Amari Burney’s commitment big for Florida on several levels

Florida started the month of June with a bang Thursday as 4-star safety Amari Burney pledged to the Gators.

His decision did not come as a surprise, but he’s a key addition to the team and program. Most importantly, Burney fills UF’s biggest need in the Class of 2018.

The Gators lose starting safeties Marcell Harris and Nick Washington after the 2017 season and will return just three players at the position for next year, though some of Florida’s incoming defensive backs could play safety if needed.

Nonetheless, McElwain, new secondary coach Corey Bell and other staff members have addressed the top priority in this recruiting cycle with commitments from a pair of 4-star safeties in Burney (Clearwater, Fla.) and C.J. Smith (West Palm Beach, Fla.).

This is the fourth consecutive cycle that McElwain & Co. have met their biggest need with quality players. It was offensive line in 2015 and the Gators signed six linemen, including 5-star tackle Martez Ivey. UF landed five 4-star wideouts in 2016 — highlighted by the nation’s No. 2 receiver Tyrie Cleveland — and signed five coveted cornerbacks in the previous class.

Burney’s commitment is also a good look for in-state recruiting. Last year the Gators signed 11 of the top 50 prospects from the Sunshine State, but just one of those signees (T.J. Slaton) ranked in the top 10. Ohio State, meanwhile, landed a pair of Florida’s top-10 recruits. Alabama signed three and Florida State finished with three in the top 11.

The next step for the Gators in recruiting is to beat out playoff-caliber programs such as Alabama, FSU and Ohio State for elite recruits in the Sunshine State. Burney isn’t a top-10 recruit, but he’s ranked No. 17 and becomes the first UF commit in this class to hold offers from at least two of the aforementioned programs.

His pledge is also an encouraging sign for Florida’s efforts in the Tampa Bay area. McElwain has put an emphasis on recruiting that region of the state and the Gators signed four 2017 prospects from the Tampa Bay area, including the best back in Florida (Adarius Lemons) and a trio of Tampa recruits for the first time since 2016.

Burney discusses his commitment to UF in the video below. Calvary’s Amari Burney talks about his decision to commit to Florida. pic.twitter.com/lM1ZVwqCxk — Bob Putnam (@BobbyHomeTeam) June 1, 2017 News & notes

Asa Martin, Florida’s No. 1 running back target, included the Gators as one of three finalists along with Alabama and Auburn. The 4-star prospect from Decatur, Ala., plans to announce his decision on Aug. 24. Martin has previously named UF his No. 1 school , but an April offer from Alabama could put the Crimson Tide over the top.

I will be choosing one of the these three schools August 24 at the Austin High School Auditorium pic.twitter.com/6B4GA4Dwmk — 2️⃣0️⃣ (@TheAsaMartin_) June 1, 2017 The Gators hosted a pair of Miami commits on campus Thursday. Mark Pope and Daquris Wiggins, 4-star wide receivers and teammates at Southridge High […]