Which FBS programs did the best job of recruiting Florida talent in 2020-21?

Jon Santucci
Treasure Coast Newspapers
Defensive end Keanu Koht announces his commitment to the University of Alabama football program during the Early National Signing Day ceremony in the Performing Arts Center at Vero Beach High School on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, in Vero Beach. “If you talk to anybody that’s been to Alabama or goes to Alabama, they know that Alabama is everything that you could dream of,” said Koht.

The state of Florida seems to produce elite football players the same way it does oranges and sugar.

Only Texas, a state with approximately 7.5 million more people than Florida, is known for churning out more college football talent.

Even in a pandemic year with unprecedented recruiting limitations, hundreds of in-state student-athletes signed a National Letter of Intent in December or February.

More:National Signing Day: Who had a good day ... and who didn't

More:National Signing Day: What's most important to Florida high school football's Class of 2021?

More:Who's Next? A look at the top 2022 football recruits in Miami-Dade

So, which schools did the best job of recruiting the state in 2020-21?

Here’s a look at how Florida’s seven FBS programs recruited in-state talent. as well as which program in each FBS conference did the best job of recruiting the state.

Florida schools


18 of 21 signees from Florida

Top in-state signee: DT Leonard Taylor (Miami Palmetto, No. 3 overall recruit in Florida)

Vero Beach Vs Palmetto, Class 3-8A regional final at the Citrus Bowl on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, in Vero Beach. Miami Palmetto won the game with Vero Beach 10-7.

Traditionally, this is how Miami has built its best teams:  Sign talent from Miami-Dade and Broward counties, sprinkle in athletes from around the state and hand-pick a couple out-of-state playmakers and/or quarterback. It certainly didn’t hurt that local players could make a quick trip to Coral Gables for unofficial visits despite COVID-19 recruiting restrictions.


14 of 22 signees from Florida

Top in-state signee: CB Jason Marshall (Miami Palmetto, No. 9 overall recruit in Florida)

Trinity Christian #4 Marcus Burke catches a pass for a touchdown against Chaminade-Madonna during the fourth quarter of the Class 3A State Championship football game at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida on December 16, 2020. Trinity Christian won 25-22.  [James Gilbert/For the Times-Union]

The Gators loaded up on in-state defensive talent, especially in the secondary and on the line. Miami Palmetto DBs Corey Collier and Marshall are tall defensive backs who can contribute early. St. Thomas Aquinas DE Tyreak Sapp is one of the nation’s best and they added former Kissimmee-Osceola LB Diwun Black — the nation’s top junior college player.


15 of 18 signees from Florida

Top in-state signee: WR Jimmy Horn Jr. (Sanford-Seminole, No. 108 overall recruit in Florida)

Gunnar Greenwald signed with University of South Florida for football.  Wednesday was the December early signing day for football and Satellite had six athletes sign letters of intent.

Since coach Jeff Scott arrived in Tampa, he’s made in-state players a priority. The Bulls stayed in-state for almost all of their high school signees this year, including the dynamic quarterback-wide receiver combo of Timmy McClain and Horn from Class 8A state champion Seminole. Horn is one of several playmakers the Bulls signed.


14 of 16 signees from Florida

Top in-state signee: DT Savion Collins (Miami Palmetto, No. 82 overall recruit in Florida)

Treasure Coast High School's Keegan Davis (44) moves his way through the Jensen Beach defense on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, during a game at the South County Stadium in Port St. Lucie. Treasure Coast won the game 42-0.

Half of the Panthers in-state signees were from Miami-Dade or Broward counties, including Collins, who is the highest-rated signee in program history. The only out-of-state high school signees were Elite 11 QB Grayson James from Texas and WR Jay Barry Jr. from Colorado.


13 of 20 signees from Florida

Top in-state signee: WR Jahmal Edrine (Fort Lauderdale, No. 189 overall recruit in Florida)

Atlantic's Jeremiah McClendon signed with Florida Atlantic on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.

The Owls pulled almost half of their recruiting class from Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade counties — that includes all four of the players the program signed in February. FAU prioritized offensive linemen, wide receivers and defensive backs in Florida, including Edrine and Tampa Catholic OL Jordan Sandlin.

Florida State

7 of 17 signees from Florida

Top in-state signee: WR Malik McClain (IMG Academy, No. 37 overall recruit in Florida)

Lehigh Senior High School hosted an Early Signing Day ceremony where senior cornerback Omarion Cooper signed with Florida State and senior linebacker Jake Chaney signed with the University of Wisconsin. Cooper held his son, Omarion Cooper Jr. during the signing.

