- Dave Hooker, Reporter, RecruitingNation
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jalen Ramsey is committed to Southern California, but he's still very connected to Florida.
Despite making his first trip to Gainesville on an official visit to see the Gators this weekend, Ramsey already knows the program well. Several of his family members are longtime Florida fans, even though he can't explain exactly why.
“I have no clue to be honest,” said Ramsey, who committed to the Trojans in July. “My dad, my uncle and my brother grew up Florida fans.”
That's a bit odd for a family smack dab in the middle of Tennessee. But wait, it gets even stranger. While most of his family was cheering for the Gators, Ramsey had a different team in mind. He picked the Miami Hurricanes.
“I remember watching a Florida-Miami game one time and it was like a house duel,” the ESPN 150 prospect said with a smile.
Ramsey said he feels no need to make his family happy by being a Gator, adding, “They don't give me any pressure at all. They're happy about USC.”
That means fandom won't likely play a factor in Ramsey's decision. Sorry, Florida fans. Yet there's still reason to think the Gators can nab the No. 56 prospect in the country. Ramsey's teammate, quarterback Max Staver, has been committed to Florida since June. Undoubtedly, Staver has extolled the virtues of the Gators, but said he has tried not to be too “pushy.”
“I'm hoping for it,” Staver said with a grin when asked what are the chances he could help change Ramsey's mind. “I can't give a percentage, but I'd love for him to come down to Florida and play with him the next four years.”
Ramsey admitted he's heard much more than just playcalls from his quarterback.
“He’s mentioned it a couple times, but he doesn’t really pressure me,” Ramsey said. “He knows where I stand. He knows it’s all my decision, so he kind of gives me a little space to think everything out by myself. But he says stuff, of course.”
Staver's message to Ramsey is clear. When he talks about Florida, he talks about integrity.
“Just the honesty of the coaches, they're going to be honest with you,” the four-star prospect said. “They're not going lie to you. That's what you need as a player. You don't need someone to tell you how good you are. They need to be honest with you and tell you how you can get better. ... That's the thing I was most impressed with with Florida.”
Florida will be the first official visit for Ramsey. Southern California will be last. That's practically a mandate for USC head coach Lane Kiffin, who encourages his commitments to take official visits as long as he gets the last word.
“I appreciate it,” Ramsey said when asked of Kiffin's stance. “I feel like as far as official visits, that's something you earned. You should be able to take them. They pay for everything, you have a good time and make sure you're making the right decision before signing day in February.”
Ramsey said he'll also take an official visit to Vanderbilt, which he has said was second for his services. He's considering taking two of his last official visits to either Alabama, Mississippi State, Tennessee or Washington. Of that group, Alabama seems the most intriguing, especially considering the program's success when it comes to producing NFL defensive backs under head coach Nick Saban.
“I’ve been hearing a lot from Alabama,” Ramsey said. “They tell me all the time that they’re short on corners. Of course, they always talk about how great and prestigious Coach Saban is, which is good. He is probably one of the best coaches out there.”
After a summer visit to Alabama, Ramsey said he liked how the program was business-like. He also admitted that playing for Saban, who is considered one of the best defensive backs coaches in the country, has a certain appeal.
“That’s very intriguing,” Ramsey said. “You hear a lot that if you’re with Coach Saban, you’re going to get drafted. It may very well be true. That’s very intriguing because at the end, that’s my dream (to play in the NFL).”
Ramsey said he'd like to eventually visit Tuscaloosa to check out the gameday atmosphere. This weekend, however, belongs to Florida, which has utilized a multifaceted sales pitch.
“They really want me down there,” Ramsey said. “They’re actually recruiting one other corner, and they already have Vernon (Hargreaves III committed). They just really want me, and they actually told me I have a chance of playing both ways if I went there. We’ll just see."
Playing offense hadn't been discussed much early in Ramsey's recruitment. It is now. Ramsey has proven to be an explosive receiver for Brentwood.
“He's a phenomenal athlete, good leader,” head coach Cody White said. “He's developed that a lot lately. Really, really played well defensively, which we expect. Then offensively, we use him probably more than half the time. He's a game-changer. He's such a great receiver. He has great feel for the ball and he's so physical.”
Florida's recruiters know as much. Now if they can get Ramsey to know more about them.
“Anything they have to offer really,” Ramsey said when asked what he wants to learn on this weekend's visit for the Florida-Kentucky game. “It's my first time being down there. My whole family grew up being Florida Gator fans, so it's going to be a fun trip and also an informative trip so I can see what it's about.”
This will be Ramsey's second straight week seeing the Gators. He was in Knoxville last week for Florida's impressive 37-20 win over Tennessee. Perhaps another big win this weekend can turn another Ramsey into a fan.
Greg Ostendorf contributed to this report.
1dChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell