Apr 7, 2017; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain looks on from the field during the orange and blue debut at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

McElwain and Gators Host Successful Friday Night Lights

An annual event since 2005, Friday Night Lights continues to be one of the most popular recruiting showcases in the country. This year, Florida head coach Jim McElwain and his staff hosted what is quite possibly their most star-studded version yet.

Present in the Swamp for the event were hundreds of recruits, including at least one top-200 player at every position.

The QB’s

The two highest-profile players there were two 5-star quarterbacks: Justin Fields, the top dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 class, and Matt Corral, the second-ranked pro-style quarterback in the class. Also in attendance was standout 2020 quarterback Harrison Bailey.

Corral did not participate in the showcase part like Fields and Bailey, but was still there to take it all in, and could be seen chatting it up with the two of them. It was the first visit to Gainesville for the California native after decommitting from Southern Cal earlier in the recruiting process.

Fields and Bailey did go through the passing drills with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and were two of the standout performers on the night. Both showed good zip on their passes and showed consistent accuracy, with Fields really impressing.

A big allure, Fields said, of coming to the event was being able to work with the coaches.

“It was just great to see how Coach Nuss coaches and just how he communicates with the other players,” Fields said. “That’s what I wanted to see.”

In between drills, Fields talked to several other recruits and got to know some of the others in the 2018 class.

“That’s another reason why I came here, just to hang out with those guys and make a relationship with them,” he said. “So it just making those friendships.”

Fields said this his last visit for the summer, as his attention will now to turn to his senior season of high school football, with practice starting up on Monday.

Other Standouts

The quarterbacks weren’t the only ones who shined under the lights at the indoor practice facility and at the Swamp.

O-Line

A big target for the Gators that showed out was 2018 4-star offensive tackle William Barnes. The 6’5″, 290-pound lineman from Apopka is ranked as the top OT in Florida, and put that on display in the drills.

Barnes, who wants to study computer science, said that the education level of the school will play a big factor in where he commits, and he likes what he’s heard about UF, who he said will definitely get one of his official visits.

“I heard Florida has one of the best academics in the SEC, so that’s definitely something I’m looking at,” Barnes said.

In addition, Barnes has developed a good relationship with both new O-Line coach Brad Davis and current lineman for the Gators, Martez Ivey. Ivey went to same high school as Barnes, so the two have remained close, and has been in his ear with praise for Davis and the university as a whole.

“And I believe him,” Barnes said. “He was my mentor my freshman year when he was a senior, so he brought me up and kind of made me the man I am today.”

Barnes lists Florida among his top schools, but hasn’t narrowed it down yet, and plans on committing on National Signing Day.

WR/DB’s and RB

The 1-on-1s between receivers and defensive backs provided most of the other sparks on the night. Good routes that made defensive backs fall and one handed grabs drew awed reactions from the crowd. Among the main recruits at the position that attended was Jacob Copeland, a big time 4-star wideout from South Florida.

Meanwhile at the running back position, Florida commit Iverson Clement was in attendance as well as 4-star West Virginia commit Leddie Brown.

The Gators will look to continue the success from this event and try to turn it into some commitments to have some momentum going into the season, with kickoff against Michigan less than six weeks away.

About Jonathan Acosta

Native New Englander. Follow me on Twitter: @jonacosta_10

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