The Florida Gators' extensive push for the talented Louisiana-based safety Jacoby Mathews reached its peak during his official visit to Gainesville this weekend.
Mathews, who is ranked as the No. 5 safety in the class of 2022 by Sports Illustrated All-American, shared his thoughts on the weekend and where Florida stands in his recruitment with AllGators Sunday.
"It definitely boosted [their chances]," Mathews said about his time in Gainesville Friday through Sunday. "I feel comfortable if I was to sign the paper to Florida."
Getting on the University of Florida's campus for his official visit after having to reschedule multiple times, Mathews made sure to take in everything it had to offer.
"It's a nice college town, like not too crowded, but it's enough to focus in on the tasks," he said. "I had a great time with the players and other recruits. It left me with no questions to be asked, I feel like it was a successful visit."
Mathews appreciated the detail that went into Florida's efforts, both in their explanation of the school and football aspects the program offers.
Spending a majority of his time with the staff around head coach Billy Napier, defensive coordinator and safeties coach Patrick Toney and cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond — who he knows from Raymond time recruiting him to LSU — Mathews stated that he grew more comfortable knowing them as people rather than just coaches.
"Here, I was able to see them as dads, as men in everyday life instead of the coach," he said as he contrasted the structure of in-home visits where the focus is primarily football with the more in-depth look at coaches and programs during official visits.
The trio will visit him in-home on Tuesday.
When not around the coaches, Mathews found himself around members of the safety room in incumbent starters Rashad Torrence II and Trey Dean III. The duo had their recruiting hats on all weekend as they attempted to lure the Louisiana native away from 'The Boot' and into Gainesville.
"They want me," Mathews said. "[The coaching staff] was telling me comfortably, if I was to come in there with them, I'd be one of the top three safeties. They feel like they watched my film, they show me they watched my film, and they said they feel comfortable enough to play with me."
The 6-foot-2, 193-pound prospect would assume a role that mirrors the one former Florida State standout Derwin James operates in for the Chargers in a defensive scheme he coins as "made for the DBs."
"They pulled up the screen for me, and they made a little cut out of Derwin James and how he played. That's how I really want to be used," Mathews explained. "That just shocked me. A lot of clips they put in the cut-out was my film, and it was me doing the same thing he was doing on certain plays, and that's the scheme they'll be using."
He shared that his ideal spot in the defense would be the STAR (nickel) role.
If Mathews were to join the Gators as part of their 2022 transition class under Napier, he would become the second major safety piece to make a surprise commitment to Florida during the cycle.
Joining former IMG Academy star Kamari Wilson in the backend, he feels the two could play complementary roles as they both possess versatile skillsets as run stoppers and coverage men. Despite spending minimal time together over the weekend, the two discussed the possibility of attending the same college behind the scenes throughout their recruitment.
"It was exciting running into Kamari, but we didn't spend that much time together. We always like, under the cover, like we've always been saying we was going to go to the same college.
"One thing we both can do is play in the box, cover up top and guard man-to-man, so I feel like that'd hurt a lot of teams because they wouldn't know how to scheme around the defense. It'd be hard to attack certain DBs because everybody is versatile. So I mean, I feel like that scheme, when me and Kamari are there like that, that looks really good."
Mathews is slated to commit and sign on National Signing Day Feb. 2. Florida will be in the mix alongside LSU — where he will visit Jan. 28 — and Texas A&M for the talented defensive back.
"It's like a fine line between all three. It's super tough on me right now, but it's part of the process."
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