The No. 4 offensive tackle in the 2018 class made his second trip of the summer to Gainesville to participate in the Florida Gators Friday Night Lights event this weekend. William Barnes (6-4, 312, Apopka, Fla., Apopka) was nothing short of dominant in the camp as arguably the top performer of the weekend.
Barnes has built a strong relationship with Florida and just keeps coming back for more. He was once again blown away by his experience on Friday.
“Just coming down here and competing in The Swamp, it was definitely a great experience,” said Barnes. “I can definitely see myself playing out here.”
For Barnes, the feel of the environment around a program holds a major weight on his decision and that is the biggest thing that continues to draw him back to the Gators.
“Just definitely the environment, the people, just the way they are,” he said is what he likes about Florida. “I definitely enjoy coming up here every time. You know, just learn a little more about Florida each time I come out here.”
Things were unknown for Barnes and Florida when former offensive line coach Mike Summers left for Louisville, because he had developed a strong bond with Summers. New offensive line coach Brad Davis had to rebuild the relationship from scratch, but he made up time quickly, going above and beyond for the top recruit.
“Talking to Coach Davis, we text each other like every other day, sometimes almost every day,” he said. “He’s just a great person to talk to. Sometimes we don’t talk about football, sometimes we talk about other stuff, too. I really appreciate him taking the time out of his day just to talk to me. He’s a really cool guy.”
Davis left an impression on Barnes Friday as he was able to work out in front of him and take coaching from him for the first time.
“I saw that he was a fantastic coach,” Barnes said. “I can definitely see myself being coached under him. He definitely just critiques things, breaks things down. It was a great coaching experience today.”
Barnes is continuing to leave his recruitment open and is still considering several schools, but it is looking like it will come down to a battle to the death between Florida and North Carolina. Two schools that possess his biggest factor—a quality education.
“Definitely the education,” he said on what he is looking for in a school. “I’m always thinking life after football, so I think the educational side of a school, that’s what I’m looking at a lot more.”
He said he considered committing to the Tarheels on his last visit up there, but he chose to continue to weigh his options. Now, Florida and UNC are both sending him similar messages, making his decision even more difficult.
“Definitely they [UNC] see me having a starting position out there,” said Barnes. “Florida also said that, too. It kinda just made me think a lot more about what I need to think about doing, where I need to go a lot more.”
With a lot to think about, Barnes wants to at least wait his commitment a while longer. He has stated before that he plans to announce his final decision on signing day, but he now says if the feeling is right he could move his decision up.
“Just feeling around,” he said. “Probably taking my officials during the fall, but if anything comes out, I may end up committing early, but I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”
Florida is putting in work to rebrand its offensive line into one of the best in the SEC. With a new energy inside the unit, there are high expectations for the coming years. The Gators picked up a commitment from the No. 6 offensive guard in the nation, Curtis Dunlap, earlier this week. He and Barnes together would be huge additions to this 2018 class.