After losing 5-star receiver Ermon Lane and 5-star running back Dalvin Cook earlier this month, likely both to rival Florida State, Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators were in need of a serious turnaround.
Wednesday morning, Muschamp and Co. officially mounted that spectacular comeback, pulling Penn State commit and 247Sports composite 4-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley from Happy Valley to Gainesville, as reported by Rivals.com's Mike Farrell.
Holley is the No. 3 defensive tackle in the 247Sports composite rankings.
The bad news for Penn State is some much-needed good news for Florida. Amid losing those two blue-chip playmakers, Muschamp has now lured 5-star cornerback Jalen Tabor away from Alabama and Arizona and also added the No. 2 defensive tackle, 5-star Gerald Willis out of New Orleans.
Along with Holley and longtime 4-star commit Khairi Clark, the Gators now boast one of the best defensive line classes in the nation, playing perfectly to their 4-3 scheme that has produced several NFL-caliber defenders up front.
ESPN's Derek Tyson tweeted that the Under Armour All-American is sold on joining that scheme and will not take any more visits.
Just got off the phone with Thomas Holley. Story coming soon. Said he will not take his other 2 visits. "I'm definitely going to Florida."— Derek Tyson (@DerekTysonESPN) January 15, 2014
It is likely that Muschamp isn't done, either. Since losing Cook, the Gators have been going hard after 4-star running back Jeff Jones, who is currently committed to Minnesota. Even if they can't draw Jones—who was one of the stars of the Under Armour All-American Game—to the South, they'll certainly enjoy the addition of Holley.
“I’m gonna be hearing from him real soon,” Holley said. “I know they were trying to come up for a home visit just to have the opportunity to meet my family and build a relationship. I’m waiting to see when that is.”
Holley's mother, Candace, also noted that a major factor would be the status of defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr., who played a major role in recruiting her son.
“It certainly would be a factor, absolutely,” Holley’s mother Candace said of Johnson’s presence. “You remove that factor, we’re back to square one as far as having no relationship with Penn State. So I don’t know. We’re pretty much sitting back waiting to see what’s gonna happen.”
“It’s gonna take time,” Candace said. “We’re weighing out everything in terms of whether Larry Johnson goes or stays what our position is gonna be. We really don’t know.”
But Monday, the ruling came down from Penn State. Joe Hermitt of PennLive.com reported that Johnson would not be a part of Franklin's staff, which likely led to Holley's decision to head to UF.
Even with the loss of Holley, it isn't time for PSU to panic. Franklin has already added two former Vanderbilt commits to his 2014 class in Happy Valley, with more likely to come. Regardless, it isn't good that the Nittany Lions lost their highest-rated prospect.
The Abraham Lincoln product had only been committed to the Lions since Dec. 17. PSU still boasts the No. 3 class in the Big Ten and the No. 28 class nationally.
Meanwhile, Florida now claims the No. 9 class in the nation, though that comes in at just sixth in the SEC.
It is likely that Holley will be competing with Willis and Clark for early playing time. The Gators have been quick to allow top defensive line prospects to play early, including Dante Fowler and Dominique Easley. Easley will be leaving his spot open as he heads to the NFL.