Recruiting: Bartram Trail’s Sharif Denson ready to focus on final season after Gators decision

Bartram Trail cornerback Sharif Denson committed to Florida this week. (Justin Barney, News4JAX)

ST. JOHNS, Fla. – Sharif Denson thought the recruiting process was going to be simple.

Football prospects have their favorite colleges and that’s the one you always pick. Easy enough, right?

When Denson, a four-star cornerback from Bartram Trail and recent University of Florida commit, put himself on the recruiting radar two years ago, that’s what he thought. But when the offers started flying in and the college coaches began lining up to make their pitches, the choice wasn’t as simple.

“I was telling my dad before, like, I thought the recruiting process was so much easier. I thought it was just, ‘Oh, your favorite school, whichever school you liked the most you just go there,’” he said.

“But it’s not even like that. It’s like so many different [things] that you got to look at, analyze, compare each college to each college. So, it’s definitely a difficult process. I’m glad it’s over.”

The choice to pick Billy Napier and the Gators was big for keeping a local recruit close to home. And it was a foot in the door at a Bartram program that could lead to bigger things. The Bears continuously churn out solid college prospects, but seldom have they sent players to Gainesville.

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Since Bartram opened in 2000, Florida has signed 49 players from the News4JAX coverage region. One of those has been from Bartram Trail (safety Tre’Vez Johnson in 2020).

Among some of the biggest recruits in Bartram history — headliners have been QBs Joey Gatewood, Kyle Parker, Nathan Peterman, Riley Smith — have all ventured out of state. The top cornerback recruit in Bartram’s 23-year history, Xavier Brewer in 2008, signed with Clemson.

But with two defensive backs from Bartram at Florida in a three-year span, Denson said that’s optimistically the start of something new between Gainesville and St. Johns.

“Yeah, we’re definitely trying to start it up here. Got some young guys on the way, too. Y’all keep an eye out for them,” Denson said.

Denson’s video to announce his commitment on Tuesday night paid homage to the Jacksonville area, featuring former Gators players like Fred Weary (Mandarin), Ciatrick Fason (Fletcher), Guss Scott (Trinity Christian) and Lito Sheppard (Raines). That segment hit home locally because it showcased some of the area’s best who thrived in Gainesville.

Denson (5-11, 170 pounds) said that he’s going to try and help add more talent to Florida’s Class of 2023 and try and finish his senior season strong. Like most high profile corners in high school, Denson said that he’s going to try and find more ways to help the Bears out. Opposing quarterbacks tend to look elsewhere instead of the direction of a four-star corner. Denson said his tape as a freshman was probably more impressive than his from 2021 as he dealt with teams looking away from his side of the field.

Denson had 34 tackles and an interception last season for 9-3 Bartram.

“That’s a real thing, though. Really, that actually happens. Once you get a name, start really like throwing away from you. And even if you’re not actually good, they’re just going to throw away from you,” Denson said. “But if you’re really good, you’re going to still affect the game some type of way. So I’m going to try to do my best to do that.”

Local players signing with Gators since 2000

Position, Player, Local tie, Class

S Tre Orr, Columbia, 2000

CB Matt Jackson, Suwannee, 2000

ATH OJ Small, Lee, 2000

OG Earnest Smith, White, 2000

CB Guss Scott, Trinity, 2000

CB Jarvis Herring, Suwannee, 2001

WR Antoine Sharp, Bolles, 2001

LB Todd McCullough, Bolles, 2001

RB Ciatrick Fason, Fletcher, 2002

S Brian Crum, Camden County, 2002

WR Reggie Lewis, First Coast, 2002

WR Kenneth Tookes, First Coast, 2002

DT Marcus Thomas, Mandarin 2003

CB Dee Webb, White, 2003

S Kyle Jackson, Fletcher, 2004

WR Mike McIntosh, First Coast, 2004

CB Dawayne Grace, White, 2004

LB Ryan Stamper, First Coast, 2005

ATH Brandon James, St. Augustine, 2006

QB Tim Tebow, Nease, 2006

S Jamar Hornsby, Sandalwood, 2006

CB Jacques Rickerson, St. Augustine, 2006

WR Justin Williams, Charlton County, 2006

LB Dustin Doe, Suwannee, 2006

OL James Wilson, Nease, 2007

LB Brandon Hicks, Forrest, 2007

DT Byran Jones, Forrest, 2008

K Caleb Sturgis, St. Augustine, 2008

OT Ian Silberman, Fleming Island, 2010

TE AC Leonard, University Christian, 2011

LB Daniel McMillian, First Coast, 2013

WR Ahmad Fulwood, Bishop Kenny, 2013

DT Caleb Brantley, Crescent City, 2013

S Nick Washington, Trinity, 2013

LB Jarrad Davis, Camden County, 2013

OT David Sharpe, Fletcher, 2014

OG Travaris Dorsey, Raines, 2014

OT Kavaris Harkless, Trinity, 2014

DE Cece Jefferson, Baker County, 2015

OC Tyler Jordan, Bishop Kenny, 2015

WR Kalif Jackson, Fletcher, 2015

WR Rick Wells, Raines, 2016

OG Kingsley Equakun, Sandalwood, 2019

OT Joshua Braun, Suwannee, 2020

S TreVez Johnson, Bartram Trail, 2020

WR Marcus Burke, Trinity, 2021

TE Nick Elksnis, Episcopal, 2021

OT Austin Barber, Trinity, 2021

LB Jack Pyburn, Bolles, 2022

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.