GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The recruitment of Malik Davis completely changed course last week.
The 3-star running back from Tampa, Fla., was all set to commit to North Carolina on Oct. 17, but then a phone call came from Florida. The Gators were in need of a back following Adarius Lemons’ suspension and set their sights on Davis.
So he postponed his decision and received an offer from UF on Friday. Less than 12 hours after Lemons’ decommitment Tuesday night, Davis was a Gator.
“Malik was kind of disappointed when Adarius flipped to Florida (in July),” said Matt Thompson, Davis’ coach at Jesuit High School. “I told him you never know what’s going to happen because this recruiting process is pretty crazy.
“He was all set last week and then Florida kind of blew him away with the offer. He was really happy with it, and that’s where his heart was. Florida has been his dream school since he was a kid.”
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On Oct. 14, Davis set the Hillsborough County career rushing record of 5,783 yards, surpassing Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud. Davis has 1,227 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns this season, leading Jesuit to a 7-0 start.
Despite his impressive numbers and highlights, Davis has a consensus 3-star rating and doesn’t hold many big offers (Louisville and Miami are among them).
“I don’t understand it,” Thompson said. “We’re considered a small school that doesn’t face competition, but we play good teams like Jefferson and Robinson. Malik can’t control the district he’s in.
“He used to wonder why he didn’t get more recognition, but all that did is make him work harder. Looks where he’s at now. That doesn’t matter anymore.”
Thompson said Florida’s stacked depth chart at running back didn’t deter Davis. Barring attrition, the Gators will return all four players at the position next year.
“He’s so competitive that if you tell him something is hard, he’ll try to prove you wrong,” Thompson said of the 5-foot-10, 188-pound Davis. “He needs to gain weight, but he’s got the commitment level to do it. This is a determined kid.
“Malik is extremely talented, but the best thing about him is that he’s so coachable. He doesn’t question what you’re saying. He doesn’t pout. That type of attitude is infectious.”
A scout’s take on Davis
Davis competed in Friday Night Lights, Florida’s annual recruiting showcase, on July 22. He posted times of 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash and 4.03 seconds in the shuttle.
Derek Tyson, an SEC recruiting analyst for ESPN, watched Davis’ workout in The Swamp and has also evaluated his tape.
“His film is solid,” Tyson told SEC Country. “I know Coach Thompson well and in his three years as the coach of Jesuit, Davis is the only kid he’s called me about. He just raves about him as a player and person. He said he will be a star wherever he goes. Good vision, decent speed. Solid get for Florida in my opinion. There have been a lot of talented backs come out of Tampa and he’s the all-time leading rusher. That’s impressive.”
Taking back Tampa
The No. 1 priority for Gators coach Jim McElwain in this year’s recruiting cycle was landing more prospects in the state of Florida.
UF now has three commits from both Miami and Tampa, two recruiting hotbeds in this state. Florida has not signed three or more recruits from Tampa since 2006.
The Gators currently have three former players from Tampa on NFL rosters, including first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III. On Wednesday, McElwain and area recruiter Chris Rumph discussed Florida’s recent success in Tampa.
McElwain: “It’s like anything when you start, you’ve got to go build the relationships. People have had an opportunity to see kind of what we’re all about, what we’re building. It’s been great to see (the recruiting results). We’ve just got to continue that moving forward and that is first and foremost.”
Rumph: “I can say we have made an effort to sort of take back some of those areas that we felt like we lost a little bit. But it’s been just a tremendous deal with everybody pitching in and everybody just working hard, trying to get this. We’re going to make mistakes here in recruiting, but just trying to get the guys that fit our mold and what we’re looking for.”