Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of the “Next Up” series, which profiles the signees from Florida’s 2016 class. SEC Country traveled around the South to visit the recruits before they reported to campus.
THEODORE, Ala. — Following his junior season, Lamical Perine expected his offer sheet and recruiting rankings to increase.
The 3-star tailback out of Theodore High School rushed for 1,416 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2014, but that production basically went unnoticed by college coaches and recruiting services.
“It was frustrating,” Perine said. “I felt like I didn’t get the looks I deserved.”
One SEC program, however, set its sight on Perine in the spring of 2015. Florida coach Jim McElwain and running backs coach Tim Skipper offered him on May 28, and he committed the following day.
“It felt good to have a big school like that come after me, regardless of my rating,” Perine said. “It just showed me they really cared about me. Stars didn’t matter to them. They saw how much talent I had.”
But after his pledge, Perine didn’t receive the bump in rankings that typically happens when a prospect commits to a school such as Florida. He carried his 3-star rating into his senior season.
“It definitely bothered me,” Perine said. “I thought about it every day, actually. I know recruiting analysts can’t evaluate every kid, but I figured my Florida commitment would get me noticed and it didn’t. People kept doubting me.”
That fueled Perine as a senior, and he went on to rush for 1,654 yards and 15 touchdowns that fall. Ten games into his season, he got a called from Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“He wanted to offer me because I was playing so well,” Perine said. “He told me I had gotten faster and stronger since my junior year. Coach (Burton) Burns had been at my game that week to check me out, and I guess he decided to pull the trigger after watching me.”
The offer served as validation for Perine. In his state, you’re not a big-time recruit unless Saban wants you.
“I was very excited to have the offer,” Perine said. “There’s not too many running backs from this state that can say they got an offer from them because they recruit nationally.
“There’s nothing better than being in Alabama and saying you got an offer from the Crimson Tide. It’s the in-state school and you get a chance to play at home, but I wanted to try something different and go to Florida.”
Perine put one final stamp on his senior season when he was named the Class 7A running back of the year in Alabama. His team plays in the highest classification of high school football in the state.
“That was an amazing honor,” Perine said. “My mom enjoyed seeing me receive the award. To be labeled as the best back in Alabama, it felt good to finally get recognized.
“You know, I didn’t feel like I was getting respect throughout most of my recruitment. That’s all I really wanted. By the end of my senior season, I got all the respect I needed.”
Perine ultimately ended up with a 4-star rating from ESPN and Rivals. But regardless of where the recruiting services have him, Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is excited to add the 5-foot-11, 211-pound prospect to his backfield.
“Big, physical back,” Nussmeier said of Perine on signing day. “Has great instincts, vision, balance and body control. You go into that state and get the state back of the year, we’re eally, really excited about him. Great addition to our team.
“He runs behind his pads, does a great job in the open field, he has great balance and body control. Just really, really excited. Going into Alabama and get the No. 1 back in the state, he’s just another weapon that’s going to help us score points.”
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow @ZachAbolverdi