GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators opened their football camp season over the weekend, and the biggest name on campus was Elijah Blades.
The four-star cornerback from Los Angeles visited Gainesville for the first time and spent two nights in town.
“Being able to go there and see what they had to offer, it was great,” Blades said.
Blades did all there was to do at UF. He toured the entire campus and all the football facilities. He went to look at alligators in Lake Alice.
Florida’s defensive backs hung out with him and he spent time with the staff, including watching film with secondary coach Torrian Gray.
“Everyone basically just showed love to me and I felt like I was at home,” Blades said. “At first, I just didn’t know what Florida could bring to me. So this visit was kind of a big deal. I can see myself there.”
He also checked out the camp sessions to get a sense of Gray’s coaching style.
“He’s a great DB coach,” Blades said. “I like what I see. He’s the kind of guy I want to play for.”
Blades is one of the top targets for Gray, who likes what the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder brings to the position.
“He’s a fan of my length and how tall I am,” Blades said of Gray. “I’m physical and I have speed, that’s really what he told me. I run a 4.42 (in the 40-yard dash) and that impresses him.”
The California corner also sat down to speak with UF coach Jim McElwain, who didn’t mince words during their conversation.
“He wants me to be Gator,” Blades said. “He told me I’m a great fit for Florida and could be an impact player when I come in. I’ll be able to do big things for him and then go to the NFL. I’m glad I got to meet coach Mac in person after talking to him on the phone.”
Blades is attracted to Florida’s track record of sending defensive backs to the league, most recently Vernon Hargreaves and Keanu Neal in the first round of this year’s draft.
“Every year they have a top DB,” Blades said. “That just goes without saying. If you look at the history, you’ll see all the DB’s that came out of Florida. It’s something to be proud of, and that’s why they’re D.B.U.”
But the highlight of Blades’ trip wasn’t the coaches or players, nor the places he saw.
“Throwing on that jersey was the best part,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to play for the Gators because of Tim Tebow. He’s one of my favorite players ever to play college football. Watching him win national championships and a Heisman, I just grew up loving the Gators. The swag they bring to the game just caught my attention, so that’s why I loved trying on their gear.”
Blades will see those uniforms in action this fall when he returns to UF for an official visit on the weekend of the LSU game (Oct. 8). He plans to make his decision after his senior season, and distance isn’t a deterrent for him.
“I’m going to visit Florida, Arizona, Utah and Nebraska, so it’s really not a problem with me,” Blades said. “I’m going to pick the school that’s been great to me and has coaches I get along with.”
Unless otherwise indicated, rankings and ratings come from the 247Sports Composite.
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow @ZachAbolverdi