Early signing period: Gators load up on area stars; FSU inks 2 local playmakers

Orange Park offensive tackle Roderick Kearney signed with Florida on Wednesday. (Justin Barney, News4JAX)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The first day of the college football early signing period is off and running.

As expected, most area commits in the Class of 2023 signed their national letters of intent on Wednesday, the first day in a 72-hour early signing window where recruits can sign with college programs.

Billy Napier and the Gators had a big showing in the News4JAX coverage area, signing four players. That included Trinity Christian running back Treyaun Webb, Orange Park offensive tackle Roderick Kearney, Columbia linebacker Jaden Robinson and Bartram Trail safety Sharif Denson. It’s the largest area contingent for a Florida class since 2013 when five players signed with the Gators.

Webb’s signing is notable for a few reasons.

In Florida signing classes from 1998 to 2022, a 25-year slice, only one area running back signed with the Gators (Fletcher’s Ciatrick Fason in 2002). Brandon James was a running back in high school at St. Augustine but was signed exclusively as a special teams ace in college in Florida’s Class of 2006. Denson’s signing is notable for Billy Napier, too. He’s just the second Bartram player to sign with the Gators. Safety Tre’Vez Johnson was the first in 2020.

Kearney was the last of the local contingent to sign with Florida and said during his ceremony that he was a bit nervous for his big day in front of friends and family.

“It all came down to this one decision and it was a great decision and it was the right choice for me,” Kearney said. “This has always been my dream to go the University of Florida and finally got a chance to become the man I am today.”

Florida State also had a solid pull in the area, with Fleming Island running back Sam Singleton and Raines safety Kenton Kirkland signing NLI’s. Coach Mike Norvell is no doubt looking to restore the Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee pipeline pipeline that has slowed in recent years. Florida State hasn’t signed more than one area player since the Class of 2014 when the Seminoles landed Kain Daub (Sandalwood) and Trey Marshall (Columbia).

The biggest news on Wednesday involved Union County defensive lineman Markus Strong, a three-star prospect by 247 Sports. Strong was uncommitted heading into signing day but signed with Oklahoma, a blockbuster event for the Tigers program. Union County head coach Andrew Thomas before the Tigers state semifinal game that the Sooners really liked Strong and could be in the mix for him.

That’s the biggest signing in Lake Butler since running back Charles Strong signed with Texas A&M in 2018.

Early signing period signees

Position, Player, High school, Ht., Wt., College, (indicates officially signed *)

OL Kyland Armstrong, Oakleaf, 603, 285, Wake Forest*

OL Brendan Black, Bolles, 6-2, 266, Iowa State*

RB Manny Covey, Bradford, 5-11, 175, Cincinnati

TE Connor Cox, Bolles, 6-5, 225, South Carolina*

CB Sharif Denson, Bartram Trail, 5-11, 170, Florida*

WR Zackary Drawdy, Yulee, 6-3, 180, UConn*

S Amare Ferrell, Columbia, 6-2, 192, Indiana*

OL Cooper Fordham, Bolles, 6-2, 280, Louisiana*

S Landon Hale, Yulee, 6-2, 190, Florida International*

DL Jordan Hall, Westside, 6-4, 300, Uncommitted

WR Jarvis Hayes, Ware County, 6-1, 180, Western Kentucky*

WR Koron Hayward, Sandalwood, 6-4, 200, Western Kentucky*

LB Grayson Howard, Jackson, 6-3, 223, South Carolina*

QB Tyler Jefferson, Columbia, 6-1, 230, Central Michigan*

OL Roderick Kearney, Orange Park, 6-4, 290, Florida*

S Kenton Kirkland, Raines, 6-1, 176, Florida State*

OL Timothy Lawrence, Fleming Island, 6-5, 290, South Florida*

ATH Michael Leonard, Bishop Kenny, 6-3, 225, Davidson*

OL Jamal Meriweather, Brunswick, 6-6, 261, Georgia

RB Mike Mitchell, Middleburg, 6-0, 200, Utah*

S Davaughn Patterson, White, 6-1, 195, Wake Forest*

LB Jaden Robinson, Columbia, 6-1, 212, Florida*

DL Shaku Sangarie, Atlantic Coast, 6-3, 220, Drake*

RB Sam Singleton, Fleming Island, 5-11, 180, Florida State*

DL Markus Strong, Union County, 6-4, 280, Oklahoma*

DL Ka’Shawn Thomas, Brunswick, 6-3, 280, Wake Forest*

RB Treyaun Webb, Trinity Christian, 6-0, 188, Florida*

OL Ethan Williams, Fleming Island, 6-3, 280, Georgia Southern*

LB JaMari Whitehead, Raines, 6-2, 210, Georgia Southern*

LB Abram Wright, Fleming Island, 6-2, 220, Rutgers*

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.