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5 Takeaways from the Florida Gators' 2016 Recruiting Class

Jim McElwain

Jim McElwain

In his first recruiting class for the Florida Gators in 2015, head coach Jim McElwain finished with the 21st-ranked class, according to A top-25 class is pretty impressive considering McElwain had only been on the job for three months.

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In his first full cycle, McElwain improved upon Florida's national ranking. The Gators brought in the 12th-ranked class according to ESPN, while had it one spot lower at No. 13. Overall, Florida checks in at No. 14 in Athlon Sports' consensus recruiting rankings.

Related: College Football 2016 Team Recruiting Rankings

So, what are the main takeaways from McElwain's new group of recruits?

1. McElwain believes he improved the team’s offense with the 2016 class

If you followed the Gators last season, then it is no secret that the team struggled to move the ball after former quarterback Will Grier was suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Florida averaged 12.8 points per game (3-3) in its final six games, as the offense finished No. 111 in the country. McElwain said he was happy with the way the coaching staff addressed the offense during the recruiting period.

“Obviously that's part of the side that needed probably the most restructuring,” McElwain said. “I think we addressed some of those position needs. I feel really good at the skill spots. We obviously have some young offensive linemen and we have got a couple that we look forward to adding to that.”

Florida signed two quarterbacks (Franks and Kyle Trask), two running backs (Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson) and three receivers that will participate in spring practices. McElwain feels like that will big for the Gators.

"When you look at from the receiver, quarterback, running back side, I think we've got some really good talent in there,” McElwain said. “It will be fun to watch them, because the majority are here already. So we'll get a good feel for that this spring.”

2. Feleipe Franks could play sooner than expected

There’s a slim chance Treon Harris will be the Gators' starting quarterback in 2016. After taking over for Grier, Harris threw seven touchdown passes against six interceptions for an adjusted quarterback rating of 51.5.

Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is likely the favorite to be under center in the Sept. 3 opener against UMass. But if Franks has a great showing in the spring, the true freshman could have a chance to play right away.

Franks is tall (6-5), has a live arm and a lot of upside. He is already enrolled at Florida, so that will help his progression. What will determine how quickly he could play is how fast he's able to learn the playbook.

When talking about Franks on Tuesday, McElwain already seemed to be impressed with his progress.

“We're excited about him and the others that are in here with that class as freshmen,” McElwain said. "We are going to be able to complete some routes in the air because these guys can throw it now.”

3. Gators got their big fish in Tyrie Cleveland

Tuesday morning started out well for the Gators as Cleveland, a wide receiver from Westfield High School in Houston, Texas, flipped from his hometown Cougars and chose Florida over Arkansas and TCU. The four-star recruit is originally from Jacksonville, Fla., but his family moved to Texas when he was 11.

A number of recruiting sites had Cleveland as the No. 2 receiver in the 2016 class. McElwain said the Gators were pursuing Cleveland for a while.

“He's a guy that came by this summer and always had a lot of interest in the Gators, right there in Duval County, before he moved to Texas,” McElwain said. “For him, it's a little bit of a homecoming. Here is a guy that grew up wanting to be a Gator, playing in the swamp, back with a bunch of guys -- a couple guys that he actually grew up playing with. So I'm really happy he's back in this part of the country.”

Cleveland committed to Houston in December, but he visited Florida, TCU and Arkansas in January. Florida was hoping to revamp its receiver corps and signing Cleveland certainly did that.

4. Antonneous Clayton will improve the depth on the defensive line

While Cleveland received a lot of attention on Wednesday, defensive end Antonneous Clayton was a key signing for McElwain. The 6-foot-4, 236-pounder from Vienna, Ga., became a hot prospect after a dominating showing in the Under Armour All-America Game practices last month.

Clayton has the ability to become a relentless pass rusher with his quick first step off the ball. In 11 games last season, Clayton averaged seven tackles per contest and had a total of 26.5 tackles for a loss and 13 quarterback hurries.

Coaches from Auburn and Florida State attempted to try to flip Clayton during the contact period in January, but the four-star recruit remained loyal to the Gators.

5. Florida shouldn’t have any kicking issues in 2016

A kicker rarely gets any attention when talking about recruiting classes. But with the Gators' kicking issues last season Eddy Pineiro was an excellent signing.

Pineiro was originally committed to Alabama but flipped to Florida in December. The Miami native was the nation’s top kicking prospect and will provide an immediate upgrade to Austin Hardin, who missed nine field goals and four extra points last season.

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley