Gators closing gap for Vincent Valentine

Heading into his weekend visit to Florida, Edwardsville, Ill., defensive tackle Vincent Valentine Jr. had Nebraska as his leader by a wide margin.

That is not the case anymore as the Gators have closed in.

“How much I bonded with the coaches,” the three-star Valentine said stuck out the most on his first visit to Gainesville, Fla. “I can see myself playing for them. That really stuck out.”

Did the Gators take the lead for Valentine? Not so fast, he says.

“It’s Nebraska and Florida very close together, but I’d give Nebraska the edge right now,” Valentine said.

“I got to talk it over with my parents about going away, just to see how many times they’d be able to come see me play in my career. I’d want them to come see me play.”

The coaches Valentine said he bonded most with are defensive line coach Bryant Young and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson.

“They told me I would fit in great,” he said. “They need a run stopper like me. They’re trying to get bigger since this is their first true recruiting class. They want big and fast guys that get after it all the time. They like my style of aggression and how I play with my hands.”

Valentine, ranked No. 10 in the state of Illinois and No. 32 among defensive tackles, likes that he would get NFL coaching at Florida. Young spent 14 years as an NFL defensive lineman and was a four-time Pro Bowler. Muschamp also coached in the NFL, and, in total, the staff has 40 years of NFL playing and coaching experience and four Super Bowl rings.

“Those guys have been through [the NFL], and they know what it takes to get to the next level,” Valentine said. “They can coach me up and teach me what it takes to make me a great player. That’s one of the advantages they have. That’s what I really like about Florida.”

Florida defensive tackle Sharriff Floyd hosted Valentine, who also spent time with Florida early enrollee Antonio Morrison, also from Illinois, Jelani Jenkins, Josh Evans and Willie Bailey. Not by coincidence, four of the five come from states up outside the Southeast.

Valentine said they talked about going to school away from home and how the Florida players are a family all on its own.

“They told me it was a great decision they all made and really enjoy it down there,” Valentine said. “If you really want to get away and make your own moves and control your own destiny and be noticed by NFL scouts, then it’s a great place to really make a name for yourself.

“They said you don’t have to worry about not being at home. The entire team is like a family and you can spend time at other players’ houses over breaks. It’s like a big family.”

Illinois will receive Valentine’s final official visit on Jan. 20, and Valentine will make a decision shortly after that visit.