GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The day that Darious Cummings had hoped for is finally here – it just came nearly three years later than he originally planned.
The 6-foot-3, 292-pound defensive tackle -- along with fellow junior college players Trenton Brown and Tyler Moore -- is expected to sign a national letter of intent to play at Florida today. His signature will reunite him with longtime friend Damien Jacobs and make their goal of one day playing at the same college a reality.
"Me and him were supposed to play at Florida State," Cummings said. "Before we signed [out of high school] we said we were going to go to the same school and we’re going to play together in college. People ask me, 'Is this fate [that he’s signing with Florida]?'
"We’re excited about it. He’s like my brother."
This was supposed to have happened in February 2010. Cummings, a four-star prospect and No. 130 in the ESPN 150 from Titusville (Fla.) Astronaut, and Jacobs, a three-star prospect and ESPN’s No. 64 defensive tackle from Gray (La.) H.L. Bourgeois, had met while they were being recruited by Florida State. They agreed to sign with FSU because they wanted to play together.
Except Jacobs never made it to Tallahassee, instead ending up at East Mississippi Community College.
Cummings did. He spent two seasons with the Seminoles, but he wasn’t happy and decided to transfer.
"I just needed a fresh start," said Cummings, who is ranked 31st in ESPN’s inaugural Junior College 100. "That’s how I looked at it. I just needed to go out and find somebody that believed in me from the start and give me the opportunity to show what I can do."
That person turned out to be EMCC defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh. He convinced Cummings to play there in 2012 by telling Cummings that he’d be able to earn a scholarship to an SEC school. Cummings did his part by playing well (26 tackles, 3.0 sacks, one forced fumble) and Brumbaugh ended up being right -- with the added bonus that it was the same school that signed Jacobs the previous December.
Not only are they now finally teammates, they have a chance to start together on the defensive line in 2013. The Gators could end up with only three scholarship defensive tackles on the roster next season in Cummings, Jacobs and Leon Orr. Sharrif Floyd is likely going to declare for the NFL draft and DE Dominique Easley, who played tackle his first two seasons, might do so as well. UF has a commitment from four-star recruit Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, Fla./Crescent City), but nothing is certain until he signs in February.
Cummings, who will be a redshirt junior and have two seasons of eligibility remaining, isn’t thinking that far ahead.
"I don’t want anything given to me," he said. "If I go in and I work and I do my thing and handle my business, my name will be mentioned for a starting spot. That’s always the goal, but I just want to get there [to Gainesville] first."
That’s a mature attitude, which Cummings admits is something he didn’t have during his time at Florida State -- both on and off the field.
"I feel like I know the game a whole lot more," he said. "I’m a student of the game now. I’m studying way more film. I’m breaking down schemes, from every position, the nose guard to the tackle to the end, so if I was to get in a defense where I had to play those positions, I could. I’m just doing the little stuff, the technical stuff.
"I’m more mature. I’m more focused on what I need to get done. I can honestly say at some points in time when I was at Florida State I wasn’t focused on the right things at the right time. Now I know how to carry myself. I’m more focused on what I need to be focused on."
The first focus will be moving into the Gainesville apartment he and Jacobs have rented on Jan. 5. After that it will be classes, offseason workouts and spring practice.
"It’s a new chapter in my life," he said.
It’s the same for Brown and Moore, who also are expected to sign scholarship papers today. Brown is a 6-8, 350-pound offensive tackle from Georgia Military College. He is expected to push D.J. Humphries, who was recently named to the All-SEC freshman team, for playing time in 2013. Brown, who ranks 65th on ESPN’s Junior College 100, should see plenty of time in the Gators’ heavy package.
Moore was projected to be Nebraska’s starting left tackle this season but he left school in early August for personal reasons and spent the fall semester at St. Petersburg College in Clearwater, Fla. The 6-6, 300-pound Moore, who will be a redshirt sophomore, started four games at left tackle for the Huskers in 2011. He was just the 10th true freshman in school history to start on the offensive line at Nebraska.
Moore can play several spots on the line but is expected to battle Chaz Green for the starting job at right tackle.