This is how it’s been for Mike Norvell’s first two classes at FSU. Less than half of Norvell’s high school signees have been in-state players. The Seminoles did well by landing tall IMG WR McClain as well as in-state defensive standouts Shambre Jackson (Boone DE), Omarion Cooper (Lehigh CB) and Patrick Payton (Miami Northwestern LB).

More:Catching up with FSU football coach Mike Norvell: Lessons learned, a complete offseason

More:Catching up with FSU football coach Mike Norvell Part 2: McKenzie Milton, offensive line


5 of 21 signees from Florida

Top in-state signee: DT Anthony Hundley (IMG Academy, No. 85 overall recruit in Florida)

Ethan Mort, Venice's, offensive tackle at 6-6, and some 275-pounds during the Venice's Football awards ceremony held at the Venice Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night Dec. 16, 2020.

Even before former coach Josh Heupel took the Tennessee job a week before the February National Signing Day, this already was shaping up to be a different class. The Knights signed only five in-state players in a class that includes several junior college transfers, one of the top players in Hawaii and an offensive lineman from Germany.

FBS Conferences

(Conference rankings do not include Florida programs)

ACC: Clemson

Lakeland Christian defensive end Cade Denhoff made it official over the weekend by signing with Clemson. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior finished his high school career with 26.5 sacks.

The Tigers didn’t sign the most players from Florida, but they did manage to get three of the top 25 players in the state — DE Cade Denhoff (Lakeland Christian), OT Marcus Tate (TRU Prep) and WR Troy Stellato (Cardinal Gibbons).

Notable: Louisville and Pittsburgh each signed four players from Florida. Both schools boast assistants — Frank Ponce at Louisville and Charlie Partridge at Pittsburgh — who were prep athletes in South Florida, had previous coaching stops in Florida and earned reputations as top Florida recruiters.

Big-12: West Virginia

Cocoa's Davis Mallinger (7) looks for an opening on the run.

The Mountaineers traditionally have had a lot of success recruiting Florida. This year, West Virginia landed a trio of top 100 athletes — WR Davis Mallinger (Cocoa), LB Ja’Corey Hammett (Miami Northwestern) and Aubrey Burks (Auburndale).

Notable: Oklahoma signed two Florida players, including WR Mario Williams (Plant City). Williams was the only player ranked in the state’s top 20 to sign with a program west of Louisiana.

Big Ten: Maryland

Sandalwood Saints linebacker Branden Jennings (44) runs down field during the second half of the Region 1-8A FHSAA high school football game Friday, November 20, 2020 at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida. [Stan Badz/Special to The Florida Times-Union]

The Terrapins signed five players from Florida, the second-most of any Big Ten program. Maryland managed to land two of the premier linebackers in the nation — five-star LB Terrance Lewis (Miami Central) and Branden Jennings (Jacksonville-Sandalwood).

Notable: Michigan signed IMG’s quarterback-center combo of J.J. McCarthy and Greg Crippen. … Michigan State signed five defensive backs in 2021, including Venice cornerbacks Charles Brantley and Steffan Johnson.

Pac-12: Washington State

Lake Gibson Gavin Barthiel (5) runs a kickoff return into the Spoto end zone for touchdown during first quarter action at Lake Gibson in Lakeland Fl. Friday November 13, 2020. 

Very few Florida high school players signed with Pac-12 programs, which wasn’t a surprise considering the recruiting limitations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Washington State was the lone program to sign multiple Florida recruits — LB Gavin Barthiel (Lake Gibson) and DE Xavier Young (Miami-Edison).

Notable: Standout two-sport athlete Michael Trigg Jr. (Tampa-Carrollwood Day) had SEC, ACC and Pac-12 offers to play basketball or football but opted to sign with USC as a TE. Trigg was the No. 21 overall recruit in the state for football.

SEC: Alabama

IMG Academy's JC Latham (55) defends against Ravenwood's Zack Maaske (25) during the second half at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn., Friday, Sept. 25, 2020.

The Crimson Tide’s historically great recruiting class includes seven of the top 14 players in the state of Florida. The haul was headlined by OL JC Latham (IMG), DE Dallas Turner (St. Thomas Aquinas) and WR Jacorey Brooks (IMG).

Notable: Mississippi State signed five players from Florida, including All-American DE Deonte Anderson (Fort Meade) and under-the-radar OT Albert Reese (Clearwater Academy International). … Auburn signed more players from Florida (four) than any other state. … Vanderbilt signed four Florida players, three from Class 7A champion St. Thomas Aquinas.

