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Nature Coast's Story still a Gator, but actively looking around

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Mon. January 3, 2011 | Eduardo A. Encina

Nature Coast's Story still a Gator, but actively looking around

LAKE BUENA VISTA – Ask Nature Coast senior Ja’Juan Story if he’s still committed to the University of Florida and he takes a few seconds to pick his answer.

“Yeah, I didn’t de-commit,” he said following Sunday’s Under Armour All-America Game practice at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.

It’s not necessarily a reassuring endorsement for Gators fans, but Story, who committed to Florida in late June, makes no secret of the fact that he's looking around.

Story, ranked the 42nd overall recruit in the nation and the fifth-best receiver prospect in the nation by ESPN, took an official visit to Oregon the weekend before Christmas. After playing in the Under Armour game at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night, he will spend the weekend tripping to Ohio State. He said he’s also planning a visit to Georgia later in the month and he'd like to fit in a trip to Notre Dame.

The problem with Florida is Story’s sudden lack of familiarity with the Gators staff. Former UF assistant head coach Dan McCarney, who recruited Story, took the head job at North Texas; head coach Urban Meyer retired; and receivers coach Zach Azzanni was  replaced by new head coach Will Muschamp.

“It’s kind of rough,” Story said. “All the coaches I was close with all started to leave. McCarney was my recruiting coach. Urban Meyer left. Now Azzanni left.

“I really just don’t know anybody there,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “I’m just trying to keep my options open.”

Since it’s the most fresh in his mind, Oregon — with its national title hopes, palatial Ducks booster/Nike founder Phil Knight-funded facilities and mixture of gaudy swoosh-clad uniforms — drew high marks.

“They’ve got top-of-the-line everything: facilities, coaches, players,” Story said.

In the days leading up to the Under Armour All-American Game, one of the top showcase events in the nation, Story (6-foot-3, 190)  has impressed with his size and speed, despite the fact that he played very little at receiver at Nature Coast. Instead, Story was behind center at quarterback this past fall out of necessity. He ran for 847 yards and 12 touchdowns and threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think everybody knows about me because of Florida,” Story said. “No one has actually seen me play at wide receiver though. I want to compete and get better and have fun.”

-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (eencina@sptimes.com: Twitter: @EddieHometeam)

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