Zebrie Sanders went to Gainesville this past weekend thinking he knew all about The Swamp. He knew it was loud. He knew it was rowdy.
At least he thought he did.
It didn't take him long to discover that there is a difference in perception and reality.
The Clayton Northmont OL, who is a South Carolina transplant, has the kind of size and quick feet that college coaches want in their offensive linemen – hence his numerous scholarship offers.
When Sanders got to 'The Swamp' Saturday for the Southeastern Conference showdown between the Gators and Tennessee, it didn't take him long to understand there are loud stadiums and then there is 'The Swamp.'
“The first thing that stood out to me was how loud the crowd was,” he said, almost in disbelief. “I also saw how loaded the offense was and if I went there it would put me in a great situation knowing how good the offense was.
“When they get even more experience, they will be even more dangerous.
“I didn't think it would be that exciting. I went there expecting one thing and I came back even more excited about Florida than I thought. It is going to be really hard to compete with that. I heard all these other stories about people going down to Florida and verballing the next day. I mean it is a really nice campus, really good coaches, and really good football. It is the total package.”
If there is a potential hurdle that the Gators have to leap, it is Sanders' mom. She's a Georgia graduate and a lifetime Bulldog fan. Sanders seems to have reached a level of understanding with her about his next level of football and the weekend at Florida actually helped the Gators' cause.
“I came with my mom and my dad,” he said. “My mom is a Georgia Bulldog, but she told everyone that she would be wearing Florida Gator colors if I did go there. It is totally up to me and they would support me any way I go. They really liked the academics.”
He had plenty of time to meet with the Florida coaching staff, especially the guys who handle the offensive line, coaches John Hevesy and Steve Addazio. He also spent time with Coach Urban Meyer and he got a chance to talk about where things stand with the Florida Gators.
“Coach Hevesy took me around and took me to lunch,” Sanders said. “Coach Addazio had a conversation with me and then I met with Coach Meyer at the end. He just wanted to see where I stood with Florida. I told him that when talking with the players I saw how it feels to be a player and knowing the ropes and I really liked it. I learned a lot because I had never been there and I got to see what 'The Swamp' is like and the atmosphere. Showing up gave me the big picture about what being a Florida Gator is all about.”
Sanders believes his skill set fits well with what the Gators do on offense and he does a lot of the same in in the Northmont system.
“The offense is similar to ours, we run and pass,” he said. “I think it is close and it would be a smooth transition to play there.”
For now Sanders will take at least one more visit and wants to take up to four more. He will have a hard decision to make in the end.
“My other scheduled visit is with Georgia when they play Auburn,” he said.
“I am trying to go to LSU for in-season and I am trying to go off-season for the other two visits. I am thinking about UCLA and South Carolina.”
You only get one shot at a first impression and the Florida Gators had everything go right for that first impression on Zebrie Sanders.
Northmont (2-2) is set to square off with Greater Western Ohio Conference foe Miamisburg Friday.
Stay tuned to see how his recruitment goes over the next several months.