Photo: Jaquise Alexander; Credit: John Garcia, Jr., Sports Illustrated All-American
The Tampa Bay Pipeline?
Having major contributors like Zachary Carter and Malik Davis from the area, the Florida Gators have been heavily active in acquiring talent from the state's southwest in recent memory.
Continuing to leave their footprint on the region during the 2021 recruiting cycle, the Gators targeted the zone for high potential prospects to line their roster, specifically on the defensive side of the football. UF found success in earning commitments from nose tackle Desmond Watson of Armwood and cornerback Jordan Young of Gaither.
Now, the oft-targeted region continues to produce skillful athletes on a regular basis, becoming an increasingly pivotal ground for the Gators in their recruiting efforts. As a result, glancing towards the future of the defensive backs group, Florida extended an offer in late April to rising cornerback prospect and four-year contributor out of Tampa Catholic, Jaquise Alexander.
“Man, it’s just a family up there. It’s just the culture.” Alexander said about Florida in an interview with AllGators on Wednesday.
Despite showcasing Division-I talent, Alexander fell under the radar for quite some time in the landscape of collegiate scouting. Receiving his first offer from Miami in March, Alexander started to see the deserved recognition from a plethora of schools.
“It’s been crazy. It was just like a domino effect. I get calls from college coaches every day, so it’s been a good process for me since then,” Alexander said. “A lot of D1 schools have reached out,” and they continue to do so.
Receiving looks from West Virginia, Wake Forest, and UCF on top of Miami and Florida, Alexander has had discussions with several other programs — most notably Alabama (who has yet to offer) — over the past month.
Offered by Florida on April 28 while hearing from both of UF's secondary coaches, Alexander replayed the process that led to that big moment in his recruitment.
“That day, it was coach [Wesley] McGriff, 'Crime Dog'. It was him and coach Jules Montinar. My head coach reached out to one of his old teammates that sent my film to coach Crime. He reached out and called me,” says Alexander. “He talked to my parents and everything, telling them what was going on. We just talked about my recruitment and trying to get me up there to visit.”
Playing on both sides of the ball for Tampa Catholic, Alexander possesses a unique ability to see extensive time at the wide receiver and defensive back spots, something he believes has helped strengthen his overall football IQ.
“That helps with both positions speed-wise and footwork-wise,” he said when asked about how playing both positions has aided his progression. “As a wide receiver, you get some more ideas and ways to run routes and stuff. As a defensive back, transitioning into a wide receiver helps, for me, [being able] to look at their split to see what route [opposing wide receivers] are running helps out a lot.”
Standing at 6-foot-0, 170 pounds — although he aims to reach at least 185 pounds before graduating to the college ranks — Alexander possesses desirable traits for the next level, traits noticed by his primary recruiter in “Crime Dog” McGriff upon his reviewing of Alexander’s game.
“First thing he pointed out was how I break on the ball. He likes my ball skills, likes how I attack the ball in the air. He says I’m long, athletic, fast and that’s just what they need for Florida. More athletic DBs that can play the ball well.”
Talking every other day, Alexander indicated the relationship between him and McGriff is developing quickly, noting the conversations have stretched beyond the football field into more personal conversations, something he appreciates.
“We talk about life like family. You know, it’s not a four-year decision; there’s life after football. We talk about personal things as well.
“Of course, school is first, and Florida is one of the top schools academic-wise. I just want to have that support system. Having that connection with the coaches where I can just call them, having that relationship and stuff like that so it won’t be like an awkward situation.”
Simply put, Alexander wants a relationship he ultimately coined, a “father-son type deal.”
All in all, the Gators are in a position with Alexander that fits favorably to land the talented yet overlooked cornerback prospect in the 2022 class.
“I love how they play the game of football, defensive-wise, how aggressive they are. It’s a brotherhood up there.”
Having family in Gainesville, Alexander is accustomed to what the environment of the Swamp provides but itches to see more before a decision is made. With plans to visit on June 1, Alexander will have a little wait to check out what Dan Mullen and Co. have to offer following the elongated dead period’s end.
Eyeing a commitment date in late July, Alexander’s recruitment process is quickly winding down. As of right now, the increasingly sought-after athlete out of Tampa Catholic labeled three teams as the top contenders going into what should be an action-packed summer for recruiting.
“Florida, Miami and UCF are my top three, no order though.”
As a result, Florida looks to yet again dip their hand into the talented pool of players being produced in Tampa (Fla.), with hopes that Alexander will be the latest acquisition from the region.