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Three-Point Stance: 2023 TEs, Florida in mix for elite QB, more

Rivals national recruiting analyst Ryan Wright takes a look at how Southeast programs are whiffing on elite 2023 tight ends, whether Florida is in line for an elite 2023 QB and also whether the Gators' slow start in the 2023 recruiting cycle is cause for concern.

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1. SOUTHEAST PROGRAMS ARE MISSING ON TOP 2023 TIGHT ENDS.

Jelani Thurman
Jelani Thurman (Russell Johnson/Rivals.com)

The Georgia Bulldogs and Florida State Seminoles aside, AAC, ACC and SEC teams residing in the Southeast are whiffing on tight ends in their area thus far in the 2023 class. The Bulldogs are locked in with four-star Pearce Spurlin and three-star Lawson Luckie, while Florida State has four-star Randy Pittman, but Georgia Tech, Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Miami and UCF are without a top talent at the position, and very few are left on the board.

Rivals has identified 22 four-star tight end prospects of which only six remain uncommitted, and one of the elite talents left on the board is Langston Hughes (Ga.) target Jelani Thurman. On April 19 Thurman released his top eight of Ohio State, Ole Miss, Alabama, Tennessee, Clemson, Auburn, Michigan State and Miami, and the rumblings along the recruiting trail indicate neither Southeast squad is the leader in the clubhouse.

Michigan State is coming after Thurman hard, and the interest is being returned. Should Thurman choose the Spartans, this will be an odd recruiting cycle to see so many high-profile teams missing out on four-star caliber tight ends in their area.

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2. ARE THE GATORS SITTING PRETTY FOR AN ELITE 2023 QB? 

Dylan Lonergan
Dylan Lonergan (Rivals.com)

The top available quarterbacks ranked in the Rivals’ top 10 still available are five-stars Arch Manning and Dante Moore, along with four-stars Eli Holstein, Jaden Rashada, and Dylan Lonergan. Who goes where first will help the rest of the proverbial dominoes fall, and Florida could be the beneficiary of how these QBs decide.

Alabama is in the running to land Manning or Holstein. Moore has already officially visited LSU and Oregon as Michigan State and Michigan fans holding their breath. Holstein, a one-time Texas A&M commit, has taken spring visits to Alabama and Florida. The only four-star left in the Southeast is Lonergan, who is out of Georgia.

If Manning chooses the Tide will the Gators land either Holstein or Lonergan? From the look of things, yes.

The Gators are building momentum with up to seven four-stars that could verbally commit in the coming months. Lonergan announced his top five on April 22, listing Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, Stanford, and Ohio State, and each is in need of a 2023 quarterback. If Lonergan wants to stay close to home, South Carolina and Florida would be the leaders. Pushing Florida ahead of South Carolina, the Gamecocks took four-star Tanner Bailey in the 2022 class, while Florida missed out on an elite signal caller.

Florida appears to be sitting pretty with the opportunity to reel in one of the two four-stars, Holstein or Lonergan, as everyone waits for Manning and Moore to make their respective decisions. Early playing time is available in Gainesville.

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3. IS IT TIME TO HIT THE PANIC BUTTON IN GAINESVILLE?

Florida has just two commitments in its 2023 recruiting class: three-star athlete Aaron Gates and three-star receiver Tyree Patterson. And while the Early Signing Period is still more than six months away, the UF fans aren't used to seeing the Gators rank behind Boise State, Army and Western Michigan in the Rivals team recruiting rankings.

Is it time to hit the panic button in Gainesville, or is Florida's slow start a non-story that will be forgotten in a few months?

YES: Billy Napier took over the Florida job on Nov. 28, 2021; months have passed for 2023 recruits to have an idea about the new culture and schemes going on in Gainesville. Adding to it, Florida has hosted just about every top recruit in the region and then some, many of them multiple times. Recruits have been on campus to see the facilities, tour the campus, talk to the coaches and, most importantly, to see Florida practice this spring. And after all of that, the Gators still only have two verbal commits and rank behind a number of Group of Five programs.

NO: Let's not forget that, in a short period of time, Napier and his staff put together a top-20 class in 2022 that included a five-star and six four-stars. Gators fans should circle July 23 on their calendars when Peyton Kirkland, Malik Bryant and Derrick LeBlanc make their announcements. In the meantime, Florida is looking great with Knijeah Harris, Bryce Lovett and Treyaun Webb.

Another big possibility for Florida is five-star corner Cormani McClain. Mix in the “what ifs” on Samuel M’Pemba, Franics Mauigoa and Will Norman and the Gators are looking at a top-five recruiting finish easily.