The most coveted recruit on Florida's 2022 board is none other than St. Benedict at Auburndale (Tenn.) defensive tackle Walter Nolen. UF has been in pursuit of the 6-foot-4, 300-pound lineman's services dating back to March 2020 and is inching closer to learning the elite prospect's final college decision.
Nolen's father, also named Walter, sat down with Sports Illustrated All-American's Matt Ray this week to break down his son's top five schools - Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, sharing significant insight into how UF has recruited him thus far.
"Florida has a good [coaching] staff," Nolen Sr. explained. "Coach [David] Turner's a good coach. We enjoy talking with them. Dan Mullen is a good guy, and it feels like home down there as well."
Nolen went on to share that Mullen, Florida's head coach, has been an instrumental voice in Nolen's pitch from the Gators.
"I think Dan Mullen is probably the biggest factor for Florida because, to be honest with you, I cannot remember who Florida's coach was before he got there," Nolen said.
Mullen and the Gators' chase for Nolen led to two campus visits, one official and an unofficial follow-up, within one week at the beginning of June. The Gators' Friday Night Lights camp is quickly approaching, set for July 30, and the coaching staff is hopeful that Nolen will attend, thus making three trips to Florida in two months, ideally to seal the deal.
Nolen Sr. acknowledged that visits aren't out of the realm of possibility once the dead period is momentarily lifted at the end of July, but at the same time, none are guaranteed at this point. However, Nolen Sr. does expect his son to reach a final decision on his future home sooner rather than later.
"Knowing him, it is possible," his father said on the possibility. "He had originally said December, but I was like, 'Nah.' It will be done before then. It is quite possible."
You can find what Nolen Sr. had to say about the remaining four schools on his son's list below.
On Alabama: "Bama is Bama. All of that works speaks for itself."
On Georgia: "Coach Tray [Scott] is one of the best recruiters. Georgia has a good body of work, also. They haven't got over the hill yet, which I guess their Achilles heel is Alabama. But Georgia has a good program, and they have a good recruiting staff, too."
On Michigan: "Some of the new staff they got in decided to migrate down south and recruit more players from down here. Michigan, even though they haven't beaten Ohio State, they have a good program, and they have good facilities. It does feel like home up there. Just they are up north, and we are down south."
On Tennessee rejoining the list: "I am probably going to say Coach G [Rodney Garner] and the recruiting staff. When they came in, from day one when they got there, they were like we have to have Walter. He is a top priority for us. Just looking at Coach G's body of work— 30 plus years—multiple kids go on to the NFL. He is really good at what he does, so that was a big plus for them."
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