After more than a month of relative quiet on the recruiting trail, Florida appeared to have landed its ninth commitment of the 2016 cycle on Saturday, as four-star running back Robert Washington, of Huntersville, North Carolina, surprised many by picking the Gators, announcing the commitment in a taped interview with Bleacher Report.
His 247Sports profile reports Washington holds 43 offers, and some of them are quite good, but almost every expert predicting Washington's college choice was wrong when the video dropped:
The lone pick for Florida among 24 experts' projections came from Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue — who made the pick on Friday.
"Coach Skip" — running backs coach Tim Skipper — "and his staff are amazing," Washington told Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson in the interview, when asked why Florida was one of his finalists, also mentioning his friendship with Florida quarterback and fellow North Carolinian Will Grier. ("I used to go over to his house all the time.")
And when it came time for him to announce his commitment, Washington said four sweet words: "I'ma be a Gator."
"I think it's a great opportunity. It's just an amazing program," Washington added. "Gainesville's a beautiful place." And then Washington added a couple of telling details: Grier, whom he refers to as "Willy G," "has been a big brother to me" — and "he is gonna be a starting quarterback this year, I believe that."
Washington's other five finalists were an eclectic group: Alabama, Michigan, North Carolina, Syracuse, and TCU.
Washington's high school highlights ought to be taken with some skepticism — more than most high school highlights, anyway — because he hails from a private school in North Carolina. But over this 20-minute tape, there's plenty to love:
Washington is rated as the nation's No. 12 running back by the 247Sports Composite, and his commitment follows those of South Florida studs Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite in the 2015 class. Clearly, "Coach Skip" and Jim McElwain's staff — which can sell the integral role McElwain and Doug Nussmeier played in making Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson stars at Alabama — have figured out how to connect with ball-carriers.
...or so we all thought.
After filming the video, which Bleacher Report released Saturday, Washington made a public commitment to Syracuse in a ceremony at Ascending Faith Church, in Dallas, North Carolina, according to Stephen Bailey of the Syracuse Post-Standard.
Washington told the Post-Standard that he recorded the Bleacher Report interview on Thursday, but changed his mind over the course of a drive down to North Carolina from a visit with his mother in Connecticut.
And 247Sports writer Thomas Goldkamp reports that Washington's original commitment to the Gators came as a surprise to even Florida's staff, partly because Washington's never visited Florida's campus, nor have Florida coaches visited him.
This ... is unusual, to say the least, and I regret publishing the original article without reflecting the Syracuse commitment; I'm sorry for that. But pre-taping an interview in which he made a commitment to Florida and gave glowing reviews sure would seem to be good enough reason for Bleacher Report to publish it — and the fault for any erroneous reporting here would seem to lie mostly with the person saying two different and contradictory things publicly.
I think we may hear more from Washington in the future.