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Gators lock down Top 10 class on National Signing Day

With eight defensive starters leaving Florida after the 2016 season, the staff knew its biggest recruiting need would come on that side of the ball.

The Gators filled those spots Wednesday, signing six defensive backs -- including four 4-star prospects -- three linebackers and three 4-star defensive ends.

"I can't tell you how excited him for the day, how excited we are as a program, how happy I am for the guys who chose to be Gators," head coach Jim McElwain. "Part of the needs, some bigger bodies. Obviously the secondary is big. As we looked at it, we tried to stay balanced throughout each position group so we don't get that big turnover in certain spots."

The race was close for DBs Brian Edwards and C.J. Henderson and lineman T.J. Slaton, but the Gators won over the popular recruits down the final stretch.

"Usually, you want to see that coaches are all-out for you to get you," Slaton said. "That's how Florida was with me, so that's why I chose them."

Said Edwards: "When I got there on my official visit, I saw the atmosphere. I saw the coaches. And, you know, just being around them -- I know those guys are going to take care of me and get me developed."

UF hit a home run at the running back position, landing top target Adarius Lemons, who was once the state's No. 1 back. Malik Davis, Hillsborough County's all-time leading rusher, also signed.

"Obviously being close to home, my family can make my games," Davis said. "I know I can go in and make an impact. It's like a dream come true."

Jake Allen, a 3-star quarterback out of Saint Thomas Aquinas Academy, becomes another option at playcaller for the Gators.

At a public appearance during a UF basketball game a couple weeks ago, McElwain said Florida would "knock the door down" against Alabama if the teams meet again in the SEC Championship game. During Wednesday's press conference, McElwain was asked to clarify how Florida might succeed in that declaration.

"Get a bigger hammer," he said. "Steel-toed boots this time instead of tennis shoes."

The Gators have certainly put themselves in a better position to reach that goal after their furious finish on Signing Day skyrocketed their 2017 recruiting class from No. 31 to No. 10 in the 247 national composite rankings.

Below is a list of Florida's signees, including early enrollees:

Kyree Campbell (DT, Wyoming (Va.) Seminary), Kemore Gamble (TE, Miami Southridge), James Houston IV (LB, American Heritage), Kadeem Telfort (OL, Booker T. Washington), Kadarius Toney (athlete, Eight Mile), Jake Allen (QB, St. Thomas Aquinas), Lacedrick Brunson (LB, Michael Jackson), Zachary Carter (DE, Tampa Hillsborough), Elijah Conliffe (DE, Hampton -- VA), Malik Davis (RB, Tampa Jesuit), Shawn Davis (DB, Miami Southridge), Brian Edwards (DB, Miramar), Daquon Green (WR, Tampa Bay Tech), CJ Henderson (CB, Miami Columbus), Adarius Lemons (RB, Clearwater), Ventrell Miller (LB, Lakeland Kathleen), TJ Moore (OL, Mallard Creek -- N.C. ), James Robinson (WR, Lakeland), Tedarrell Slaton (OL, American Heritage), Nick Smith (LB, Orlando Dr. Phillips), Brad Stewart DB, McDonogh -- Louisiana), Donovan Stiner (S, Bellaire -- Texas), Marco Wilson (CB, American Heritage).

VIDEO COURTESY: CBS Tampa for Malik Davis; CBS Miami for Brian Edwards, T.J. Slaton and C.J. Henderson

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