RECRUITING: Is Baldwin Ready To Pick UF?

While the smell of charcoal burning and food on the grill may make most people salivate, it has just the opposite effect on Darin Baldwin. Hurricanes like Wilma back in October have routinely made their way through south Florida the past couple of years, knocking out electricity and forcing families to do all their cooking on a grill for protracted periods of time. It's happened often enough that Baldwin has had his fill of charcoal grilled food.

(See Darin Baldwin profile)

Give him a greasy fast food burger. Give him canned spaghetti in a bowl of frozen fish sticks baked in the oven. Just don't light the charcoal. Wilma was the most recent storm that turned Homestead into a city-wide barbeque pit.

"It knocked all the power out for two weeks," said Baldwin, a 5-11, 178-pound defensive back from South Dade High School. "We couldn't see anything the streets were so dark. I couldn't eat barbeque if I wanted to right now. If I go on recruiting visits, I don't want anything cooked on the grill. If you are recruiting a kid from Dade County don't give him barbeque. That's all we've been eating down here."

Hurricanes may have altered the things Baldwin likes to eat, but they haven't altered the school that he's favoring. This four-star rated (by defensive back has the Florida Gators most prominent on his radar and he thinks his combination of size and speed would make him a perfect fit in the Florida secondary.

"Coach (Doc) Holliday from the Gators is recruiting me the hardest," Baldwin started. "He wants me to play safety but he saw me press people and he thinks I can play either one. He said I may be able to start at nickel in the first year."

Florida was already thin in the secondary but with Vernell Brown and Jarvis Herring graduating and the possibility that Dee Webb (first team All-SEC corner) will be leaving for the NFL Baldwin sees an opportunity for early playing time.

"It looks like they are hurting in the secondary and I can go in and help them out and play ball. I want to go somewhere I can play. All the secondary when I was at Friday Night Lights, I was taller than all of them.

"I like the defense they play but I think they will be more successful if they didn't play so much cover-3. I think they do that because their line is young. They also need guys that can cover with good footwork and speed. Sometimes, I am not sure what the safety is reading. I watch him on tape and I think he is a little hesitant."

His list of favorite schools is rather odd for someone that has offers from big name schools like Auburn, Florida and other SEC schools. Right now he likes the Gators and NC State the most, followed by three other schools in the state of Florida.

"The coaches from NC State are calling a lot," he said. "FAMU, Central Florida, and South Florida are others I want to visit. It's mostly about Florida and NC State. I don't want to leave the state either so most likely it's going to be the Gators."

Anytime there is a big time defensive back in south Florida, the first thing that comes to mind is that school right there in the neighborhood. The University of Miami is right around the corner from Baldwin but he doesn't have an offer.

"A coach from Miami talked to me but I don't pay them no mind," he said when asked what he would do if Miami offered. "I am just trying to go play. It doesn't matter if they do offer. Coach Holliday has been there since he was at NC State. Coach Holliday told me he was going to take care of me. I told him I wouldn't do him wrong, so I won't jump on another team just because they offered me. Miami's problem is they got Phillips last year, so they have a freshman already started. They figure everyone in Dade County wants to go there already."

He has visits set up for NC State (Dec 9) and one for the Gators (Jan 7). After that he would like to visit FAMU, Central Florida, and South Florida.

NC State seems to be Florida's only competition for his services. He has some ties there through his coach and says, "Everyone is playing cover-1 there. I talk to them a lot too."

He wants to hold on to those other offers in case he loses the big ones. He just isn't ready to rush into anything this instant.

"I have the other ones in case I wait too long to commit, and they give their scholarships away," he said. "I am just waiting everything out and looking at depth charts. I also have to look at what coaches are going to be there the whole four years. That's why I am not interested in Florida State. There is no telling how long Bobby Bowden is going to be there … what is he 76? You don't want to go to a team and get to your senior year and a new coach is there."

Baldwin isn't going to wait forever to make his final decision. He has been investigating all the schools that have offered him and he's pretty close to making a decision.

"I will probably choose around Christmas time," he said.

Baldwin and his South Dade team came up just short in the third round of the state playoffs when they lost a close battle to Miami Northwestern 28-20. Northwestern won the field position battle which led to three easy touchdowns in that game.

On the season Baldwin had five interceptions two pass breakups, two sacks, two forced fumbles when offenses threw away from his side all season. He also had three kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Since he will be making his final choice public sometime around Christmas, Darin Baldwin could prove to be a nice Christmas present for the Florida Gators.

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