By Chris Boyle, GateHouse Media Services
For nearly 6 months, Mainland safety John Huggins proudly identified himself as a Florida State commit. On Wednesday, he joined one of the Seminoles’ fiercest rivals.
Huggins, one of the first commits in the Dan Mullen era, signed his national letter of intent with Florida early Wednesday morning. He hopes to make a mark for a program which has pumped out upper-echelon defensive backs for the better part of a decade.
Since 2010, Florida has developed 11 NFL draft picks in the secondary alone, garnering the nickname “DBU” in the process.
“It’s honestly a blessing, and I’m looking forward to being a part of DBU and establishing it even more,” Huggins said. “I’ve talked to Chauncey Gardner and Jeawon Taylor, and they can’t wait for me to be a part of it. I’m ready for June.”
An All-Area honorable mention as a junior at Pine Ridge, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder had no college offers as recently as last February. Then, his stock rose significantly after flashing his athleticism at a Nike regional camp in Orlando.
He finished with 37 Division I scholarship offers, per 247Sports, ultimately choosing Florida over Florida State, Miami, Nebraska, North Carolina State and Louisville.
Less than an hour after Jimbo Fisher resigned as Florida State’s head coach and finalized a 10-year deal with Texas A&M on Dec. 1, Huggins decided to reopen his recruitment.
It didn’t take long for Florida to enter the picture. Huggins met with new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham at Mainland on Dec. 7, and again in Huggins’ home four days later.
“That really showed me how important I was to them,” Huggins said. “Coach Mullen texted me too, and told me he wanted me to be a Gator. They really wanted me to be there.”
In his lone season at Mainland, Huggins recorded 32 total tackles, three tackles for loss, six pass breakups and one interception. At Florida, Huggins believes he will have a chance to line up at corner, including in nickel packages, and blitz off the edge.
Until this past weekend, Huggins maintained a belief he would wait things out until February. His official visit changed everything, becoming enamored by the school’s academic reputation, the thought of playing in front of nearly 90,000 fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and a chance to stick it to the Seminoles once a year.
“I feel more satisfied with my commitment to Florida. I feel like it’s my home, and I belong there,” Huggins said.
“It feels like more of a family to me. I think them coming to me, making me a priority as soon as they got there, it was big to me. It really stood out. And that visit was probably the best visit I’ve ever had. I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”