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UF commit: 'Alabama is my dream school'

2/22/2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida landed six top prospects during its incredible junior day on Saturday. When linebacker Dillan Lawson announced on Facebook that he had committed to Florida, most had the same reaction -- who?

For the 6-foot-3, 218-pound linebacker from Crestview (Fla.) Crestview HS, he shouldn't have to worry about college coaches not knowing who he is anymore. Lawson, who since his announcement and subsequent film review has moved into the ESPNU 150 Watch List, said his commitment to Florida was even a surprise to him.

"I mean I was born and raised in Alabama," Lawson said. "I have an Alabama tattoo on my chest. That's the reason why. I'm just an Alabama fan. That's all there is about it. I mean Alabama is my dream school, off the top, No. 1. I told coach Will [Muschamp], 'Coach I was a Gator fan when I was in Alabama, they were like my second favorite team. But when I moved to Florida I saw how cocky and crazy these Gator fans where, so that kind of turned me away from Florida.' I told him that."

But after walking onto Florida Field for the first time, the tide began to turn.

"When I walked out on that field in The Swamp it was just crazy, it was phenomenal," Lawson said. "I just felt like I can play there, with all those people looking at me. I got chill bumps when I walked out of that tunnel. I was like, 'Dang, I can do this.' I really underestimated Florida. I guess you don't need to underestimate anyone until you see it for yourself, and I did. I really like the University of Florida."

After taking a tour of the facilities, Lawson had a chance to meet with the Florida coaches. He said he immediately hit it off with defensive line coach Bryant Young and linebackers coach D.J. Durkin.

"It's just a great program, it's a great school," he said. "They have great facilities. I love the players and the coaches. We got to know each other a little bit more. They told me personally they like the way I rush the passer and get to the ball."

Florida is recruiting Lawson to play it's buck position, a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position that is key to its multiple defensive formations that switch between a 3-4 and 4-3 alignments up front. Lawson said that fits his skills just fine.

"Defensive end or outside linebacker," he said, "both of them will give me a chance to get to the ball. They like the way I play football. They love the way my body is, how big I am. They like the way I pursue the ball and I get after the ball."

Lawson was clocked in the forty-yard dash at 4.44 seconds and bench pressed 340 pounds on Tuesday afternoon. His physical talents are obvious, but Crestview head coach Kevin Pettis, who has coached Florida safety De'Ante "Pop" Saunders and FSU offensive lineman Trey Pettis, said Lawson might be the best player of them all.

"Dillan is an explosive player. He plays with a lot of aggression," Pettis said. "He's violent when he gets to the play. He plays with his hands well. He's a rangy kid. He can play in space well, he can rush the passer, he can play inside of the 3-technique. There's just so many things that he can do that helps us win.

"He's a great kid, a great player. I've had some great players in the past, and he's probably the best one that I've ever had."

Having admittedly grown up an Alabama fan, many will wonder if Lawson could eventually switch his pledge to the Tide.

"I had an opportunity to go to Alabama the same day I went to Florida (for last Saturday's junior days), but I chose to go to Florida," Lawson said. "I'm going to go to all the junior days. That's why I verballed. I mean, Florida, that's my main school. I"m still going to go to junior days to get a look and see how other campuses are. I want to experience other colleges and travel a little bit."

Among some of those trips, Lawson said he will visit Louisville this weekend and could potentially visit Alabama for its upcoming junior day in April. The Tide have yet to offer Lawson, but he expects that to change in the near future.

ESPN.com recruiting writer Derek Tyson can be reached by email at DerekTysonESPN@gmail.com or you can follow him on Twitter DerekTysonESPN.