Banks’ long college football journey lands him at Florida

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UF offensive linemen run a drill during practice this month. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Nearing the completion of his senior year at West Florida Tech, Noah Banks’ dream of playing NCAA Division I football appeared over.

I was just an average recruit because I hadn’t really developed my body yet. I was a really big guy, but I was still awkward. I wasn’t very athletic yet, coordinated,” Banks said. “I had mid-major offers. I was committed to Troy for about a year, then they had a coaching change. That’s when they got Coach (Neal) Brown from UK (Kentucky). I was committed there for about a year, and then about a week before signing day, they called me and told me they were going to grayshirt me, which at the time I had never heard of.”

NCAA D1 coaches across the country have faced criticism for the frequently deceptive methods involved in grayshirting, whereupon a player enrolls at the university as a student during the first semester and initially pays his or her own enrollment dues before being placed on scholarship. A coach will often inform signees of the grayshirt decision merely days before he or she intends to sign a binding letter of intent, which often limits a prospective student-athlete’s collegiate options and delays their athletic eligibility.

“I kind of got screwed out of the recruiting process because of that, so I ended up going to Murray State.”

One of Kentucky’s top public universities and home to nearly 9,000 undergraduate students, Murray State offered Banks an opportunity to join the 2015 class on scholarship, but the football program isn’t regarded as an ideal destination for someone looking to elevate their prospects.

“I redshirt my first year, and then the second year I started and I was doing really well, was a team-captain and all that stuff,” Banks said. “Things never went bad, I just felt like it wasn’t enough for me. I knew I could do better after I had developed and grown into my body, and stuff like that.”

After developing at Murray State, Banks, a Pensacola native, had reached a point where he could test the waters and transfer to a more respected program, but the leap would come at the expense of a year’s eligibility. So, without numerous options yet aiming to take a risk and reap the rewards, the 6-foot-7 Banks opted to take the junior college route. He landed 650 miles north in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at Iowa Western Community College, where a call from UF offensive line coach John Hevesy, then at Mississippi State, soon followed.

“I’m not sure how he found out about me but he had kinda reached out to me over Twitter and we had exchanged phone numbers and talked for a little while. And after I told him I was gonna go the JUCO route cause I wanted to look at other options, we kind of stopped talking for a little while,” Banks said. “And when I was at junior college for a little while, that’s when he reached back out to me, I had shot him a text to see how things were going — this was a couple of weeks before they had got the Florida job, we had been talking for a little while — and when I found out he had got the Florida job, that’s when we started talking a little bit more.”

Three weeks after Hevesy arrived at Florida, Banks flipped his verbal commitment from Arkansas and signed with UF, where he arrived in January for the spring semester. His relationship with Hevesy kept Mississippi State in the mix throughout his recruitment, yet it was Mullen and Co. heading to Gainesville that sealed the decision.

“I had been to Mississippi State before and it really wasn’t my environment,” Banks said. “When they came to Florida, I had already had that relationship with them so I knew it was where I wanted to be.”

After receiving just a lone committable offer in 2015, Banks persevered, eventually earning a scholarship at a program located just five hours from where he had grown up.

“I met some guys that I became good brothers with that I still talk to this day, and that made it a lot easier,” Banks said. “When I left Murray State it was actually really hard, just leaving all of them and going to JUCO. And JUCO is, I’m sure you guys have seen (Last Chance U), it’s not much to it. Luckily, I was only there for a semester.”

At 21 years old and with two years of collegiate eligibility remaining, Banks is only just tasting his first Power Five football, but he’s in a position to contribute along Florida’s offensive line this season.

So far, Banks has apparently been displaying the work ethic that helped turn a pipe dream into a success story.

“He’s a hard-working guy. I think that ever since we came in to learn the new offense, I think it’s kind of helped him, because we all had to switch and transition to a new offensive playbook,” senior offensive lineman Tyler Jordan said. “I think he’s been working hard and doing all he can to contribute.”

 

20 COMMENTS

  1. this is really what you like to read about. also, with all of the talk about recruiting stars, when a guy is 18, its still early to know for sure what will happen at least for several of these guys. obviously banks needed a year or two more, and sometimes that is the way things are, so I am not as thrilled about recruiting stars as the next guy, I always wait at least until you hear results from practice before getting too excited. if nothing else, time reduces your downside risk on players, and teams in close competition need to limit their weak links where possible.

    best of luck and best wishes noah.

      • College football teams with players on their rosters with high recruiting star averages compete for and win championships. There is no argument to that proven fact. Florida currently has a championship roster based on that evaluation process. Currently almost equal in rated talent to Clemson, but below both Bama and Georgia.

          • just wasting a second on nothing, but I wonder if their is good reason to offer financial assistance to “gray shirts”, in a regulated fashion. I don’t want to waste money on signing players to keep them from other programs (I’m still on the Georgia Tech side of the argument with Bear Bryant), but there are several times where these lightly regarded guys at 18 really turn out to be good, almost like a practice squad in the nfl.
            I recognize you need names, buzz, expectations, and the like, but wil Muschamp did that for 5 years here and fans were sick of it after 3. newspapers, although unreliable, do have to have something to print, so all of a sudden we get stars instead of the old blue chips, and soon I bet we will have numbers and pluses like baseball. anyway, even 5 tool baseball players are iffy, coaches are somewhat playing the odds with all of these guys, some have better odds than others, and then you get some guys project to get better in certain areas than they are now; it gets really interesting when you think about it.
            the rays, who do a lot with a little love to get guys at around 19 to 21, betting on the fastball going up a few ticks, or sometimes a change to approach etc. really works out well. I’m sure the same thing happens with gator football, but we still just get stories like it was 1995.

        • Nobody’s arguing, but go back and read Mveal’s point. I’ve consistently said that the only thing possibly worse than over-valuing star ratings is not valuing them at all. It refines the recruiting process to be sure, but you never know what you’ve really got until they suit up and start taking assignments.

          • If you recruit at a high level and you can coach the same way, you will contend for championships. Period. Proven fact. If you do neither or one of the two, and you are in charge of an elite program, you will not be in charge very long, as with Muschamp and McElwain.

          • Tampa. Again, there is no argument vis-a-vis what you just said, a rather blinding glimpse of the highly obvious with which it would be foolish to disagree. To my point however, and presumably Mveal’s, the predictive power of a star rating is not perfect and can only be confirmed by how a recruit actually performs in a particular program, at a particular level of competition, with a particular level of skills, motivation, and most of all, maturity.

        • Sure you are right Tampa- I think we all understand that and agree, as we have discussed before, but the debate is at the margins. In other words, if you are “up there” among the top teams in star rankings, even if not at the very top, but you also coach them up better and have the ability to identify under the radar potential (i.e. lower stars but more heart and development potential) then you can achieve success beyond the star rankings, and the opposite holds true (great recruiting, mediocre results). Think Spurrier vs. Goff. More importantly, success on the field recruits itself to some extent. I think Mullen has done well up to this point, but soon comes the moment of truth. If our offense is improved and produces results on the field, if we beat all the teams we should beat soundly, knock off one or two we shouldn’t, and are at least competitive in losses to top teams, then we should recruit higher stars next season. If we lay an egg on the field, then recruiting will not move forward and neither will our championship aspirations. I know we are all excited to finally be getting beyond the talk and debate and watch some real football. Only a couple of weeks left!

          The most painful thing to me for the last several years was not losing to top teams like Alabama and FSU, it was not belonging on the same field. I think just fixing that would go a long way towards recruiting.

          • Patrick. All true. And Mullet has the talent to compete this year. The players are being better coached and physically developed. The two biggest questions will be, does Florida have a QB of SEC starter ability and does the team have enough quality depth at OL and on defense. If yes to both, Florida can compete for the SEC title this year. If not, Florida struggle at times and win 6 to 8 games this year.

        • There actually is an argument Tampa and I’ve made it to you before, but this time I’ll keep it short. Go back and look at Clemson’s average recruiting class ranking the previous 4 years to winning their first title. Their average ranking was in the teens. It wasn’t until they started winning that their class rankings went up. Good coaching can overcome average recruiting any day of the week, just like bad coaching can be a detriment to great recruiting, just ask Muschamp and Zook about that one. Yes, pulling in classes like UGA and Bama are pulling in certainly makes coaching easier, but as Swinney and Spurrier in the past have proven, all it takes is decent players that fit your system and you’re going to have a lot of success.

  2. I am super impressed by our coaching staff – how they recruit and cultivate players. Banks at 6’7″ is one big dude who will undoubtedly contribute to our offensive line. It has been a long time since I felt so good about the Gator football program. Finally it is in very good hands. GO GATORS!!!

  3. This is the kind of guy who will outwork most others to maximize his opportunities. I’m looking forward to seeing him play. Kind of an under the radar guy up front (reminds me of Taven Bryan) but who may turn out to be a gem.

  4. Great comments by all! Good board. I am hopeful that Mullen has success b/c he is a good fit for Florida. Future looks good for Florida. I think he will lead our program back to prominence and respect. We’ll have to stand behind him even when things take a sideways turn as long has he can maintain passion, enthusiam, and be competitive on and off the field. Go Gators!