(Photos courtesy Roderick Kearney Instagram)
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On Monday Florida picked up a huge commitment when Orange Park (Fla.) four-star offensive lineman Roderick Kearney flipped from Florida State to Florida. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder, who is the No. 136 ranked prospect in the nation according to the On3 Consensus, spoke with Inside the Gators about the reason behind his decision, his relationship with the new staff, comparing the new staff to the old UF staff and more.
Going back a couple of years, the summer just after your sophomore season you had some interest but started to blow up after being named the Offensive Line Co-MVP at the UC Report Camp. From then until now, what has the recruiting process been like?
“It’s been a blessing. The coaches who recruited me. The fans of the schools recruiting me. Seeing the schools that recruited me. All of it has been a blessing.”
Right after that camp, I asked you if you had a favorite team growing up and you responded, ‘I’m Florida Gators all the way!’ What made you a Florida fan?
“I was more of a Dallas Cowboys fan but when you’re young and people ask you who you like, you say who is winning the most, and when I was little, Florida was the team that was winning. They had [Tim] Tebow, the [Mike and Maurkice] Pouncey twins. That’s who I liked and followed.”
Even after your name started getting out there, and you earned offers from programs such as Florida State, Oregon, Ole Miss, and others, you still went months without hearing from the previous Florida staff. Did that leave a bad taste in your mouth?
“I wouldn’t say it like that. I was happy to have the offers I had and felt blessed. I wasn’t going to worry about who didn’t offer. I was feeling blessed to get offers. But, I did feel like it was a big accomplishment when Florida offered.”
Compare the previous Florida staff to the new one.
“When Florida offered me the first time I didn’t hear from them again for I don’t know how long. I was excited when they offered, but then they fell back and didn’t contact me, so I didn’t know where I stood. The new coaches are a lot more active. When they reoffered me, they made sure I knew how much they wanted me. After I committed to FSU they stayed on me, and they never let up on me. They stay on top of everything. They recruited me hard, and they let me know how much they wanted me, but they didn’t put pressure on me. They are really into building a relationship and letting you know how much you are needed.”
Was the visit over the weekend what put the Gators over the top?
“No. I had already known for a while that I was going to be committing. I’ve been praying on it, thought about what was going to be best for me and my parents were behind [the decision of] me going to Florida.”
What was the bottom line that caused you to flip from Florida State to Florida?
“It’s nothing against them [FSU], I don’t have anything bad to say about them. Coach [Alex] Atkins, the staff over there, they’re great, but Florida’s hard to beat. Everything at Florida is the best you can get. The education, the campus, the stadium, the environment, all the fans, the new [football] facility – look at the weight room they have now, the coaches, everything down to the nutritionists is as good as you can get. Coach [Billy] Napier has a plan. If you compare everything, Florida comes out on top.”
Though you are a nationally ranked prospect, offensive linemen normally don’t move the needle with the fanbase, but your commitment has the Gator Nation on their feet. Do you think it is because of the importance Napier places on the offensive line? For example, not many schools have two offensive line coaches.
“Coach Napier says that the offensive line is the most important position on the team. Everything starts up front. You look at them, like you said, Florida has two offensive line coaches. They have former offensive linemen on their support staff and on the strength staff. They are serious about making sure their offensive linemen are developed to be the best players they can be.”
Speaking of coaches, what is your impression of Rob Sale and Darnell Stapleton. I’ve heard them described as having a good cop, bad cop approach.
“[Laughing] Yeah, that’s them, good cop, bad cop, but not a really bad, bad cop. Coach Stape [Stapleton] is more laid back and relaxed. He’ll coach you in a more upbeat way. But, Coach Sale is more of the kind of coach who will get on you and coach you harder. He’s tougher on you, but they even each other out.”
One thing about the new football facility is that there are some areas to take outstanding visit photos. The one of your mother putting the helmet on your head like she is crowing you is one of the best I’ve seen. How did that come about?
“That’s my queen, so we came up with this. We saw it done before in a different way, but we wanted to do it. We don’t have a sword, so we used an axe in its place.”
Being local, will you be at the Florida-Georgia game this weekend?
“No, I’m not going. I’m going to the next [Florida] home game.”
Now that you are committed and you start to turn your attention to recruiting other prospects to Florida, who are you targeting?
“I don’t want to talk about any names or say anything about that. Whoever they [Florida’s staff] want, it’s who I’ll talk to, but I’m not a recruiter. I tell them how I feel and what made me make my commitment.”