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Charlotte (N.C.) First Coast five-star lineman D.J. Humphries, the nation's top offensive tackle and the No. 7 overall prospect in the ESPNU 150, picked Florida Friday night. He chose the Gators over Auburn, Clemson, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Earlier, Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast wide receiver Chris Black, who is the nation's No. 3 wideout and No. 29 overall, selected Alabama over Florida State.In all, 10 of the top 25 prospects in the ESPNU 150 who have already committed have chosen SEC schools. Although Humphries' announcement was a surprise to the hundreds gathered at his high school for the announcement, it was not news to Florida. It turns out Humphries told first-year Gators coach Will Muschamp of his decision Aug. 3 -- Muschamp's birthday. "I could hear him drop the phone and screaming for all the coaches to come into the office," Humphries said, recalling the moment. Humphries, who will enroll at Florida in January, was sure he wanted to be a Gator when he returned home from a visit to Gainesville in March. Humphries' commitment is another impressive building block in Florida's strong class, which is ranked third in the nation and features 17 commitments, including seven from within the ESPNU 150. The Gators also seem to be setting up roots in North Carolina. "I've been behind the scenes recruiting for a while," Humphries said. "They've put together a great class. We're working on a lot of guys in this state, trying to take over North Carolina." Humphries is the second North Carolina prospect to commit to Florida, along with safety Rhaheim Ledbetter from Shelby (N.C.) Crest. Ledbetter's teammate, defensive end Jonathan Bullard, also is strongly considering Florida. "You get to Florida and see all those palm trees and you're like, 'Man, I'm tired of pine trees,' " Humphries joked. Humphries said he chose the Gators because he felt as if he could spend the next 40 years of his life in Gainesville, and he appreciated Muschamp's desire to get Florida back to an elite level. Black had a harder time making his decision. "It was a real tough decision but I have decided to go to Alabama," Black said. "I had some great choices and I really loved Alabama and Florida State. I kept praying about it and praying about it. In the end, Alabama is where my heart is and the school where I just feel more comfortable." The problem was Black, 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, also felt comfortable with the Seminoles. That made his decision much tougher. "I have been going back and forth for a while between those two schools," he said. "In fact, if you would have asked me a month or so ago, it was probably going to be Florida State. I love both schools and just felt a little better with Alabama. There wasn't a major reason of Alabama over FSU. It was just a feel." Another nod in Alabama's favor is recent history. The Crimson Tide won the BCS National Championship Game two years ago and are No. 2 in the USA Today top 25 coaches' poll, which was released Thursday. Also, Alabama has produced NFL-ready players, and had four -- defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, wide receiver Julio Jones, running back Mark Ingram, and offensive guard James Carpenter -- taken in the first round of the draft in June. "I believe I will have a better opportunity to play early at Alabama," Black said. "And I will get to play under coach (Nick) Saban. He and his staff have produced some great players and Julio Jones was just drafted very high in the NFL draft. Saban knows how to really develop guys and put them in the NFL." Black is a big-play wide receiver with explosive speed who also will make a difference in the return game. But he brings more than just on-field talent to Tuscaloosa. "He brings a lot to Alabama," said Frederick Culver, First Coast's defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. "The way Chris handled the whole entire recruiting situation speaks volumes about the great character of this young man. That's the kind of men Nick Saban wants at Alabama. He has handled things so well. As a player, Chris has incredible speed and great intangibles. The kid is a real playmaker and very durable. In four years of playing he has no injuries. This kid can get into the end zone and that's something Alabama needs." This has been an intriguing week between Alabama and FSU. The Seminoles won a huge recruiting battle Wednesday, landing the nation's top quarterback, Hueytown (Ala.) High School's Jameis Winston. But Friday, the Crimson Tide got even by landing Black. "It's been a crazy week," said Black, who likely will play both outside receiver and in the slot in Alabama's offense. "I talked with Jameis a lot and we wanted to go to the same school. He's going to be a great quarterback for FSU. It just didn't work out for us to play together." With Black, Alabama has 15 commitments, including six players in the ESPNU 150. "I know I will have a lot of prove when I get to Alabama," Black said. "But I am a runner that's quick and has great feet. I can be their deep threat. I can play on the inside or out. I can play on special teams. I can do a lot for Alabama. I will do whatever they ask." Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.