No matter if it’s on-field competition, facility upgrades or coaching salaries, the SEC arms race never stops.
And sometimes, falling behind in one area can hurt when it comes to recruiting, at least, that was the case for four-star Ole Miss tight end signee Jacob Mathis, who admitted he was surprised by the facilities at Florida — and not the good kind of surprise.
Florida was among several schools vying for the Berkeley (Tampa, Fla.) Prep product before the Rebels ultimately landed the talented tight end. Alabama and Michigan were also among the finalists for Mathis.
Mathis discussed why he was taken back by the Gators’ lackluster facilities among other recruiting topics in a recent conversation with SEC Country:
Q: Which school disappointed you the most during recruiting?
A: Probably Florida, honestly.
Q: Why’s that?
A: Just going through their past history and stuff, I thought they would’ve had a nicer indoor earlier on, and their weight room is shared by all sports. They don’t have just a football weight room.
Q: What school came in second?
A: It was kind of between Ole Miss and ‘Bama because I also knew what ‘Bama had to offer. The level of competition that would be at practice would have you ready for games. You also get that at Ole Miss, but everyone at ‘Bama seems to be someone that could be a prospect for the NFL.
Q: What could they have done a little better?
A: That’s a hard question to answer. Ole Miss just gave me a feeling that was hard to display to people. It’s one of those things. On my official visit, it really just stuck out to me.
Q: What was the most creative thing a school or coach did to get your attention?
A: When I was at Ole Miss on my official, in my room there was a cake with the jersey that had No. 18 on it. That was one of the cooler things.
Q: What was the biggest rumor about you that wasn’t true?
A: I think the biggest rumor was that I didn’t want to play tight end. I was definitely willing to play anything that would put me in the best position to succeed, honestly.
Q: What is the funniest thing any head coach said to you during the entire recruiting process, either on phone or in person?
A: The guy that had the funniest comments to me was (Michigan coach) Jim Harbaugh. Just the way he carries himself was pretty funny.
Q: What was the funniest story that happened on one of your recruiting trips?
A: I guess the funniest thing would be when I was visiting Florida my sophomore year. I asked the tight ends coach at the time, Coach (Derek) Lewis, about the scars he had on his wrist. He told me he had punched through a whiteboard during a pre-game speech. He punched through the whiteboard and when he took his hand out the plastic severed some ligaments in his wrist.
Q: Which coach was it the hardest to say no to?
A: Probably Kentucky, (former wide receivers) Coach (Chad) Scott. He had been recruiting me since the end of freshman year. I liked him. He was a good guy. It was probably the hardest to say no to Kentucky since he was one of the first coaches I had a relationship with.
Q: How much negative recruiting was out there?
A: I heard a good little bit. Like, ‘This school won’t be as good for you academically. We’ll have more to offer you in this subject. This alumni base is going to be good for this school.’
Q: Which head coach of a team that you did not sign with was the nicest?
A: Gosh, that’s a hard one because Hugh Freeze was definitely the nicest one I met. Man, I’m not even really sure.
Q: If you were in charge of the NCAA, what’s the one rule you would change with recruiting?
A: I think I would let people take official visits junior and senior year. You’d still get five of them, but I think I’d give the ability to do both. I know some people already have their top five set their junior year. I didn’t, but that’s one of those things I’ve seen in the past. I know for a lot of kids it’s pretty hard financially to go see a school. If you don’t go see the school, the school thinks you aren’t interested, but you just can’t do it financially.