RECRUITING: Gators Offer South Dade DB Baldwin

With the University of Florida secondary looking a tad on the thin side, recruiting a good corps of young defensive backs has become a priority for Urban Meyer early on in the recruiting season. To cure this ailment, Meyer and the Gators have turned their sights to a familiar school with a recent history for turning out quality defensive backs --- South Dade High School.

The Homestead school may not be known as Secondary U. just yet, but having recently graduated successful defensive backs such as Antrel Rolle, Marcus Hudson and Jarvis Johnson, it could be well on its way. Darin Baldwin could be the next big name on that high school alumni list. The Florida Gators are among the many Division I schools in the hunt to land this 6-foot, 170-pound prospect.

Baldwin's goals for the 2005 season are two-fold: (1) he wants to make sure his team avoids last year's disappointment of being upset in just the second round of the playoffs, and (2) he wants to get ready to play at the next level by being a dominating player on the high school fields.

"We [South Dade] have a lot of people returning this year so we're looking to make it to states this year," Baldwin said. "I'd like to return three punts for touchdowns this year as my personal goal because it's real hard for me to get interceptions with our defense. They just kill guys at the line of scrimmage so the opponents' passing game doesn't ever really get off the ground."

Baldwin's emergence on the Gator recruiting radar was a bit slow in development. He was a bit of an unknown until he camped in Gainesville. Once he had a chance to show off his speed and ability to close on the football he received a written offer of a scholarship from Coach Urban Meyer and from Coach Doc Holliday.

"They really liked how I performed and were talking to me the entire time I was there," he said. "The atmosphere up in Gainesville is real nice so it was a good experience overall. I was there for three days and got to meet a lot of the other top high school seniors from all around. Coach Holliday is recruiting me the hardest out of anyone right now so I'd like to go back up again at some point."

After camping at UF, Baldwin went to the Miami Nike camp, but his performance wasn't his best.

"I was injured and had hurt my knee a couple days before so I ran a 4.51," he said. "A couple days later at the Bishop Moore camp in Orlando I ran a 4.4, was named fastest athlete at the camp and best corner at the camp."

With a Gator offer in hand, Baldwin lists his 5 favorites as UF, FSU, Miami, Auburn and North Carolina State in no particular order. However, don't expect a decision any time soon from the rising corner. Here's what he likes in the rest of his top 5:

MIAMI: "It's real close to home, and they have a history of sending guys like Antrel to the NFL, but I didn't get a chance to make it to their camp."

FSU:"Another team that has a good history of sending defensive backs to the NFL."

NC STATE: "There are a lot of South Florida kids that play up there and the coaching staff is real nice."

AUBURN: "They had a great year in 2004 and are a program on the rise in the SEC."

"I talked with my dad about it and decided that we would let my senior season play out before narrowing down my choices or choosing anyone," Baldwin said. "I'm keeping a real open mind right now and looking forward to my senior year."

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