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Four-star Jayden Gibson found the right fit at Oklahoma

Jayden Gibson
Jayden Gibson

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Four-star receiver Jayden Gibson committed to Florida in mid-October. He is a Gators legacy. Gainesville is less than two hours from his house. It all made sense.

But about a month later, then-coach Dan Mullen was fired, shortly after Billy Napier was hired from Louisiana and Gibson’s recruitment saw unexpected changes he could not fathom.

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The new Florida staff asked numerous prospects - even commits - for a short workout video. Gibson said he was perfectly fine with that request. But it became clear to the Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange standout that the Gators were going in a different direction when he never heard from the new head coach.

“(Napier) was asking people to work out and send workout videos,” Gibson said here at Under Armour All-America Game practices. “I didn’t have a problem with that necessarily but it wasn’t even him who was delivering the message. I didn’t talk to Napier, not one time. Never spoken to him before. He was having recruiting assistants deliver the message. He never called me.

“In my mind, I’m not important to him so I’ll just decommit. No person on the new staff hit me up or talked to me so obviously they didn’t want me. There’s no point in me waiting and staying committed when I have so many other options of great schools to go to. I thought it was the best decision to just decommit.

Gibson was not the only one.

Numerous then-Florida commits reopened their recruitments, the feeling among many of them was that Napier wanted to move on from many pledges under Dan Mullen’s regime and start fresh. It’s a common move when a new staff comes to town but still challenging for committed players with the Early Signing Period approaching.

“It wasn’t a ‘me’ thing,” Gibson said. “A lot of us committed to Mullen and (Napier) didn’t want us there. Over the next couple weeks after I decommitted and I was looking at everybody they were recruiting and it was none of the same dudes except the five-stars that everybody is going to recruit regardless. For the four-star guys, three-star guys it was a whole different thing.

“I wasn’t mad about it. If he would have just hit me up and said, ‘We’re looking to go in a different direction,’ I’d be cool with that but he didn’t say anything to me. I don’t know what they expected me to do.”

On Dec. 8, Gibson reopened his recruitment. Oklahoma recruited him the hardest but the four-star receiver talked with Texas A&M, South Carolina, Miami, Clemson and others.

Some programs wanted Gibson to wait to enroll until after January but he wanted to come early. The Sooners offered him everything he was looking for so a visit got set up to Norman.

And the four-star receiver loved it.

“I went out there and took the official visit,” Gibson said. “They lack size in their receivers so that’s cool to come in and play with all the other great guys they have there. On top of that, the coaching staff, coach (Cale) Gundy, coach (Jeff) Lebby, coach (Brent) Venables, are three great coaches and three great people. I really like them as people as well.

“It just kind of worked out. It has a good feeling. It feels like a place I can live in, thrive in and go to school. I didn’t want to go somewhere where I could only play football there and the rest of my time would be worthless. There are so many other opportunities and things you can get into so that was pretty cool.”

In Flower Mound, Texas, then-Florida quarterback commit Nick Evers was dealing with a similar situation. It looked like the Gators were moving on from the four-star and Evers needed a home as well.

Gibson and Evers linked up. They would visit Oklahoma the same weekend. And now they’ll be roommates in Norman.

“Oklahoma started recruiting us and we both saw a good opportunity and we talked about it and we were like, ‘Let’s go there and see what it is and see what it’s like,’” Gibson said.

“We wanted to go at the same time and he’ll be my roommate. That’s cool. He’s my boy.”