The Florida Gators hosted 86,840 fans on Saturday as they beat Florida Atlantic, 35-14. Three particular people in attendance left Ben Hill Griffin Stadium thinking about the future: 2022 Florida linebacker commit E.J. Lightsey, 2023 four-star defensive lineman Derrick LeBlanc and 2023 four-star linebacker Grayson Howard.
Lightsey is in his last year of high school and verbally committed to Florida in the middle of August. His first time visiting the Swamp, Lightsey was impressed by what Florida had to offer. The fans were loud, the lights were brighter and the linebackers showed him a glimpse of what his Saturdays will look like in the future.
“Where I come from, we don’t do all that,” Lightsey said when asked by GatorsTerritory about the passion Florida fans bring. “The fans, they were amazing. It was one of the factors that I took in when I made my decision.”
After seeing the team play, Lightsey commented that he thinks he’ll fit right in with the defense when he gets to Gainesville. Howard, who is still considering his recruiting options, made similar remarks regarding the atmosphere and play from the linebackers.
“While watching the linebackers I could tell Ventrell Miller was the leader of the defense,” Howard said to 247Sports. “And also Diabate stepped up too and made a couple clutch stops. The defense played really good tonight, that’s something I would like to be a part of is a good defense that flys around and makes plays.”
The Gators offered Howard a few days ago and it’s the one he’s been waiting for. Following the season opener, Howard’s relationship with Florida seems incredibly strong.
LeBlanc was on his second visit of the year to Florida after observing a camp in summer. Unable to visit in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, LeBlanc was excited to finally experience a gameday. Edge rushers Zach Carter and Brenton Cox Jr. spoke with the prospect before the game and told him the “d-line was going to do their thing.” Carter finished the night with three sacks.
The competition for LeBlanc is fairly strong with Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia all in the hunt. He’ll return for Florida’s game against Alabama, and that game could have a big impact on his decision.”
“I thought the defense played really good, LeBlanc said, according to 247Sports. “But I just want to see them against Bama. I am going to be back for that game in two weeks, so I want to see how they are against those guys.”
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