Oh, what a difference one letter can make.
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland quarterback Jonathan Garner is the quarterback in this rising senior recruiting class who the Cardinal had pursued the longest. Dating back to June 2002, when the signal caller had just completed his freshman year of high school, they saw something special in him when he attended their football camp. Garner was the first quarterback that Stanford offered in this class, and the 6'5" slinger named them his number one school after camping on The Farm a couple weeks ago. The Card looked to be in the catbird seat for this fabulous Florida talent... until a letter came in the mail to the Garner home.
Ed Zaunbrecher, quarterbacks coach for the Florida Gators, wrote a letter to the Mainland High School senior letting him know that the UF senior camp was coming up. The Gators would love for him to attend so they could get a good look at him. Garner thought the Stanford camp would be his last of the summer, and had no knowledge or plans of camping in Gainesville. He attended this past weekend and spoke with The Bootleg Sunday night.
"I didn't do a lot of throwing on Saturday, but today I threw with Ryan Perrilloux and felt pretty good," he reported. "I don't like to compare myself with others, but I think I did well. I threw better than I did at the Stanford camp, but I had taken the week off this week throwing. My arm felt good."
More than just personal satisfaction, that strong Sunday performance appears to have changed the landscape of his recruitment, with a new offer from a school previously off the radar.
"I went to Coach [Ron] Zook's office today with Coach Zaunbrecher," Garner continued for this Sunday story. "They said they will talk as a staff tonight, and I should call them in the morning. They said they will likely offer me. They really liked my footwork and accuracy."
West Coast watchers of this Sunshine State slinger have been more focused on the Miami Hurricanes as a local threat. Garner camped in June at Coral Gables and was thought to be close to an offer from the mighty Canes, but it never came. "They said they really like me and will recruit me - watch me this fall," the quarterback comments. Pulling this quarterback recruit 3,000 miles away from Daytona Beach would have been a lot harder for Stanford if Miami had stepped up to the plate with an offer, but it's out of the frying pan and into the fire for the Card with Florida entering the picture.
We could not reach the Mainland High School standout yesterday, but another source confirmed Monday evening that the Gators indeed made the offer. Here is what Garner said Sunday night about what would happen to his recruiting outlook if Florida took the plunge.
"Oh man," the 2003 Florida state Class 5A champion emotes. "I've liked Florida my whole life. They would probably be my number one school. They have great people and great coaches. I love the campus and the atmosphere."
The immediate question, then, is if Garner will pull a quick trigger on the Gators with this offer.
"I might," he answers. "I would like to commit early. I would probably commit at the Elite 11 Camp [on July 21-25]."
Two days ago, the Cardinal were atop Garner's list, and now they look like they are a week away from finishing an unsatisfying second place in this race. The longtime Stanford recruit, who has an uncle near the campus, is careful to praise his Pac-10 suitor.
"Stanford was great," he describes of his camp and unofficial visit to The Farm. "The campus has gotten nicer since I've been there last. They have just as good of coaches as Florida - it's just the distance. My mom would like Stanford for me, but my dad - distance is real big for him."
Jonathan Garner holds offers now from Florida, Stanford, Ole Miss, Louisville, Connecticut, East Carolina and USF. He was recently named one of the choice dozen quarterbacks from the 2005 class to attend the esteemed Elite 11 Quarterback Camp later this month in Southern California.
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