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As Gators turn their back on Jacksonville recruits, Jacksonville recruits turn their backs on Gators

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Jacksonville is less than a 90-minute drive from the University of Florida in Gainesville. Of the thousands of college football fans living in the Jacksonville area, the Florida Gators have more of them than any other program.

The Jacksonville area has also been beneficial to the Florida football program through the years, with several Jacksonville high school football stars such as Lito Sheppard, Fred Weary, Ciatrick Fason, Travis Taylor, Jabar Gaffney and yes, Tim Tebow, playing at UF.

What happened?

If you look at the past three recruiting cycles from 2016-2018, the Jacksonville area has once again been loaded with college football talent. There is just one problem: none of the talent went to Gainesville.

In that three-year period from 2016-2018, Jacksonville had seven of the top 50 players in the state of Florida and none of them are wearing the orange and blue of the Florida Gators

2016

Oakleaf High School linebacker Shaquille Quarterman committed to Miami

2017

Trinity Christian defensive back Shaun Wade committed to Ohio State

Trinity Christian wide receiver D.J. Matthews committed to Florida State

Sandalwood High School athlete Ameer Speed committed to Georgia

2018

Providence tight end Will Mallory committed to Miami

Bartram Trail quarterback Joey Gatewood committed to Auburn

Trinity Christian defensive back Tyreke Johnson committed to Ohio State

Those were seven high profile players, all ranked in the top-50 of their given classes and all in Florida’s backyard in the Jacksonville area.

The streak has continued into the 2019 class as four-star wide receiver Jeremiah Payton from Fletcher High School in Jacksonville has committed to Miami.

Payton is now the eighth consecutive Jacksonville prospect over the past four recruiting cycles to be ranked in the top-50 in the state for his class who has opted to play somewhere other than Gainesville.

Many Gator fans in the Jacksonville area believe this was a Jim McElwain issue. They believe that McElwain did not make Jacksonville a priority and that is why Florida has lost its foothold in Duval and the surrounding counties.

Many Florida fans in Northeast Florida believe Dan Mullen will turn that streak around.

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