This past weekend wasn’t the ideal time for Florida to be hosting recruits, but the majority of visitors still expressed interest in UF following their trips.
In addition to flipping Ryan Sousa from Florida State, the Gators put themselves in good position with receiver Eric Lauderdale of Mission Viejo (Calif.) Saddleback Community College.
“I enjoyed my weekend, and I felt at home,” said Lauderdale, a Georgia native. “I’ve been saying all along that Florida is just missing pieces, and I saw it for myself during the game. The loss didn’t bother me. I saw an opportunity to get on the field.”
Lakeland Kathleen athlete and Virginia Tech verbal Javon Harrison visited Florida for the third time this year. He doesn’t see himself changing his commitment to the Gators, but it’s not because of their losing record.
“Every team has a bad season,” Harrison said. “I’m just not into them like that.”
The most important prospect on campus was Jacksonville Providence offensive tackle David Sharpe, who plans to make his decision sometime this week. His father, David Sr., said the results of 2013 have no bearing on how his son views UF.
“Not at all,” he said. “David knows he has a chance to play there right away, and that’s what he really cares about.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Florida received visits from three of its biggest targets for the class of 2015.
Glen Saint Mary Baker County defensive end CeCe Jefferson, who named UF his leader in the summer, hasn’t lost any interest in the Gators.
“Heck no, none at all,” Jefferson said. “For one, it’s close to home. Two, I know the coaches here are great coaches. And (three), injuries man. Injuries were the downfall of this season. When you lose a guy like Dominique Easley, you can’t just look down your roster and replace that.”
“(Criticism of Will Muschamp) really didn’t matter to me. I know coach Muschamp is a great guy and he’s an even better coach. I think (UF athletic director Jeremy Foley) is on the same page as I am. He sees that without the injuries things would have been different. That’s why he’s standing behind him. The recruiting class I believe is going to be pretty good next year, and they’re going to get back on track.”
Jacksonville Trinity Christian linebacker Jeff Holland liked what he saw from Florida early on against FSU.
“They did good in the first half,” he said. “I respect Florida for that because of everyone that’s injured. I’m not down on them. I know they got a lot of players hurt, so it is what it is.”
Albany (Ga.) Westover defensive tackle Trenton Thompson called UF his No. 2 school at Friday Night Lights, but had since removed the Gators from his list of favorites. His return trip to Gainesville may have changed that.
“I still think highly of the program because I know they need help on the defensive line, and I know I could be a big part of their defense,” Thompson said. “Me getting back down there actually them out. I’m warming up to Florida again.”
With Sousa’s commitment, half of the 2014 class members were on hand for UF on Saturday. One of them was Mount Pleasant (S.C.) Wando offensive guard Nolan Kelleher, who will enroll early at Florida in January.
“I think we are going to be a lot better next year, that’s for sure,” he said. “It was a great team this year, but when it rains it pours. Next year is going to be an unbelievable team. Some of the freshmen coming back are just unbelievable players and athletes. I feel confident about it.”