This story originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Gator Country Magazine. VIP subscribers to GatorCountry.com receive the magazine in the mail every month, and copies are available throughout Gainesville.
The Florida Gators have done well in recent years when it comes to recruiting top cornerbacks.
Joe Haden, a three-year starter at Florida, is now starting for the Cleveland Browns. Janoris Jenkins, also a three-year starter, is a potential NFL draft pick despite being dismissed from the team this summer. This year, Marcus Roberson stepped in as a starter and has shown tremendous cover ability.
So who will be the next great Florida cornerback? It just might be Bradenton Southeast’s Brian Poole Jr.
Poole became Florida’s 11th verbal commitment in June. Florida fans should feel lucky that Poole will be wearing orange and blue next season and not garnet and gold.
Poole’s high school mascot is the Seminole. Southeast is also the school that former FSU stars Peter Warrick and Adrian McPherson attended, and to top it off, Poole’s older sister is attending FSU.
Surprisingly though, Warrick, McPherson, nor his sister have pushed Poole to attend FSU.
“When I was younger I used to come to a lot of Southeast games and watch Peter Warrick, and I just always wanted to be great in college like him so that was pretty much my role model,” Poole said. “I actually talked to them, but both of them never really pushed Florida State on me like that.”
Poole’s relationships with Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and head coach Will Muschamp are both reasons he and his family love the Gators.
“I talk to T-Rob like a couple times a week,” Poole said. “He’s just a great guy. I can relate to him really well. My mom loves him. My dad loves him. And my little cousins that go up there with me love him.
Poole expressed the same sentiment on the “great relationships” his parents have with Muschamp, adding that Gainesville also provides a home feeling for him.
“I’m not too far away,” Poole said. “I have the type of family where my whole family will come up to my games. It’s pretty much just right up the road.
Poole likes the fact that his future head coach is defensive-minded, and a former defensive back himself.
“He’s a great guy,” Poole said. “He’s a defensive head coach. I play defense, so why I wouldn’t I want to play for a defensive head coach? His name speaks for itself.”
Poole, who accounted for 21 touchdowns and three interceptions as a junior, said just because he’s committed to Florida doesn’t mean other schools have stopped contacting him.
“I hear from Alabama, Notre Dame, Georgia, and I hear from LSU,” he said. “Those are pretty much the schools I hear from the most.”
Though Poole said he is solid in his commitment to Florida, he plans on taking all five of his official visits.
He decided to take the visits, based on the advice of former Southeast and Florida safety Jonathan Dowling, who was kicked off the team during his freshman year and transferred to Western Kentucky.
“He hasn’t had anything negative to say about Florida,” Poole said. “He told me to just enjoy it and to take all my visits. That was his biggest thing, that’s what he thinks he messed up on, he only took one official visit and that was to Florida. He said if he could do it all over he would take all of his visits.”
Poole did learn one lesson from seeing the Dowling situation unfold during Florida’s change at head coach.
“I know going to college, I have to stay focused,” he said. “I know nothing is going to be given to me. I know when I’m committing to a school, I’m committing to a school and not a coach. Whether the coach is there or not, I’m committing to the University of Florida. You really can’t get caught up in all the coaching changes and stuff like that.”
Poole said he carries a 3.0 GPA and is trying to get it worked out with his coach and guidance counselors to enroll at Florida in January.
At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Poole has great size for a defensive back. He is physical enough to play safety, but has the cover skills to be a shut-down corner.
For Poole, he prefers the challenge of playing corner.
“I want to play corner,” Poole said. “I mean I can play safety, but I want to play corner. I’m physical. I’m fast. And I can cover. That’s pretty much it.”
Poole admits he looked at Florida’s depth chart before committing to the Gators, but said at a school like Florida, you will always have to compete for playing time.
“I have looked at the depth chart,” Poole said. “I’m going to come every day. I’m going to work hard. I don’t mind competing and everything like that. I’m not looking for anything to be just given to me. I’m willing to work for it.
“Starting is pretty important to me – that is my goal,” Poole continued. “I’m not really trying to go where I will sit and watch. I want to get on the field. I’ll play special teams or whatever, but I want to be on the field.
Poole, who will be participating in the Under Armour All-American game in January, said he doesn’t have any real weaknesses in his games, just areas that he needs to fine tune.
“I don’t really think I have any weaknesses,” he said. “But I’m still working on really just polishing up everything – From technique, to instincts, to anticipation. Everything. Everything can be polished up on.”
Poole is ranked as the No. 9 corner and the No. 133 player overall according to the ESPNU recruiting rankings. Poole fractured his ankle in the Southeast spring game, but has since made a full recovering for the 2011 football season.
For him, he’s just excited to get to Florida and enjoy his college experience.
“I heard it’s the best time of your life, so I’m just going to try and enjoy it,” Poole said. “After college that’s when the real world kicks in, you know, bills and family. Stuff like that. I’m just trying to enjoy myself while I’m there. I was blessed enough to get a scholarship so I don’t have to really worry about paying for a whole lot. I’m just trying to enjoy myself and make it to the NFL. That’s my ultimate goal.”
Gator Country football and recruiting analyst Derek Tyson can be reached at Derek@GatorCountry.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at DerekTysonGC.