Jaden Rashada details what went into his flip from Miami to Florida

Nick de la Torre12/29/22
Article written by:On3 imageNick de la Torre


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(Photo courtesy of Francis Mauigoa and UAA Communications, edit by Gators Online)

Billy Napier was more than an hour late for his early Signing Day press conference. Most of the signing class had sent in their National Letters of Intent and been officially announced on the Florida Gators Twitter account. There was one glaring omission: Jaden Rashada.

As reporters entered the Heavener Football Training Center for Napier’s press conference, a staffer asked me how the class was being received. I told him they should cancel the press conference if they didn’t have Rashada’s NLI in by four o’clock.

It wasn’t in by 4 p.m., so we waited nearly for more than 90 minutes.

Ultimately, the NLI came. The tweet was sent. Rashada was officially a Gator. Napier walked into the room with a smile resembling a kid coming down the stairs to see that Santa had come the night before.

“One of the more highly regarded quarterbacks in the country,” Napier said of his new quarterback. “I think the ball really jumps out of his hand. He’s a junkie. He loves the game. He’s all about the work. I think he’s got a good, sturdy frame that we can add weight to. Just been very impressed with his approach.”

The wait, however, drew concerns from a fan base that had already lost out on the gem of the 2023 class once before.

Why Jaden Rashada picked Miami and how Florida got him back

Rashada, by all accounts, had a fantastic official visit to Florida and the Gators felt great about landing him in the summer. That all changed after one final official visit to the Miami Hurricanes the weekend before Rashada was to go public with a commitment.

On June 26, Rashada sat behind a table with baseball hats in front of him — a scene that has played out for decades in recruiting. You don’t want your team’s hat to be left on the table. Unfortunately for the Gators, their hat did just that. Rashada committed to Miami, spurning Florida and Billy Napier. Despite the setback, the coach and the Gators wouldn’t give up on the California passer.

“I’m a people person. Me, Coach Napier, Coach O’Hara, Coach KC (Keary Colbert) a lot of people in the Florida building kind of clicked naturally,” Rashada told Gators Online’s Corey Bender at Under Armour All-American Media Day. “Just having the same outlook on things, I think it was always that connection. I think that’s why the communication was always there. Whether I was committed or not.”

Even as a Miami commit, the Gators continued recruiting Rashada. The quarterback watched from afar as the Gators’ season went sideways. More than results, he was watching Anthony Richardson and how Napier used him.

“There was always a spot in my heart for Florida. That never went away. I just had to reevaluate some things,” Rashada said. “I think what helped a lot was seeing the quarterback position throughout the season as well. The positions that they put their quarterbacks in. That was a big factor too.”

Richardson himself got in on the recruitment.

“Me and AR have always had a relationship since I met him,” Rashada said. “Whether I went there or not it was never, he didn’t stop talking to me. I’ll ask him his opinion on some things and he would text me back right away.” 

A shockwave at midnight

With constant communication throughout the season and a change of heart, Rashada had his mind made up. As rumors of something big happening hit social media, Gator fans wondered what it could be.

Shortly after midnight in Gainesville on November 11 (still November 10 from Rashada’s California living room), the tweet was sent.

It was Napier and the Florida staff’s persistence and honesty that ultimately won the quarterback over.

“They kept the communication going. They kept saying their game plan for me personally, not just plugging me in. I think that was the biggest thing. Just the relationship and how much they value me,’ Rashada said. “That was super important to me.

“Go somewhere where you can compete and where they have a plan for you. I think that was really important, that somebody has a plan for you. Not just plug you in but I think the quarterback room, we’re building it as we go. I’m just ready to compete and learn from everybody.” 

Napier said of flipping Rashada: ”I think we felt like the connection is real, and we felt like there was something there. We felt we were really close. Obviously a lot goes into these decisions, but certainly as time went on, we were consistent there.

“There was common ground, and I think the connection was real. Just think there’s a high level of trust on both ends there. I’m really excited about what he’s going to bring to our team.”

Fitting in to the system

It helps that Napier is so hands on with the quarterbacks. Having a head coach essentially be your position coach played a factor in Rashada’s final decision.

“I love that he’s there with you every day, every step. You don’t have to worry about a new system because of a coordinator change,” he said. “Coach Nape is there and it’s his system. I think that’s what I like about it.” 

Rashada was recently given the “best arm” superlative by On3. As he watched Florida’s offense in 2022, he saw the running game and the play designs.

“I think, mainly, the play action and hitting those deep balls. I think they have an established run game and that helps out a passer a lot,” he said. “Having an established run game and opening up play action. I personally think that is my biggest strength so definitely that.” 

Nothing has been promised. Rashada will need to put weight onto a thin frame and adjust to the college game. He didn’t want an assurance he would start from day one but given the state of Florida’s quarterback room, he’ll have the opportunity.

Rashada will move to Gainesville and enroll on January 5. That will be the culmination of a tumultuous recruitment that Florida eventually won out on and the next chapter for one of the most talented quarterbacks in the 2023 class.