It was a long time coming for Florida, but on July 18, the Gators finally received a commitment from a player at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., when four-star guard Curtis Dunlap committed.
Dunlap is the first commitment for Florida from IMG.
“I don’t really know why because we have only had football five years and I wasn’t here the first two seasons,” IMG coach Kevin Wright said when asked why UF hadn’t signed any players from the school. “I know we only had a handful of kids those first couple years that went Division I. I know that we have had several kids that have considered Florida recently. It’s not like they haven’t done a good job recruiting, or are not highly thought of on campus.
“I just think if you look at where are kids have gone in the three years that I have been here, it’s been all over. We do a spring bus tour; we started it two years ago and the first school we went to was the University of Florida. They were great and I know our kids enjoyed it. We have kids from all over the country. In fact, in our two-deep, I think we only have six or seven Florida kids, so I think that makes a difference as well.”
Dunlap is from Jacksonville. But most top-flight IMG prospects are from out of state. Last year, for instance, quarterback Kellen Mond and linebacker Dylan Moses starred at IMG, but Mond is from San Antonio and Moses from Baton Rouge, La. This year, IMG features, among others, five-star defensive end Xavier Thomas, who is a South Carolina native, and four-star cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles, who is from Las Vegas.
Despite a 3-2 start to this season and rumblings from some in Florida’s fan base, Wright thinks coach Jim McElwain has done a good job to this point.
“It’s like anything else. When schools are having success, kids notice,” Wright said. “This is his third year at Florida, I think he has done a good job and I think people are starting to look at what he is really building.
“In my opinion, the staff doesn’t get as much credit as what they really should. You look at the number of games he has won and you look at what he has done this year with that number of kids suspended, and if he could ever keep a quarterback healthy, that might help as well.
“Sometimes it takes a while and the state of Florida is so competitive, with the majority of Power Five schools that are in Florida recruiting. So not only is the University of Florida competing against the in-state schools, but they are also competing against the best programs from around the country.”
As for Dunlap, Wright calls him “probably one of the biggest success stories we have had.”
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