Many top football recruits aim to wrap up their recruiting process before the start of their respective senior seasons, and three more coveted prospects have the exact date things should come to a close.
Over the weekend, social media in the Sunshine State was abuzz regarding the potential college destinations for pass rusher Malik Bryant, interior defensive lineman Derrick LeBlanc and offensive tackle Payton Kirkland. Three of Florida's top football recruits hail from the Orlando area and they are planning a combined verbal commitment on July 23, each confirmed to Sports Illustrated.
Each announced their intentions on social media relatively close to the other's announcement, tagging one another in the process.
The plan to announce decisions at the same event does not confirm they are each picking the same program, per Kirkland, but the date is not likely to be changed.
"We aren’t sure as of now," he told SI. "We are working on God’s timing. We’re 100% locked in."
The speculation surrounding which program could potentially pick up each is of course rampant since the news was confirmed. LeBlanc, at Kissimmee Osceola High School, and Kirkland, of Dr. Phillips High School, each visited Florida over the weekend and Kirkland also spent time in Tallahassee at Florida State. LeBlanc was at UCF earlier in the week while Bryant is a former IMG Academy star who is now back at Jones High School. Each prospect is armed with offers from across the country, totaling more than 30 each, including the in-state powers.
"I want people to know about July 23rd, of course, that’s the day we’ve decided to announce our college decision," Bryant said. "But also that we’ve all come from similar backgrounds we’re all hard-working students-athletes."
Central Florida ties and elite football prowess are not the only common denominators between the group. And doing it together has to do with the future on and off the field, especially in the current climate of collegiate athletics and the platform each already has.
"We would like to show people we are more than just athletes and try to get us out there and help build our brand as much as possible," LeBlanc said. "Always trying to express ourselves without a helmet on, as much as possible."
Each plans on taking considerable visits moving forward, so even if there were a plan in place to lock in with one program, trips over the next four-plus months could alter the perception of contenders. Kirkland says he will release a group of top programs at the end of the week, likely trimming his list to five options. The early summer months will be the next visit window for the big offensive lineman.
The timing of the pick, he says, is two-fold.
"It’s the last day before the dead period in July lifts," Kirkland said. "It just so happens to be the say Malik’s late father got married."
As Kirkland points out, the NCAA's summer dead period wraps up right around the time the trio is planning to go public with a pick, wrapping up that same weekend. It means the group will have more than four weeks to sit down and fully evaluate options without visits factoring in. The dead period begins June 27.
In scanning the combined offer lists of the three, programs like Florida, Florida State, Miami, Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Auburn, Oklahoma, USC, Michigan State and many others overlap as options.