Carter plans to make a signing day decision. His four finalists are Florida, Florida State, Georgia and LSU.. (Photo by Zach Abolverdi/The Gainesville Sun)

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Over the past month, Florida appears to have faded out of the picture for five-star recruit Lorenzo Carter.

The Norcross (Ga.) defensive end named the Gators his leader in the summer and gave them his first official visit. However, he did not make a return trip to Gainesville for the Florida State game as planned.

Georgia is now viewed as the front-runner for the Under Armour All-American. The Bulldogs hosted him a few times this fall and will receive his final official visit on Jan. 31. He’s also visiting FSU and LSU this month, his other two finalists.

Although things seem to be pointing toward a UGA commitment from Carter on signing day, he claims UF remains in the running.

“Florida hasn’t fallen behind other schools,” Carter said. “I just realized that I’m not at the level to say any school is my leader right now. Everybody is so close to each other.”

Carter said the UF coaches have consistently kept in contact with him more than any other staff, and that has helped keep their chances.

“I think that’s one of the main reasons they stayed up top,” he said. “I’m comfortable with the coaches, and I know what they’re about. If they were a shaky coaching staff that I didn’t really know and they had a bad season, I’d probably look somewhere else.”

The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder admits he worried at times about Will Muschamp’s job security, but the vote of confidence from athletic director Jeremy Foley eased his concerns.

“You couldn’t help but worry,” he said. “Florida is one of my top schools. Everybody saw the season they had. To be in the SEC and have a bad season, that could cost someone their job. So when the AD came out and backed Muschamp, I was a lot more comfortable.”

“I know their coaches, I know their players and I know they’re working hard down there in Gainesville. It’s not going to happen again.”

During the contact period in December, he received an in-home visit from defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, defensive line coach Brad Lawing, defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips. They will be at Carter’s house again in a few weeks with Muschamp.

“Coach Lawing is like my third grandpa, coach Muschamp is like one of those crazy uncles, and coach T-Rob is like a little brother that’s annoying,” Carter said. “But they feel like family.”

Florida has won over the majority of Carter’s immediate family members.

“My dad likes coach Muschamp more, and my mom likes (UGA) coach (Mark) Richt more,” he said. “Then my sister London, she watched the Florida-Georgia game this year and told me, ‘I just see you at Florida. Their defense plays with swag.’

“But they all let me know it’s my decision to make, and they’re going to back me up wherever I go.”

What will UF have to do to win him over?

“It’s simple,” Carter said, “just keep being Florida.”