BRADENTON, Fla. — Shavar Manuel knows as well as anyone how stressful recruiting can be.
The 4-star defensive tackle from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy has been pursued by college coaches since he was a high school freshman.
He’s remain uncommitted throughout the four-year process, which is now winding down with signing day fast approaching.
“I’m ready, man,” said Manuel, who is the No. 7 defensive tackle in the nation. “It’s just been years of hearing I should go here or go there. I’ll have less on my shoulders when I get it over with.
“Sometimes I wish I would have committed early. I think about it, but I feel like it will come when the time is right.”
Manuel said the fun part of the process has been meeting head coaches and traveling to different campuses. He’s attended several games, but one sticks out above the rest.
“Florida-Tennessee, that was a crazy game,” Manuel said. “I’ve never heard fans so loud.”
UF is one of three finalists for Manuel, along with Florida State and LSU. The Tigers hosted him on an official visit for the Florida game.
“It was wild,” he said. “That was my first game in Baton Rouge. I didn’t know their stadium was that huge. I had a blast, I really did.”
The Under Armour All-American named LSU his leader after that trip, but he’s no longer claiming a favorite school publicly. Manuel, who labeled himself as an “SEC guy” over the summer, swapped Auburn for FSU in his final group earlier this month.
“I’m a huge Florida State fan,” Manuel said. “They do great things there. That’s the only school outside of the SEC that I’d go to.”
Manuel named the Gators his top team Monday. Their lead is due in large part to his relationship with UF defensive line coach Chris Rumph.
“We go way back,” Manuel said of Rumph. “He’s been recruiting me since he was at Alabama. I stopped hearing from him that year he was at Texas. Then one day I saw a big, tall, bald-headed black guy pop up at my school in Gator gear, and I was like, ‘What’s up coach?!’ It was exciting.
“Nothing has ever changed with our relationship. It’s been the same since the first day we met. He’s a great coach and a great man. The Gators’ defensive line did some pretty amazing things this year.”
Jonathan Bullard is expected to be the fourth consecutive Florida defensive lineman selected in the first round of the NFL draft, joining Sharrif Floyd (2012), Dominique Easley (2013) and Dante Fowler Jr. (2014).
“I’m speechless about that,” Manuel said. “They just have guys produce every year and get better on the D-line. Florida had Dante come out, Easley and Floyd. It’s just tremendous what they’ve been doing in Gainesville.”
The 6-foot-4, 287-pounder plans to officially visit UF and FSU in January before he decides. His comfort level in Tallahassee is likely unmatched.
“I used to be there every other weekend,” Manuel said of the Seminoles. “I took the time to go out and see other places, and that’s why I didn’t have Florida State up there (as a favorite) at one point. But I always feel at home there. Me and (defensive line) coach Brad Lawing are close.”
Manuel also cites a strong relationship with LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, who was a big reason the Tigers took the lead during the fall. He’s also happy to see LSU coach Les Miles survive the hot seat and remain in Baton Rouge.
“Coach Miles is LSU football,” Manuel said. “If they were to get a new head coach, I don’t think the program would have been the same because he’s been there so long. For him to stay, that’s what was best.”
Manuel doesn’t have a timetable for his decision, but he knows what’s important to him after a lengthy recruiting process.
“I just pay attention to the schools who’ve been recruiting me for the longest and just sticking with me,” Manuel said. “They’ve been patient while I focus on school and football, and that’s what matters.”
He is the No. 42 overall prospect in the nation, and the No. 9-ranked player in Florida.