A Recruiting Moment takes a look back in time to a moment in recruiting news where both Florida and its opponent of the week – LSU this time around – were major players.
We never like to see elite recruits leave the state of Florida. The area has more talent than it knows what to do with, but we’d all like that talent to stay where it was developed. Recruits do leave, though, and we are forced to move on. With so much ability in the state, the mourning process is fairly quick, but it also isn’t every day a recruit leaves ... only to later call your team cowards.
Patrick Johnson was one of those elite recruits. If you don’t recognize the name, that’s because he changed it to Patrick Peterson after he arrived at LSU. These days, you’ll find Peterson in an Arizona Cardinals jersey. Back then, he was the nation’s best high school cornerback and one of the top-ranked players overall. Although every major school across the country had interest in Peterson, the corner, being from Pompano Beach, only had eyes for Miami.
Peterson would commit to the Hurricanes before his senior year at Blanche Ely High School, but it wouldn’t last. He looked at a number of schools and eventually narrowed his choices to Florida, FSU and LSU. Although it seemed like a three-horse race, most believed it would either be the Gators or the Tigers that would land the coveted corner. With LSU taking the rumored lead, whispers were heard that Florida didn’t want him because the coaching staff detected an attitude problem.
The Tigers would win the recruiting battle and sign Peterson; the Gators would end up with Jeremy Brown and Janoris Jenkins at the position. Peterson wanted to become a Tiger as soon as possible and had the intention of enrolling early and joining LSU for spring practices in 2008. That plan was delayed when the NCAA Clearinghouse began to look into his ACT scores. Peterson had increased his score after taking the test several times. An unexplained increase can create questions and that was exactly the case.
Now, you’re probably asking "How did the NCAA find out about his scores?" Actually, you’re not asking that. Why would you ask that? The NCAA can find out whatever it wants including qualifying grades and test scores fairly easily. Despite that, many assumed some school or someone informed the NCAA of the difference in scores. The school in question was, of course, Florida, and the individual was Urban Meyer.
Meyer would deny the claim and Gators fans would support him. Tigers’ fans would choose to believe the exact opposite and support their future All-American defensive back. Out of it all, the best part would be Peterson’s side:
"Florida made an issue about the ACT score. They're cowards. They had to go behind my back. But that's okay. We play them this year."
The two schools would play that year; the Gators won by 30. They would play the next year and Florida would win again. It wasn’t until his final year at LSU that Peterson would get a win over the school he believes turned him in; ironically, a bad angle by Jenkins, recruited instead of Peterson, gave LSU the edge in that game.
We may never really know what happened with Patrick Peterson's recruitment, but we do know a few things. We know that Peterson ended up being as good as advertised. We know that fans will hang on to any story with the slightest bit of controversy if it helps fuel a rivalry. And we know that all is fair in love, war, and recruiting.