May 25, 2024

Florida football recruiting: Ex-USC OL Jason Zandamela, top available transfer in portal, commits to Gators


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USATSI

USC offensive line transfer Jason Zandamela committed to Florida Thursday afternoon, 247Sports reports. The No. 7 overall prospect and the No. 1 interior offensive lineman in 247Sports’ Transfer Rankings, Zandamela was the top prospect left on the market and the highest-ranked player to enter the portal during the spring window. 

All this, and he has yet to play a snap at the collegiate level. That’s a boon for the Gators, as Zandamela retains all four years of his eligibility after an abbreviated stay with the Trojans. 

A product of Clearwater Academy International in Florida, Zandamela signed with USC in December as the No. 1 interior offensive lineman and the No. 46 overall prospect in the class of 2024. He was the highest-rated recruit in USC’s most recent crop of signees, and the only top-50 freshman on the Trojans’ spring roster. 

Zandamela went through a majority of USC’s spring practice slate before entering the transfer portal on April 16, four days before the Trojans took the field for their spring game. Initial reports indicated that Zandamela wanted to return to Florida, and schools like UCF and Florida started swinging for his services. He took an official visit to Gainesville, Florida the weekend of April 26 and joined the Gators a few days later. 

Examining Zandamela’s role at Florida 

Zandamela worked at center with USC and might fit into that spot in Gainesville. He’s also versatile enough to line up at either guard spot, giving Florida the option of trying him at multiple positions before settling on a more permanent home. 

The staff certainly has time to bring Zandamela along before throwing him into the SEC’s trench warfare. The Gators are set at center with incumbent starter Jake Slaughter back to man the middle. UF does have to break in a new pair of guards, but former starting tackle Dameion George Jr. slid inside during spring practice and sophomore Knijeah Harris — who has generated significant buzz since arriving on Florida’s campus a year ago — will likely get a first look opposite George. 

Taking time to develop Zandamela is the smart approach unless he blows Florida away during summer workouts and fall camp. Zandamela grew up in Mozambique and played rugby for most of his life until he moved to the United States in October 2020. He didn’t start participating in American football until his sophomore year of high school. 

The 6-foot-3 and 307-pound Zandamela took to it quickly. He was a multi-year starter at center for Clearwater Academy International and earned a spot in the 2023 Under Armour All-America Game. Still, the SEC represents a rather steep jump in competition. For now, Zandamela is still a talented ball of clay for Florida to mold. 





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