Photo via Roderick Kearney, twitter
The Florida Gators continue heating up on the recruiting trail as the 2023 cycle nears its home stretch.
Earlier this month, Florida took safety Dijon Johnson away from two schools that Gator fans don’t really like in Ohio State and Miami. This time, the flip comes at the expense of one of Florida’s biggest rivals.
Roderick Kearney, a consensus four-star offensive lineman from Jacksonville’s Orange Park High School, has flipped his commitment from FSU to Florida. (Another way of saying this: Billy Napier stuffed Mike Norvell into a locker.) He also had offers from Georgia, Clemson, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Oregon, Miami, Tennessee, Mississippi, West Virginia, and NC State.
You can watch his high school tape here.
From any angle there is to possibly look at this, the flip is a leviathan victory for the Gators. Not only does Florida stick it to the Seminoles on the trail once again, but the Gators also added a highly-sought-after prospect at a position of major need.
Roderick Kearney stands 6’4, 300 lbs. He’s naturally athletic enough to play anywhere on the offensive line if he had to, but he best projects as an offensive tackle. And quite a promising one.
As a run blocker, Roderick Kearney is a monster. He explodes out of his stance and delivers heavy initial punches with his large hands that can oftentimes take defenders out of the play just like that. Once he’s engaged his hands, it’s usually over for his high school competition, as he’ll treat them like blocking sheds and simply walk them out of the way like a bouncer would.
Kearney also shows strong footwork. He’s obviously not going to win footraces against guys at the skill positions, but his high school runs to the outside a lot, and thus he has a lot of experience in pull blocking. And he’s good at it. He can get to where he needs to be fairly quickly, and deliver lane-clearing blocks with tremendous amounts of momentum.
As for Kearney’s pass blocking skills, Orange Park doesn’t seem to throw the ball a ton, though they do some and Kearney looks fine there. He still displays all that natural athleticism and strength in the different activity of pass protection compared to run blocking, and doesn’t often get fazed by opposing pass rush moves. On the rare occasions where he looks like he’s about to get beat off the snap, his feet are quick enough that he can sidestep laterally, almost in something of a juke move- yes, a juke move, for an offensive lineman- except instead of juking “out” the defender, his feet juke him back “in” to the defender’s path, where he can then re-set his feet and at least get back to square one in the pass blocking process.
But perhaps what makes this flip most exciting is the situation Florida has on the offensive line in this class. Bryce Lovett and Knijeah Harris are both solid pieces, but there’s no other commit up front in the Gators’ 2023 class beside them. Or at least there wasn’t before Roderick Kearney flipped. And even now with three offensive line commits, Florida still probably has a good bit of work to do at that position in this class. Look for the Gators to take at least two, maybe more, commits on the offensive line between now and Signing Day.
Then again, the details of this recruiting battle make the flip pretty sweet, too. Kearney seemed to be eyeballing both Florida and FSU a little more closely than the rest of the field back in March, visiting each school three times between March and June. In late June, FSU apparently did enough to win him over, and Kearney committed to the Noles… but Florida wasn’t quite finished.
Even as an FSU commit, Roderick Kearney was in tow on September 3 for Florida’s season opener against Utah- and something clicked for him. He visited FSU twice more, for night games against Boston College (a win) and Clemson (a loss), and wasn’t spotted on Florida’s campus again. He didn’t need to be. He’d seen what he’d needed to see.
And thus, nine days after taking his last visit, Kearney pulled the trigger and committed to Florida.
The flip gives Florida the 8th ranked class in the 247Sports Composite rankings. The Gators are now up to 22 commits overall in the 2023 recruiting class. And both those numbers figure to only continue to adjust more skywardly in the coming days and weeks.