AAC: Cincinnati

Fletcher High running back Myles Montgomery (1) gets loose for a big gain against First Coast Monday, November 2, 2020 at First Coast High in Jacksonville, Florida. (Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union)

The Bearcats went into South Florida and came away with TE/WR Chamon Metayer (North Miami) and state-champion DE Jah-mal Williams (Cardinal Gibbons). Cincinnati also signed three-star RB Myles Montgomery (Neptune Beach-Fletcher).

Notable: Navy signed a trio of Florida players, including Deerfield Beach three-star CB Tyler Gaskin. … Memphis signed Bartram Trail’s David Kemp — the top-ranked kicker in Florida.

Conference-USA: UAB

UAB landed a pair of Northwestern defensive backs: Tim Burns Jr. and Antwan Massie. Burns, a three-star cornerback, is one of the 20 highest-rated recruits in Blazers history according to 247Sports. 

SarasotaÕs Terrell Pack (1) stiff arms Lehigh AcresÕ  Marvel Carter (22) for an extra gain during their playoff game Friday evening in Sarasota. ( Herald-Tribune photo / Matt Houston )

Notable: Middle Tennessee State added a potential passing combo of QB Nick Vattiato (TRU Prep) and WR Terrell Pack (Sarasota). ... Marshall heavily recruited Florida under former coach Doc Holliday, but the Thundering Herd signed only one in-state recruit (Hollywood-McArthur LB Isaiah Finnie).

Independents: Notre Dame

Trinity Catholic #70 Caleb Johnson, who has agreed to play for Auburn Univeristy after his senior year, throws a block on #66 Jake Slaughter who has agreed to play for the University of Florida after his senior year. Trinity Catholic kicked off their first day of football practice under the direction of Head Coach John Brantley III Monday afternoon, August 24, 2020. Brantley stepped down as head coach in 2014 and decided to return this year. "I just want to get started. Everyday is a new day and these kids want to play," Brantley said Monday. Their first game is against South Sumter at home on September 18, 2020.  [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2020

UConn signed more Florida recruits than any other Independent program, but there’s no denying the talent of the two players the Fighting Irish signed. Valrico-Bloomingdale CB Philip Riley and Ocala-Trinity Catholic OL Caleb Johnson both are among the top 50 recruits in the state.

Notable: Two of Connecticut’s three Florida signees were from Jacksonville — Westside TE Christopher Johnson and Sandalwood DL Langston Harvey.

MAC: Buffalo

Considering the greatest player in Bulls history is from Florida — Fort Pierce Westwood grad Khalil Mack — it makes sense for the program to keep dipping into Sunshine State talent. Buffalo signed three Florida recruits this year, including Tampa Bay Tech WR Jamari Gassett.

Venice high school quarterback Colin Blazek.  MATT HOUSTON / HERALD-TRIBUNE

Notable: Ball State landed Tampa-Gaither QB Kiael Kelly, the son of former Miami QB and MLB outfielder Kenny Kelly. The Cardinals also signed Venice QB Colin Blazek. … Ohio signed a trio of Florida recruits, led by Plant City WR Aramoni Rhone.

Mountain West: Air Force

Braylon Fowler (4) slips away from a defender and scores on a 61-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of Bartram Trail's 35-13 playoff win at Spruce Creek. [News-Journal/Nadia Zomorodian]

The Falcons don’t release an official signing day class list because of the academy’s appointment process, but eight state players signed with the program. The headliners were Bartram Trail WR Braylon Fowler and Jacksonville-Trinity Christian CB Terrell Jackson. Four of the Falcons signees were from the First Coast area.

Notable: Colorado State has signed at least two players in each class since 2016. That trend continued this year with Navarre DT Grady Kelly and Flagler Palm Coast LB Malaki Grant.

Sun Belt: Georgia Southern

DeLand High School safety Myzel Williams claimed 30 Division I football offers ahead of his senior season. Photo taken January 2021.

The Eagles got a late steal when Deland safety Myzel Williams decommitted from Mississippi State and signed with Georgia Southern. According to 247Sports, Williams is the seventh-highest rated signee in program history. The Eagles finished with four Florida players, including Seffner-Armwood QB Cam’Ron Ransom.

Notable: Georgia State signed as many players from Florida (four) as it did from Georgia. … Arkansas State landed a pair of under-the-radar skill position players — Vero Beach RB Bobby McMillian and Clearwater Academy International WR/TE Seydou Traore.

Note: Overall state recruiting rankings are from 247Sports' composite rankings