In the college football recruiting game, the SEC had ruled the roost for the last decade. One of the reasons for this success is the proximity of talent to every school in the conference. High school football in the South is an obsession; a regional religion with thousands of followers that go to worship every Friday night.
Florida and Georgia are two of the top talent-producing states in the nation, where football can conceivably be played all year. In both of these states, basketball is seen as a way to stay in shape until spring football starts. Every year, Floridians and Georgians shine on the playing field, at 7-on-7 Tournaments and offseason camps. There is no letup all year and these players get maximum exposure to every program in the nation.
The year of 2014 will be no different. As each recruiting publication releases its version of the “Top 100” players in the country, Florida and Georgia players will be all over every list. Two of the biggest names to come to the surface are defensive linemen with a multitude of SEC offers. These two players have been dominant at the high school level and have one more season to show why their signatures are so highly sought after.
Cece Jefferson (Glen St. Mary, FL.) is arguably the No. 1 defensive tackle in the nation. Does hailing from the Jacksonville area and being an admitted Florida Gators fan make his signature a foregone conclusion? Apparently not. Jefferson (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) recently visited the Georgia Bulldogs and came away impressed after talks with Jeremy Pruitt and Mark Richt. He also seeks to visit the LSU Tigers, Auburn Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide and Tennessee Volunteers.
Florida, of course, is making Jefferson a priority and the red carpet was rolled out on the last visit. The Gators will lose several linemen after the 2014 season and Jefferson could step in and play early in Gainesville. That may be enough for the childhood favorite to get the nod. However, if Florida stumbles and Will Muschamp is fired, Jefferson could leave the state of Florida. Only time will tell.
The reason that Jefferson is “arguably” the No.1 defensive tackle lives about three hours northwest of Glen St Mary. Trenton Thompson (Albany, Ga.) is ranked No. 1 by several publications. Thompson (6-foot-3, 293 pounds) has maintained Georgia as his favorite but he has enjoyed recent visits to Auburn and Alabama.
The Tide has assigned ace recruiter Kirby Smart to handle Thompson’s recruitment. Smart is a Georgia native and has had success recruiting his home state for the Tide. Rodney Garner is Auburn’s front man and his Georgia connections are deep from his years in Athens, so neither of these teams can be counted out for Thompson’s signature. Georgia will have to work hard to stay on top and with Tennessee possibly joining the mix, Signing Day could be the day of reckoning.
Jefferson and Thompson are “must-gets” and their recruitments are just gearing up. As the 2014 football season unfolds, coaches will be watching these two prospects closely on Friday nights. Conversely, these prospects will be watching their favorite teams collide on the field on Saturdays. Could one win or loss make a difference? Will the heart strings get pulled too much or will they leave their home state for greener pastures?
Fans will have to wait with baited breath, as there are no guarantees and nothing is final until Signing Day. The unfolding drama will be fun to watch.