Look no farther than Florida’s 2016 class to realize the shortcomings of recruiting’s stars system.

Top recruit Antonneous Clayton, a 5-star prospect per Rivals.com, never panned out but quarterback Kyle Trask, a 2-star prospect ranked at the bottom of a 25-man class, would set school records — including 43 touchdown passes in 2020.

Meanwhile, Cocoa Beach offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, a one-time 400-pounder ranked just inside the nation’s top 1,000 recruits, developed into a second-round pick and current starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars while Daytona Beach 3-star Jachai Polite became a first-team All-SEC pass rusher in 2018.

Recruiting is an inexact science, but at Florida 5 stars often foreshadows success. Even so, 3 stars — or in Trask’s case one fewer — is not an albatross, either.

Examples abound over the past 10 years.

Since 2013, nine Gators were 5-star recruits, according to Rivals or 247Sports. Clayton, who had 11 tackles in 10 appearance over three years, is the only washout. Cornerback Chris Steele, UF’s top signee in 2019, transferred to USC before his first season.

Of the remaining seven 5-stars, cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor were first-team All-SEC performers, Kelvin Taylor a 1,000-yard rusher and offensive tackle Martez Ivey and defensive end CeCe Jefferson were stalwarts for four seasons. Of current Gators, NFL-bound junior defensive tackle Gervon Dexter was set to make his 24th start during the Las Vegas Bowl and sophomore cornerback Jason Marshall his 20th.

But when Hargreaves and Taylor arrived in 2013, so did 3-star linebacker Jarrad Davis. The Kingsland, Ga., native was lowest-rated among four linebackers in the class but developed into a first-round draft pick in 2017.

Apopka’s Ivey was the nation’s top-rated offensive lineman and made 46 starts, yet never played in the NFL. Meanwhile, 3-star recruit Fred Johnson of West Palm Beach started 33 games at UF and is now on the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad while Ivey plays for Edmonton in the CFL.

Two 3-star recruits from Florida’s 2017 class, receiver Kadarius Toney and tailback Malik Davis, are members of Super Bowl contenders — Toney at Kansas City and Davis in Dallas.

The unpredictability is enough to make a recruiting coordinator’s head spin.

Yet, Florida first-year coach Billy Napier said he’s seen fewer misevaluations or prospects slipping through the cracks as recruiting coverage becomes increasingly competitive.

Napier, 43, was a recruiting coordinator at Clemson during his 20s. Then, recruiting staffs were bare-bones and at times ill-informed.

“You’re living in an information era,” Napier told the Orlando Sentinel. “The information is much more accurate … more accurate than maybe ever before in history of recruiting. So there’s some correlation there and probably some numbers and data and the sample size to prove that.”

Access to information, summer combines and showcase events aren’t foolproof, either. For every Antonneous Clayton, a Kyle Trask will always be lurking.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Edgar Thompson at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @osgators.



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