Four-star sees a difference in the way new staff recruits

Mar 7, 2022 | 0 comments

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Unlike the majority of Saturday visitors who showed up around 10 a.m., Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips four-star offensive tackle Payton Kirkland‍ arrived earlier for a reason.

He wasn't interested in the standard tour of campus, he wanted to see one thing in particular.

"Hands down, the highlight of my visit was visiting with the Engineering program," said Kirkland.

While getting a chance to learn more about his potential major stood out, the time spent with Florida's new coaching staff was also eye-opening.

"The new staff is more intimate when it comes to recruiting now," said Kirkland. "I hung around Coach [Cheston] Blackshear, [Darnell] Stapleton, and [Rob] Sale all day. I love the offensive line staff, they treat me like family and are always ready to give me advice."

He also, of course, got to spend some time with Billy Napier.

"Coach Napier was just telling us how much he and the staff are impressed with me, and how he can help us."

The 'us' he is referring to is his mother Veronica Kirk.

From the sound of it, she had a similar experience.

"My mom was extremely impressed," said Kirkland. "She couldn’t believe it. They treated her like a queen."

Kirkland has had several different versions of a leaderboard over the past year, including a top 12 last September, which included Florida, and a top seven in December, that didn't include the Gators.

For now, though, he isn't focusing on naming favorites.

"I’m not sure about a leaderboard list right now, but the Gators will be in heavy consideration for now," said Kirkland.

In a follow-up question, he did say that two programs that he knows for sure will be there, in the end, are Alabama and Oklahoma.

Considering its proximity to Gainesville, Florida hasn't done particularly well recruiting the Central Florida Corridor as of late.

However, during this cycle, the new staff is making a concentrated effort to hit the area hard and has the attention of top tier prospects such as Kirkland, Derrick LeBlanc‍, John Walker‍ and Malik Bryant‍.

If UF were to strike gold in the area, to say it would be a big haul would be an understatement.

"It would be a complete program changer [for Florida] to land myself, Derrick, and John,” said Kirkland. “We are the hardest workers we know and I love them like they're my blood-related family."

Late Sunday Kirkland was joined by Bryant and LeBlanc in tweeting out their intention of making a group commitment in late July.

When asked why they all decided to announce together on that date and if they knew where they were going, Kirkland replied, "We’re a family. We don’t know at the moment [where they are committing], but July 23rd will tell you everything you need to know."

Kirkland is the No. 252 ranked prospect in the nation according to the On3 Consensus.

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