Is Darious Cummings destined to be a Gator?
Talk to him about UF and it sure seems that way. He admits it, too.
The JUCO defensive tackle will take his official visit to Florida this weekend, but it won’t be his first time in Gainesville.
Cummings was in attendance for Tim Tebow’s final game in The Swamp during his high school recruitment. However, he wasn’t there to see the Gators.
“I didn’t even give them a chance, or any school for that matter,” said Cummings, who committed to Florida State way back in July of 2008. “I never really considered anybody else, and that was basically because of bad advice.”
He arrived in Tallahassee in the summer of 2010 as a consensus four-star recruit and an ESPN150 member out of Astronaut High School in Titusville, Fla.
Two years later, he was gone.
“Things didn’t work out the way I thought they would and people weren’t who I thought they were,” Cummings said. “Things were said and done that weren’t as I was told they would be. I was recruited as a defensive end, but once I got there they tried to make me a defensive tackle. Now I have the weight for it, but at that time I didn’t.
“I just thought things were going to happen differently with my position. But they didn’t, so I packed my stuff up and moved on.”
Now at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Miss., Cummings signs his letter of intent on Dec. 19 and will have two years of eligibility left.
Cummings, who is currently committed to Ole Miss, was offered by Florida coach Will Muschamp two weeks ago. He has been building a relationship with him and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn since then, and Cummings is intrigued by the idea of playing for defensive line coach Bryant Young.
“That appeals a lot to me because he was just nominated for the NFL Hall of Fame, so his track record speaks for itself,” Cummings said. “I’ve talked with all three of them about the things they’re trying to do and the expectations they have of the team for the coming years. They really want me to be a part of it because they feel the team could have great success if I jump on board.”
The UF coaches are stressing the opportunity for playing time to Cummings. Florida will only have two returning defensive tackles next year if Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley turn pro after this season.
“They tell me that all the time and that’s huge, because obviously you get that exposure,” Cummings said. “I only got two years left, so I’m trying to find a program where I can play right away. So it’s a big factor for me, and I think that’s one of the reasons I have taken a closer look at Florida.”
Shortly after receiving his offer from the Gators, Cummings’ father wanted him to speak with one of his close friends.
“My dad was like just talk to him about everything with Florida,” Cummings said, “and one day I got a call.”
On the other line was Wilber Marshall. The legendary linebacker, who is one of five Gator Greats in Florida’s Ring of Honor, grew up in Titusville and went to the same high school as Cummings.
“He wasn’t trying to convince me to go to Florida, but he let me know it was a good place,” Cummings said. “He enjoyed his time when he was there and told me the Gator Nation is everywhere and it’s something good to be a part of.”
Marshall isn’t the only person Cummings knows that played at UF. His uncle, Dwayne Dixon, played receiver for the Gators from 1980-1983 and then coached the position at Florida for 15 seasons (1990-2004). He currently serves in the same role at Ohio University.
Cummings said the opportunity to play in-state matters a lot him.
“It will play a big part just to be back at home because I have family that stays in Alachua County,” he said. “So that would be a big thing for my family to be able to come to Gainesville instead of having to drive all the way to Mississippi. My family will come as far as they have to, but location definitely helps Florida.”
What also helps Florida is junior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, who came from the same community college as Cummings. However, their relationship doesn’t stem from Scooba.
“Me and him never played with each other there,” Cummings said. “I’ve only been at East Mississippi for six months. Damien actually signed with Florida State the same time I did, so me and him met then and became close friends during our recruiting process.”
Cummings has kept in touch with Jacobs since that time and he’s looking forward to seeing him again.
“It will be nice just to hang out and connect with him, because he could be a potential teammate,” Cummings said. “He was just telling me that once I get on campus and see how everything is, my mind will be completely blown. He said things have turned around there and I will love the vibe.”
Cummings and Jacobs have been linked to two different colleges so far. Will they finally get to be teammates the third time around?
“It kind of seems like we were destined to play together,” Cummings laughed. “It would be cool to beat our old school. I don’t even refer to that school by name. I text Damien the other day and said, ‘Man, if I go to Florida, that school out west is going to get smashed.’ ”
The 6-foot-2, 305-pounder said he’s not looking to decommit from the Rebels, but he won’t waste their time if he finds that Florida is the right place for him.
“I just have to go in with an open mind,” Cummings said. “This is the biggest decision of my life because now I have no room for error. So I’m going to take a hard look at them. If I feel it’s a better fit for me, I’m not going to wait on telling anybody.
“If I was to get to Florida and I just see myself there and I know that’s where I want to be, it could be over this weekend. I wouldn’t want to prolong it and have Ole Miss think that I’m coming there. So I would do it as soon as I could. I just need to look at all the pros and cons this weekend and make the best decision for me.”