Florida Football Recruitment: Four-star TJ Searcy commits as Gators continue to build defense

Photo credit: Tim Casey/UAA

If the Florida Gators only had to recruit the defensive side of the ball, it would be difficult to question the work done by head coach Billy Napier and his staff. That was evident again Monday when four-star defensive end TJ Searcy (Thomaston, GA) was signed to the Gators.

Searcy (6ft 5, 250lbs) committed to Florida via Tennessee, with Clemson and South Carolina also in the running for his services. Napier and outside linebackers coach Mike Peterson were responsible for his recruiting.

“Happy 4th #GoGators,” Searcy tweeted Monday with a graphic showing his commitment to the Gators.

Florida continues to rack up top-notch defensive commitments, with Searcy now the top-rated player in the class at 153 overall, according to the 247Sports Composite. The Gators have added their four highest-rated engagements — all in the top 300 nationally — since June 21, though all line up on the defensive side of the ball.

At the same time, the Gators have not only missed numerous offensive prospects, but have gone from long-term leading others to suddenly catching up as those players’ recruits develop.

Florida’s offensive recruiting struggles include the recent loss of three-star lineman Tommy Kinsler (Ocala, FL), an Alachua County product who was committed to the program for just two weeks before giving up his commitment Saturday. Kinsler is expected to make his way to Miami in the end, which would lead to another Hurricanes recruitment battle victory over the Gators.

Exactly why Florida is struggling remains to be seen. Promises of name, image and likeness may be part of the reason for certain recruit losses, but it’s worth asking whether a Gators offensive staff without a dedicated quarterbacks coach (Napier takes on the job) or a notable offensive coordinator (Rob Sale is a career -Offensive line coach with two years of coordination experience) is one reason for this.

With Searcy in tow, Florida now sits 38th in the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings. That’s a seven-spot jump Monday, but 10 spots lower than the Gators were ranked on June 28 when they added their most recent previous signing, four-star cornerback Sharif Denson (Jacksonville, FL). Since then, numerous programs have added significant talent to their classes and catapulted UF up the rankings.

Almost all of Florida’s competitors and quasi-competitors are ahead of him in the rankings at this point, including Ohio State (No. 2), Georgia (No. 6), Miami (No. 8), Tennessee (No. 9), Alabama ( No. 17), LSU (No. 22), and even South Carolina (No. 27). Six of these programs have at least a five-star commitment.

commit position valuation
TJ Searcy (153)
Isaiah Nixon (195)
Sharif Denson (206)
Gavin Hill (259)
Aaron Gates
Knijeah Harris
Creed Whittemore
Bryce Lovett
Tyree Patterson

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