UF finds recruiting success in Tampa area

PLANT CITY, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay area has been very good to Florida recruiting. Since 2010 the Florida Gators have signed eight players from either Hillsborough, Pinellas or Pasco counties and that number will likely increase when the 2013 recruiting class is completed.

In the 2012 recruiting class, Florida landed Land O'Lakes tight end Kent Taylor (Pasco), Lakewood defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (Pinellas), Pinellas Park linebacker Jeremi Powell (Pinellas) and Armwood running back Matt Jones (Hillsborough).

Including Jones, Armwood head coach Sean Callahan has sent four of his players -- Torrey Davis, Matt Jones, Mike Pearson and Matt Patchan -- to Florida. Callahan says he believes it's because of how well Florida has recruited and also because of the tradition and history of the program.

"Obviously coach [Will] Muschamp does a great job of recruiting in this area," Callahan said. "People just like Florida. We've sent kids there and the name sells itself."

The Gators are heavily pursuing Dade City (Fla.) Pasco defensive tackle Joey Ivie for its 2013 recruiting class. Pasco head coach Tom McHugh says Florida's success in the area is because of a combination of things.

"Kids grow up with Florida," Mchugh said. "It's only 90 miles away. If you went down south to Miami, I'm sure it would be the same way. I think it's just the general area, it's the way they've been brought up over the years. It's just Florida, Florida, Florida around here."

Though McHugh says proximity is certainly a factor, he said the Florida coaches have done a nice job of making their presence known in the talent-rich area. Florida tight ends coach Derek Lewis is the primary recruiter for the Tampa area, but with an abundance of talent so close to Gainesville, Florida has several coaches working the area, including running backs coach Brian White.

"I think Miami used to work the state pretty good, but now Florida is really working the state," McHugh said. "I've seen Coach White over the last couple of years probably 8-10 times, and I've seen the guys from Miami three times in five years. Florida State, I've been here five years and I've seen them twice. Once was when I first started, and the other time was just recently. It's how hard you work it. If they pooh-pooh it, then they will miss out."

In its current recruiting class, Florida has a commitment from Pinellas county wide receiver Rodney Adams (St. Petersburg, Fla./Lakewood) and is working on several other area products, including defensive end Jordan Sherit (Tampa, Fla./Hillsborough), Armwood teammates wide receiver Alvin Bailey and safety Leon McQuay III, defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III and running back Ryan Green (St. Petersburgh, Fla./St. Pete Catholic).