Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has the Tigers on his short list of favorites…
What helped push the Gators over co-leader Auburn was the people and personal relationships developed between the Gator coaches, players, and staff. On Jermaine's visits he was looking for that type of fit. The 6-4, 210 pound sack-master, who recorded more than 25 sacks this season, really enjoyed getting to know the players and coaches at the University of Florida.
"It came down to Florida and Auburn and I felt comfortable at both places," Cunningham said. "When I stepped on Florida's campus and I met with the players, I just felt that I fit in more."
He is done visiting other places and the University of Florida is where he will call home for the next four years of his life. He cites Florida's future and the family represented by the players on the current roster. Florida Co-Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Gregg Mattison was a big part of the decision, too.
"I took all the visits I felt I needed to take," he said. "I stepped on all the campuses and met with all the coaches. I feel like I know all the players down there and I love where they're headed in the future. They're rebuilding a lot of facilities at Florida and the dorms are pretty new. The facilities all look pretty good."
"I found it was the place I wanted to be the next 4 or 5 years so there was no reason to wait any longer. Coach Mattison came for a visit and he knows the game of football and he and I get along well. We just have a good relationship with one another," Jermaine affirmed.
The University's academics also played a large role in his decision. "The University of Florida is a great university -- one of the top schools in the nation," said Cunningham. "Their business program is the best compared to other schools across the nation."
According to Cunningham, the coaches at Florida will be notified of the final decision when the rest of the country knows.
"I haven't let Florida know about my decision yet," he said. "They're going to find out on TV I guess. I hope they'll be excited about it. I plan on calling them after it's over." We get this hunch that Coach Mattison and the Gators will certainly be most pleased...
Cunningham is looking forward to pushing his limits and the speedy pass rushing specialist would like to see early playing time. That will require a little bit of a transformation, but Cunningham is looking forward to bulking up for the college game and putting a little more meat and muscle on his 210lb frame before he arrives in Gainesville in July.
"I think if I go down there and work hard then I can get some playing time pretty quick. People think I'm going to have to red-shirt but not if I get that weight on quick enough. I'm going to be in that weight room from now until the time I get to Florida."
Jermaine Cunningham is the latest in an avalanche of recruits to commit to the Florida Gators. He is the lone pass rushing specialist of the 23 commitments by the Gators and is a player the Gators have coveted for quite some time. You can count on him to be a huge addition to the Florida Gators.
(GatorCountry.com's Bob Redman contributed to this report)