During his recruitment, Omar Hunter was far from a lock to attend Florida.
As a five-star prospect and the No. 2 defensive tackle in the nation according to Rivals.com, Hunter had interest from many of the nation’s top schools.
But after one visit to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida became the front-runner.
“I’ve been to a lot of schools on different visits, but there was no place like The Swamp,” Hunter said.
Even at UF’s spring game — the only live action Hunter saw during his recruiting trips to Gainesville — the atmosphere was enough to impact his decision.
For the dozens of high school players expected to be on hand for Florida’s top-10 showdown with LSU on Saturday, the effect will only be magnified.
“LSU in The Swamp, there’s not going to be a better atmosphere than this,” Hunter said.
With National Signing Day exactly four months from Saturday, coaches and programs are desperate for ways to woo high-profile recruits.
An environment and crowd like the one that is expected on Saturday will give recruits another reason to choose Florida. As early as next season, they could be the ones standing on that field, playing in a game of that magnitude.
“They come in here in The Swamp, and it’s sold out and packed and just rocking,” Hunter Joyer said. “It’s big. …
It gets you fired up and makes you want to come play here.”
Said quarterback Jeff Driskel: “I’m sure there are going to be recruits all over the place this weekend. I know if I was in high school I would be at this game. … This is really what the [Southeastern Conference] is all about.”
With a combined 15-11 record in 2010-11, Florida hasn’t been able to present that type of atmosphere during the past two seasons.
Coach Will Muschamp was quick to downplay the impact a single game can have on recruiting — “If a young man is being determined off of one game, I don’t know if you want him on your roster” — but added that players and coaches live for games of this magnitude.
“You love to coach and play at a place like Florida because of a game like this,” Muschamp said.
Contact Greg Luca at firstname.lastname@example.org.