GAINESVILLE, Fla. — First impressions can go a long way, especially in the world of recruiting.
For the Florida Gators, their early recruitment of Alabama offensive tackle commit Alex Leatherwood is paying dividends.
UF was the first school to offer Leatherwood back in May 2015, and that move put offensive line Mike Summers in Leatherwood’s good graces.
“It’s very strong,” Leatherwood said of their relationship. “Florida was my first offer and he was one of the first college coaches I ever spoke to. He saw my talent and picked it out early before everyone else, so that helps Florida’s chances.”
Leatherwood, the nation’s No. 9 offensive tackle and No. 55 overall prospect, had the opportunity to speak with Summers again when he visited the Gators last Friday for their spring game.
“I got to spend a lot of time with Coach Summers,” said Leatherwood, who is from Pensacola, Fla. “I got to see how he coaches and how he would use me in their offense.
“They want me to play left tackle and possibly replace David Sharpe, who is likely leaving early to go to the NFL. They want me to come in and basically have a dominant left side for years.”
That’s a big selling point with Leatherwood, whose most important factor is early playing time. Though Florida has a need for the 6-foot-5, 297-pounder, Summers isn’t overly pushing for a flip.
“He’s not one of those coaches to pressure you like that,” Leatherwood said of Summers. “He’s not that type of guy at all. He wants to give you all of the information you need and he’ll let you make your own decision.”
Leatherwood, who’s on track to enroll early, plans to make a final decision between Alabama, Florida and LSU. He has the Gators and Tigers tied for No. 2 at this time.
Like Summers, UF coach Jim McElwain has also made Leatherwood feel comfortable throughout the recruiting process.
“He’s very upbeat and very easy to talk to,” Leatherwood said of McElwain. “He’s definitely a good guy. He was really excited about me being there at Florida. He appreciated me taking the time to come and visit.”
SEC Country reporter Chris Kirschner contributed to this report.
Unless otherwise indicated, rankings come from the 247Sports Composite.