate in this league. It’s just too hard to win 50/50 balls as your only receptions.

AuburnForLife1979: Why do you think Freeze is so reluctant to take back the play-calling?

Oldduffer: What do you feel is the problem on offense? Freeze, Montgomery, Thorne? A combination of all three? 2/3? Why not just adapt to your personnel and let Robby 2013/Zone read our way to 8 wins?soldbysoultosaban: Do you think we will see Robby’s role at QB expand starting this week or not?

Also, which is your favorite Golden Girl?

I honestly don’t know what to expect on Saturday night out of Auburn’s offense. I mentioned earlier about going tempo, and they looked much better doing that against LSU with Thorne.

He led them on two scoring drives, going faster and throwing the ball. I really think wide receivers have been a bigger issue than quarterbacks to this point, but it’s an entire offense issue.

Getting the ball to your best players would be my first priority. In addition to the wide receivers just mentioned, I think Jeremiah Cobb and Brian Battie are guys I would get the ball to about 15-20 times on Saturday night. As for the Golden Girls, not my thing.

 

 

JimAu95: What’s your take on Bruce’s team this upcoming season?

I believe this roster is going to make for a better overall team than Auburn had last year, but I think the schedule is much, much tougher, and the same for the Southeastern Conference.

I believe it’s going to be a really tough year in this league with the talent and coaching from top to bottom. The key for me is going to be the three positions and what they can get from Chad Baker-Mazara, Chris Moore, and Lior Berman.

To me, that group holds the key to Auburn basketball this season. That and the health of Johni Broome, I got to keep him well this season.

Au1856: Do you think Freeze could expand Cadillac’s role in crafting the offense? He did get us to over 300 yards rushing and 27 points vs. UAT last year.

Cadillac had a huge part in Auburn’s energy at the end of last season and really put the program back on the right track.

He probably also had plenty of input about what they needed to do on offense, but Will Friend was the guy calling the plays and running Auburn’s offense at the end of last season. What Cadillac did was huge for the program, but Friend did a heck of a job at the end of the year.

IH8ua247: Any new info on Brayden Jacobs? Is AU still pursuing him?

Nothing has changed for him since he visited for the Georgia game a few weeks ago. Auburn is definitely recruiting him, and he’s been on campus several times in the last few months. I think he’s a guy they’ll continue to push hard for throughout the fall and into next spring.

Scouting take: 5-star LJ McCray is a monumental pickup for Florida on the trail

 

McCray is in line to become the first in-state, top-three-ranked prospect to sign with the Gators since Gervon Dexter back in the 2020 cycle.

 

DJ Lagway might go down as the most important recruiting win of the Billy Napier era in Gainesville, but LJ McCray should be viewed as just as monumental of a victory for Florida after the five-star defensive lineman out of Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland announced a verbal commitment to the Gators on Saturday live on the 247Sports YouTube Channel.McCray, who shot all the way up to No. 6 overall in the Top247 a few weeks ago, is the type of prospect that Florida has simply gotten in recent years, and more specifically, at the point of attack.
The tight end-turned-pass rusher is all of his 6-foot-6, 260-pound listing, and he’s having as good of a senior season as anyone in the country, creating pressure pretty much every snap.

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