Saturday, August 13, 2022

Florida football recruiting: Eugene Wilson III commits to Gators as Billy Napier calms fears of falling behind

Florida’s hot recruiting week continued on Friday when coach Billy Napier landed four-star athlete Eugene Wilson III. The 5-foot-11, 165-pounder from Gaither High School in Tampa chose the Gators over several FBS offers, including Texas A&M.

Wilson is the No. 15 athlete and No. 220 overall player in the country, according to 247Sports. The son of former NFL cornerback Eugene Wilson boasts an 11.36 100-yard dash and plays wide receiver and cornerback. His commitment launches the Gators from No. 29 to No. 19 in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings.

His commitment is the latest in what has been a tremendous recruiting run for Napier. Wilson is the fourth player to commit to the Gators in July, along with four-star defensive lineman T.J. Searcy, four-star running back Treyaun Webb and four-star quarterback Marcus Stokes. 

This run couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Tensions were high in Gainesville after Napier failed to land four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada, who chose Miami after considering Florida for quite some time. Rumors then swirled that Rashada chose the Hurricanes, in part, due to its aggressive name, image and likeness efforts. That set off major Florida meltdowns on message boards across the Internet. 

Rashada’s commitment came three days after Napier wrote an open letter to Florida fans in an effort to try to calm any fears that he and his program were falling behind on the NIL front. By committing to Miami, Rashada signaled that Florida’s efforts weren’t resonating with prospects in the same way other schools were. 

“As we enter a new era of college football with Name, Image and Likeness, we are fortunate to be at a place that is not only rich in history and tradition on the football field, but is also a top five public institution with more than 470,000 living alumni and incredible resources,” Napier said. “We believe that NIL will be a strength at the University of Florida.”

The lack of recruiting success to this point is particularly concerning for Florida fans considering Napier has deep ties to the region after stints at Louisiana, Alabama, Clemson.

“I can assure you that no one has higher expectations for what we want to accomplish than me,” Napier said. “This will be a team effort. All of us, no matter what our role is, can make a positive impact in the success of our program. From our students cheering their loudest on Saturdays at The Swamp, to our boosters, alumni and everyday fans: We all must have a championship approach in all that we do.”

Wilson’s commitment — and the run Napier has gone on in July — should calm the fears of Gator Nation. Napier’s on-field success speaks for itself, and it appears his recruiting prowess is starting to crank up. That’s important since the lack of high-end recruiting success was a big reason former coach Dan Mullen was dismissed following the 2021 season.

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