Florida football coach Billy Napier speaks to the crowd during halftime of an NCAA college basketball game between Florida and Alabama, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

Florida Football Lands Top Defensive End T.J. Searcy

The 20th-ranked defensive lineman in the country, TJ Searcy, announced his commitment to play football at the University of Florida on Monday.


Multitude of Offers

The 6’5″ 250-pound defensive end held 14 offers from schools across the country. Six SEC schools — Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt — offered Searcy, as well as historic programs such as Clemson and Michigan.

Florida offered Searcy in February, and he made an unofficial visit to campus in March. After that, Searcy took his official visit to Florida on June 10.

History of Elite Defense

The four-star Georgia native is ranked No. 153 in the 2023 class. Florida outside linebackers coach, Mike Peterson, is credited with leading the recruitment of Searcy.

Entering his first season coaching for the Gators, Peterson has already secured two top-200 prospects. Furthermore, Peterson is well-aware of Florida’s long-standing tradition of elite defenses. He earned All-American honors in 1996 as a linebacker for the Gators. Furthermore, Peterson helped lead Florida to the 1996 National Championship as a team captain.

Peterson Prevails

The relationship Peterson built with Searcy proved to be a big factor in his decision. In an interview with AllGators in February, Searcy spoke on Peterson’s relationship with him.

“Coach Peterson, I’d say he was one of the first college coaches to ever text me, for real, as far as texting me consistently. We’ve got a good relationship, me and coach Peterson. I love his resume. A lot of coaches, like, they’ve coached at the next level but they haven’t necessarily played at the next level the way he did.”

Searcy is the 9th commit for Coach Billy Napier’s 2023 class. He and Sharif Denson are the most recent recruits to commit to the Gators. Florida has the opportunity to welcome more top prospects to Gainesville, such as Derrick LeBlanc and Zavion Hardy.

About Shailey Klein

Shailey Klein is a second-year journalism major specializing in sports and media at UF.

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