Ohio State, SEC Trio Battle for Top 2014 LB Clifton Gilbert

Ohio State was thought to be the early leader dating as far back as Memorial Day weekend in 2012 in the pursuit of class of 2014 inside linebacker, Clifton Garrett (Joliet, Il. Plainfield South) but are now getting serious competition from several SEC schools, with Florida the latest to make a push for the 6-3, 228-pound linebacker.

After taking an unofficial visit to Ohio State the day after Valentine’s Day, Garrett received an offer from the Gators and said they offer a lot because of their reputation on defense and their winning pedigree. Florida landed the state’s top linebacker, Antonio Morrison from Bolingbrook and had a great freshman season in 2012 and looks to be one of the top defenders in 2013, which could be a strength in the recruitment of Garrett moving forward in the process.

LSU is making Garrett one of their top targets along with running back Leonard Fournette and after getting the state’s No. 2 ranked player from Illinois to come to Baton Rouge last season when Ethan Pocic committed to the Tigers, Les Miles and company are hoping to get the state’s best prospect this season, but If I’m handicapping the race I have them in fourth place right now.

The sleeper in this chase in my opinion is Ole Miss who offered Garrett in early September of 2012 and after a highly successful recruiting class that ranked inside the top-five this season, has emerged as a possible destination for Garrett. Ole Miss also has had luck plucking top players from Illinois over the last two seasons having received commitments from No. 1 receiver Laquon Treadwell this season and defensive back Anthony Standifer two seasons ago from Crete-Monee high school.

If their recruiting class has taught us anything this year, it’s that you can’t discount the recruiting ability of head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff including Chris Kiffin and Wesley “Crime Dog” McGriff selling themselves, the fan base, the beautiful campus and the opportunity to be a part of something special in Oxford, Ms.

The four-star linebacker is ranked as the No. 2 player at his position according to 247sports and the No. 3 player according to scout and is regarded as one of the hardest hitting and aggressive players in the nation. A fantastic downhill attacker punishes running backs and shows no difficulty in shedding would-be blockers and wrapping up and delivering the blow.

This figures to be one of the more intriguing recruiting races to watch develop between now and Signing Day 2014, but it looks like it won’t be a slam dunk for him to be a Buckeye and he could be the state’s top player in three consecutive years to head to the dominant SEC.

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Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on Sportstownchicago.com airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

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