Tallahassee Lincoln linebacker James Hearns originally planned to visit Florida over the weekend, but last week he pushed back his official to Feb. 1.

Instead, the UF commit took a surprise trip to Auburn with teammate Taj Williams.

“It was good, the tradition stuck out to me,” Hearns said. “I’ve been recruited by Auburn since my sophomore year, so I decided to go when my schedule opened up. They were just telling me how they need linebackers in this class.”

Auburn currently has just one prospect pledged at the position, whereas the Gators have five verbals including Hearns as a middle LB.

The four-star prospect was 80-90 percent committed to Florida back in early October, but he told The Sun he was “150-percent” solid on Jan. 7. At that time, his official visit to Ohio State had just been called off by the Buckeyes because they landed two inside linebackers.

The Gators, however, added Alex Anzalone three days later, and that has apparently caused Hearns to look around again.

“I’m 80 percent right now,” he said. “I’m still committed to Florida, but they’re getting full at linebacker. I don’t really want to comment on it or give too much details away about that. Coach (D.J.) Durkin knows everything, we’ve talked about it and we have a plan in place.”

Part of that plan includes getting his academics in order. Hearns revealed he still needs to improve his grades and test scores.

“They’re not the best,” he said, “but I’m not far off from qualifying. I take the ACT again on Feb. 9 and I’m finishing up a couple online classes right now. So once that gets squared away I’ll be cleared by the NCAA.”

This weekend Hearns officially visits Kentucky, where he will reunite with a familiar face.

“Coach (Mark) Stoops is the head coach there now and he’s a real good guy,” Hearns said. “He’s been recruiting me since he was at Florida State, so I’ve known him for awhile and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.”

Despite back-to-back trips to other SEC schools, Hearns said it won’t be easy for them to flip him.

“It’s going to take a lot for me to decommit from Florida, and they’ve known all along that I wanted to take visits,” Hearns said. “I talk with them before and after every trip and there’s no secrets. I’m just seeing what these other schools have to offer.”

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