The personnel preferences of Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins differ in some ways from former Gators coach Will Muschamp, now the head man at South Carolina after coordinating Auburn’s defense last year.
One example is the recruitment of UF linebacker signee Jeremiah Moon from Hoover, Ala.
At 14 years old and well under 200 pounds, Moon received an offer from Collins during the summer of his freshman year.
“He was the first coach to offer me, back when he was at Mississippi State,” Moon said. “I was shocked. Not everybody’s first offer is an SEC school. I was just really excited and humbled by the situation. I told him he really didn’t have to do that, but he took a chance on me and I’ll always appreciate him for it.”
After coming to Florida, Collins offered Moon again and landed him last summer. However, that commitment may have went to Auburn had it not been for Muschamp.
Despite the love from Collins at Mississippi State, Moon originally wanted to attend Alabama or Auburn.
“When you grow up in Alabama, you dream about going to one of those schools,” Moon said. “It’s one of the biggest rivalries in college football and you want to be a part of that.”
He got that opportunity in June of 2014 with an offer from Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Moon said the Tigers were once the team to beat, but that changed following Johnson’s firing at the end of the season.
“When the coaching change happened, Coach Muschamp pulled my Auburn offer,” Moon said. “He was the one that un-offered me. They were actually still at the top of my list.”
Moon said Muschamp, like other coaches, had concerns about his weight. Collins was drawn to Moon’s athleticism and length, and he believed the skinny teenager would eventually fill out his frame and grow to be around 250 pounds.
Jevon Kearse, one of the best linebackers in school history, met Moon when he was 15 and said he used to look exactly like him at that age. Kearse told Moon he would experience the same physical development in college.
Lo and behold, Moon is heading to Florida just like Kearse.
The following is a Q&A with Moon in the ninth edition of our Florida recruiting rewind series.
Q: If you could give a junior ONLY one piece of advice about the recruiting process, what would it be?
A: “Make sure the coach is being real with you. Some coaches are just trying to get you to go to their school and don’t really care about your future.”
Q: What school came in second? What could they have done a little better?
A: “Mississippi State. They were my first official visit and I had a great time. I got to hang out with the players and everything was nice. But at the end of the day, I just knew where my heart was and that’s why I chose Florida. Mississippi State couldn’t have changed that. I just feel like Florida is moving in the right direction. Coach Collins has stuck with me since I was 14 years old. I had already built a pretty good relationship with the coaches and I just felt like it was the right move.”
Q: What was the most creative thing a school or coach did to get your attention?
A: “On my official visit to Florida, they had a Gator in a towel form on my bed. I thought that was pretty cool. And I liked the hand-written letters from Florida.”
Q: What’s the biggest secret you kept during the recruiting process?
A: “Just where I wanted to go to school. I really thought I was going to commit to South Carolina last summer. They showed me so much love when I went down there. Everything was perfect, but Florida just shook things up. Before I went to Florida for their camp, South Carolina had been my leader for like two or three months. I really thought I would go to that school. Then I got to Florida and fell in love with the place.”
Q: What was the funniest story that happened on one of your recruiting trips?
A: “It was just how the players acted at Florida. Everybody is goofy and not everything is so serious. Someone does something and everybody cracks up. When I go to places I just look for that family feel when everybody is laughing together. Florida isn’t just about football.”
Q: Which coach was it the hardest to say no?
A: “Kirk Botkin at South Carolina, the linebackers coach. He messaged me every single day about how he wanted to coach me. On my visits he’d always be by my side the whole trip. We had a great bond. But after I committed to Florida, it just died down and that was hard.”
Q: Which school disappointed you the most during recruiting?
A: “Probably Alabama, just because of my family. Everybody is an Alabama fan and my uncle played at Alabama. I went to camp there all four of my high school years and I still didn’t get the offer. That broke me down a little bit. It hurt, but I know what the reason was. My weight just wasn’t right.”
Q: Which college would you have considered more seriously if they had offered you earlier in the process?
A: “Alabama. That was a dream school for me. And Auburn if they would have stuck with me.”
Q: Which head coach of a team that you did not sign with was the nicest? Which coach was not the nicest?
A: “Coach (Dan) Mullen and Steve Spurrier. Those two were really nice. I only met four head coaches and they were all nice to me.”
Q: If you were in charge of the NCAA, what’s the one rule you would change with recruiting?
A: “I’d have to say more official visits. I know those are a lot of money for the schools, but if you get offered by a school you should be able to get an official visit there. If some players could take more visits, they may find the right school that they couldn’t have seen on their own dime.”
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Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow @ZachAbolverdi