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Miami is beating Florida as National Signing Day approaches, but the Gators can still close

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Miami is likely to get two players who were once expected to head to Florida.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Florida vs Iowa Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

By all accounts, Wednesday was a bad day for Florida on the recruiting trail, as Alligator Army writes.

First, South Florida offensive lineman Kai-Leon Herbert, thought to be a Florida lean for much of the fall despite a Michigan commitment, committed to Miami, cancelling a planned official visit to Florida this weekend in the process; then, just hours later, California cornerback Elijah Blades, a long-time Florida commit, decommitted from the Gators’ class, leaving Florida with just two corners committed.

And though Blades kept Florida in a post-decommitment top five list, history suggests very few elite recruits — and Blades is one, as one of the best defensive backs in the country — decommit from schools on or around National Signing Day only to reaffirm their commitments before the end of the cycle.

Oh, and current Florida commits and players spent much of the rest of the evening unsubtly subtweeting about Blades and Herbert. That was great.

In addition, word from South Florida is that Miami is now also the team to beat for four-star cornerback Chris “C.J.” Henderson. This is a big swing. A week ago, most felt Florida was the team for both Herbert and Henderson.

Herbert and Henderson (if he commits) are big in the Sunshine State recruiting landscape. Among the non-IMG Academy players (most of whom are from out of state and return to their home regions for college), Henderson is a top-15 player in Florida, and Herbert is a top-25 prospect.

They would rate as the No. 3 and 6 players, respectively, in Miami’s class. Had they signed with the Gators, they would rate as the No. 2 and 7 players, as things currently stand.

Still, Florida still has a number of good targets left. In fact, Florida was featured Thursday morning on SB Nation as one of the four teams who could close the strongest.

The Gators need to close well probably more than anyone else else. The natives in Gainesville are restless because Jim McElwain has not recruited to the standard of Will Muschamp. Muschamp pulled in three top-5 recruiting classes with the Gators, despite his trouble on the field. McElwain understandably struggled on his first Signing Day at the helm falling outside the top-20 in 2015. His 2016 class ranked 12th, but the 2017 class is currently 31st.

That’s not exactly an endearing prospect to Florida fans, and new AD Scott Stricklin didn’t exactly make things any better by going on a radio station and downplaying the importance of stars.

Florida currently has 14 commitments in their 2017 class, but a quartet that came on campus last weekend is intriguing. There’s an outside chance that defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe, C.J. Henderson, linebacker Nick Smith, and lineman Tedarrell. Slaton could all come to Florida. Plus, Florida is probably the leader for four-star receiver James Robinson. All except Smith are rated four-stars. A clean sweep of those guys on Signing Day and the Gators’ class could jump into the top 15, with still more work to do.

Miami is also on that list of potential closers. If the Hurricanes close well, they will end up in the top 10. If the Gators close well, they should be in the top 20, or perhaps the top 15.

Quickly

The 13 recruits to know, as Signing Day nears.

Some of ESPN’s Signing Day schedule is now out, with five-stars Trey Smith and Marvin Wilson mentioned as players who’ll be appearing live. (Wilson has yet to commit, while Smith is enrolled at Tennessee.) Expect 10 other big names on ESPN and several others elsewhere, as well.

Marvin Wilson is ridiculous.

Ranking all 50 states by their share of overall blue-chip recruits.

If one college signed all of IMG Academy’s seniors and nobody else, it’d have a top-10 class annually.

The highest-rated commit of Wednesday: former Michigan commit Kai-Leon Herbert to Miami, who should play right away.

And a few others added three-stars: CB Tre Bugg to Air Force, K Joseph Bulovas to Alabama, S KJ Jarrell to Arizona State, DE Brandon Henderson to ECU, OL Jacob Bolton to Iowa State, WR Nick Robinson to Memphis, S Antwione Sims to Navy, CB Zamari Maxwell to UCF, S Brian Roberts to UMass, WR Waydale Jones to Wake Forest, and OT Isaiah Hardy to West Virginia.

The day’s other biggest decommit, other than Blades from Florida, was three-star WR Warren Jackson from Arizona.

Georgia’s building a special class that’s somehow gone under the radar.

Maryland’s impressive class is drawing some national attention.

Parade Magazine named Alabama commit Dylan Moses its national player of the year.

How Alabama’s new AD automatically makes the Tide better for the future.