Photo: Shemar James; Credit: Zach Goodall
This weekend, Faith Academy (Ala.) linebacker Shemar James got his first chance to meet the new-look Florida Gators coaching staff led by coach Billy Napier.
James originally committed to Florida over the summer when the staff was led by former head coach Dan Mullen. He backed off of that pledge at one point but rejoined the Gators shortly after Napier was hired, and this visit allowed the recruit to get to know his new coaches on a personal level.
While this weekend was about forming and furthering new relationships, James was also able to further cultivate the ones he already had. It was a combination of both factors that reassured James that he made the right choice when signing with Florida over a month ago.
James named a few people, specifically, that he was already familiar with who helped to make the transition between coaching staffs seamless.
“I felt more comfortable to know that I knew people," James said, "like [assistant director of player personnel] Chase [Clark] and [assistant athletic director of recruiting strategy] Katie [Turner] that came from UGA. It was just a good experience.”
The Gators hired Jay Bateman last week who will be the position coach for James at linebacker. Shemar was able to spend a lot of time with his future coach, as well as others, and got a good vibe from everyone.
“I spent a lot of time with coach Bateman, [analyst] coach [Jamar] Chaney and [co-defensive coordinator] coach [Patrick] Toney.” James shared. “You can tell [Bateman] cares a lot about his position and his players. I felt that this whole weekend.”
When spending time with the coaching staff, James was able to find exactly how Bateman and Toney planned to use him within the defense and maximize his skill set.
“They said I will be playing both inside linebackers, Mike and Will," James explained. "They said they want to blitz me a lot, and you know, play me in space and show off my versatility.”
While official visits are often very business-like, the prospects do get a little time to hang out with current players, have a good time and soak in what the city and team are all about. James mentioned a current player and more as the highlight of his trip.
“Probably just Chief Borders being my host, he brings a lot of energy," said James. "The first night, we went to Spurrier’s and that was some good dinner.”
Often times when a prospect is committed or signed, they will use their official visit to recruit other players to come to that school with them. And while he certainly used a good bit of his time to connect with the new staff, James also slipped on his recruiting cap with a couple of other visitors.
“It was fun just getting to know the new staff and recruiting the new guys that haven’t signed yet,” James said. “I was in the ear of Max [Brown], the quarterback that is committed to Central Michigan, and [safety] Jacoby Mathews. I feel like we have a pretty good shot. We’ll see.”
Going back to December, James ultimately decided to commit to and sign with the Gators instead of Alabama or Georgia, who just days prior to signing day were named as his finalists. James explained that Gainesville was really where he wanted to be, but he had to take a leap of faith at the time of his signing.
“It was probably just me taking a chance on a new staff," said James. "It was just that feeling to come to Florida.”
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