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Gators pushing hard for local defensive lineman in class of 2024

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If there is one thing Billy Napier has made clear since taking over the Florida Gators football team it’s that he wants to make UF the most desirable university in the state.

Napier has done well to bring in local talent, with 14 of the 16 recruits committed to the Gators in the class of 2023 coming out of Florida while the other two are Georgia kids. Two of those 14 are from Gainesville: four-star defensive lineman Gavin Hill and three-star athlete Creed Whittemore. Both are rising seniors at F.W. Bucholz High, but there’s also a rising junior that Napier has his eye on, three-star defensive lineman Kendall Jackson, according to 247Sports.

UF offered Jackson back in June after an impressive showing at one of the team’s Day One camps. Since then, the coaching staff has kept in touch with them and their message to Jackson is a familiar one: stay in Florida and be great at home.

“Their message to me is all the same. It’s they want me to stay home,” Jackson said. “That is pretty much the message every coach I talked to had. They said they want me to stay home. I talk with Coach (Kali) James from time to time when I call him … Coach James wants to make sure he keeps you close and let you know he is going to love you and that he wants you to be a Gator.”

At the time of the offer, Jackson wasn’t as well known in the recruiting space as he is now. He now holds the No. 388 overall spot on the 247Sports composite and is No. 33 among defensive linemen in the class. The service has him listed at No. 26 among those at his position in the site’s standalone rankings as well.

Those numbers could improve with a strong senior year, and Jackson is already receiving interest from some other Power Five programs. Miami is the other main school he’s gotten to know well over the summer, and he hopes to stop by both programs as well as Georgia and UCF over the course of the season.

There’s still plenty of time until he needs to make a decision, but Jackson says Florida is playing its cards the right way.

“Florida definitely is a top school for me,” he said. “I don’t necessarily have a number for anything right now. I am just keeping it open.”

Being a local talent, missing out on Jackson could look bad for the Gators, especially if it’s to the likes of another in-state program. Expect the UF staff to keep pushing for him until a decision is made.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire