After he spent three consecutive weekends in Gainesville, Michael Tarquin needed to return to Coral Gables once more before he could make a final decision in his recruitment.
A four-star tackle in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Tarquin committed to the Miami Hurricanes back in March despite some interest from the Oklahoma Sooners and Ohio State Buckeyes.
With less than a month until he signs his National Letter of Intent, Tarquin wanted a reminder of why he fell in love with Miami in the first place. His official visit in South Florida over the weekend did it.
“I’m just very glad I got down there. Every time I’m there it feels right. It helps me understand some of the factors that went into my decision, like why I made my decision,” Tarquin said Monday after returning home from his official visit. “I feel very comfortable with the coaches and the university — I love the school and the campus. … It’s beautiful. It’s, you know, paradise.”
Still, Tarquin’s final decision won’t be easy. The senior from Citra North Marion grew up a fan of the Florida Gators and now they’re recruiting Tarquin as hard as anyone.
Florida coach Dan Mullen and offensive line coach John Hevesy are scheduled to make an in-home visit with Tarquin on Monday, then the Gators will host Tarquin for his final planned official visit this coming weekend.
Tarquin expects to make a final decision shortly after his next trip to Florida and then sign his Letter of Intent on the first day of the early signing period next month. The offensive lineman is still on track to early enroll at the school of his choice.
“I love the University of Florida, too. I’m comfortable there. It’s another great option and they’re recruiting me hard,” Tarquin said. “I’ve got to just see what happens.”
Tarquin’s recruitment has tilted in plenty of different directions since the South Carolina Gamecocks became the first school to offer him last year.
South Carolina’s strong first impression made the Gamecocks an early contender, then the Hurricanes became a top suitor after they offered about a month later.
Ohio State positioned itself as a frontrunner when Tarquin visited Columbus three times throughout the 2017 season and Oklahoma made itself appealing enough for Tarquin to take his first official visit to Norman in April.
When Miami finally landed Tarquin’s oral commitment, the rollercoaster recruitment seemed to finally be over. Tarquin never gave off an impression he’d waver from his initial pledge, so Florida never poked around — until earlier this month.
He visited the Gators for the first time this fall Nov. 3, when Florida lost to the Missouri Tigers. He returned on Nov. 10 for the Gators’ win against South Carolina and then again for their win against the FCS Idaho Vandals on Nov. 17.
Tarquin never had much affinity for former Florida coach Jim McElwain and his staff. Mullen and Co. are different.
“They didn’t really try to recruit me too much because they thought I was solid with Miami, then they kind of knew,” Tarquin said. “They started recruiting me hard.
“I kind of turned away from Florida because of the old staff. The new staff I like a lot.”
He likes the Hurricanes’ staff, too, and offensive line coach Stacy Searels is a big reason why Tarquin committed to Miami in the first place.
Uncertainty about the Hurricanes’ coaching staff would affect Tarquin, but otherwise he tried to ignore Miami’s four-game losing streak earlier this season. There are more important factors in his decision.
“Obviously if the team’s not doing good, you want to win, but I try not to let that get in the way of my decision only because that shouldn’t matter too much,” Tarquin said. “Yeah, you want to win, but what matters is where I’m going to be the most comfortable and where I’m going to be the happiest.”
Odds and ends:
▪ Searels is still working on backup plans in case Tarquin flips to the Gators next month. He opened the contact period, which began Sunday, by making an in-home visit with three-star tackle Darius Washington.
The Pensacola West Florida offensive lineman is committed to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, but the Hurricanes are pushing for a flip.
▪ Ron Dugans hit the ground running in the contact period by visiting Miami’s top two in-state wide receiver targets. The wide receivers coach made a Sunday in-home visit with Neptune Beach Fletcher four-star wide receiver Jeremiah Payton, who is firm in his pledge, and also checked in with three-star wide receiver TJ Jones.
The three-star wide receiver from Lake City Columbia named the Hurricanes to his top eight Friday.
▪ Mark Richt is allowed one in-home visit with every prospect during this contact period and he didn’t waste any time taking his first.
The coach accompanied defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and outside linebackers coach Jonathan Patke for an in-home visit with three-star outside linebacker Samuel Brooks.
The three-star outside linebacker from Northwestern is locked in with the Hurricanes and still has an outside chance to early enroll.