"I have narrowed it down to eight schools, and will probably narrow it down to five before the season starts," said McDaniel Monday evening. "The eight are Virginia, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Oklahoma, LSU, Florida, Miami, and FSU. Florida should be in that final five."
The experience in Gainesville left a lasting impression on McDaniel. He absorbed like a sponge the atmosphere, the campus and the Floriida coaching staff. But, there was one thing that stood out above all else.
"It was a great experience," he said. "I fell in love with the stadium. I fell in love with the coaches too, but I really fell in love with the stadium. The coaches really seem like they know what they are doing and I feel comfortable with that. They seem like they are the type that can show me the ropes and show me what I need to do to get to the next level."
With the players on campus gone for the mid-summer break it was mostly just McDaniel, Harvin, and Coach Beatty with all of the coaches. He did say he ran into Gator quarterback Cornelius Ingram, but no one else.
As a junior, McDaniel had 68 catches for 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns. McDaniel also added 300 yards rushing, good for four touchdowns. It is no wonder that Florida wide receiver Coach Billy Gonzalez likes what he sees in McDaniel, a playmaker who can do a little bit of everything. McDaniel also liked Gonzalez.
"Coach Gonzalez is a very down to earth kind of guy," he said. He is straight forward. He is intense too, I can see that. We were going through some stuff and he was getting into it. We were watching film on the projector and he was getting hyped like he wanted to get pads on and stuff."
Gonzalez likes receivers who think the ball belongs to them once it's in the air. That's the way McDaniel thinks, too, so this has the making of a match made in heaven.
"I am very aggressive," McDaniel said. "If the ball is up in the air, I am going to try and get it."
He's got a list of priorities to help him choose the right school. High on his list of what's important is the family and team aspect of the program.
"Basically, the family the coach and the overall system," he said about the reasons for choosing one school over another. "How I feel around the coaches and the overall atmosphere at the school … they need to have a business school … I want to study business."
The Tidewater area of Virginia annually showcases some of the nation's finest prep football talent. Even for an area that features some of the finest players in the nation every year, McDaniel and Harvin are the kind of players that get recruiters talking nonstop. Although it's rare that one team would have two receivers who are as good as this duo, it's the competition that makes them better.
"We grew up in the same district," McDaniel said of his good friend and teammate. "When we grew up we were always playing against each other. We started playing together when we were about 14-15 years old."
Damon McDaniel will pare his final five choices down later this summer and doesn't have any more planned unofficial trips to take right now although he says he is planning a return trip to the The Swamp. If he makes that second trip, the Florida coaching staff has to like its chances to land this big-time player.