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.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Football prospects are advised against committing to a coach in the recruiting process.
Staff changes happen regularly, and chances are a player will have more than one position coach, coordinator and/or head coach during their college career.
And yet, kids rarely commit to a school. Recruiting is all about relationships. Playing time, proximity to home and other factors can also influence a prospect’s decision.
Florida freshman Jeawon Taylor, however, based his choice primarily on the school itself.
“If you couldn’t play football and you still had to be there for four years, is that where you would want to go? Every recruit has to answer that question,” Taylor said.
Taylor answered his on Aug. 1 of last year when he first visited Florida. The No. 1 safety in the state of Alabama fell in love with Gators.
“When I went there on that trip, I wanted to commit,” Taylor said. “Campus was a perfect spot. Nice weather, great fans, great student body and alumni. DBU. It checked every box for me.
“I had to make sure it was OK with my mom and my dad. Once they gave me the green light, I did it.”
Taylor’s recruitment slowed down after that, but the coaching carousel put it back in motion. Florida fired assistant Kirk Callahan in January, a move that upset Taylor because of their relationship.
He was personally recruited by Callahan, although defensive coordinator Geoff Collins coaches his position. Regardless, Taylor didn’t waver on his commitment.
“The coaches are important in the decision, but that’s not why I made the decision,” Taylor said. “I didn’t commit to Callahan or Collins. I committed to Florida. Coaches don’t make you. It’s about the scheme fit and the school overall. That’s why I didn’t de-commit.”
But Callahan’s departure opened the door for other schools to make a late run at Taylor. Maryland coach D.J. Durkin and Georgia coach Kirby Smart, two of the top defensive minds in college football, both tried to flip him.
Smart, who had been recruiting Taylor for several years, even secured an official visit for UGA. Taylor gave the Bulldogs consideration, but he wasn’t abandoning Florida just to play for Smart.
“There’s no way I could do that,” Taylor said. “Kirby was my guy, but he’s not bigger than a school. You can’t expect to have somebody switch after you’ve offered them so late. Once a person falls in love with a school, it’s hard to get them out of it.”
As an Alabama prospect who didn’t get an offer from the Crimson Tide, Taylor liked the idea of going to UF and creating a new trend.
“I wanted to start a tradition for Alabama kids with (Florida signees) Lamical Perine and Jeremiah Moon,” Taylor said. “You don’t have to go to Bama or Auburn to be considered a success. Do your own thing and go somewhere else. Dare to be different.
“There are other schools out there. You just have to find the right one.”
THE NEXT UP SERIES
- Rick Wells relishes role as Jim McElwain’s first commitment
- Murder brought Tyrie Cleveland to Texas, new lease on life returns him to Florida
- Jawaan Taylor underwent major transformation to land offer from Florida
- Brett Heggie grew up a Seminole, but the FSU legacy is Florida bound
- Florida’s Lamical Perine validated by senior season after lack of offers, respect
- Antonneous Clayton used to be an outcast because of another game he played
- Florida’s Jachai Polite, high school teammate are now SEC rivals
- Florida LB Jeremiah Moon overcame severe leg, weight problems growing up
- Florida’s Vosean Joseph motivated by Jamaican roots, Miami upbringing
- Randy Shannon’s leap of faith in C.J. McWilliams kept him with Gators