The revolving door of high-profile recruiting guests continues to spin at Alabama this week, as head coach Nick Saban is set to welcome 5-star prospect CeCe Jefferson to Tuscaloosa.
The ferocious Florida defensive end shared his intentions on Monday afternoon:
Jefferson, a 6’2″, 250-pound junior at Baker County Senior High School, emerged as a key target for the Crimson Tide during early phases of the 2015 recruiting cycle. Alabama extended an offer during a team camp held the summer before his sophomore season.
Since then, Jefferson’s stock has continued to soar. He holds offers from a lengthy list of programs, including Florida State, Auburn, LSU and Missouri.
Jefferson, rated the nation’s No. 1 strong-side defensive end and the No. 7 overall prospect in 247Sports’ composite rankings, enjoyed an outstanding junior season. He tallied 68 tackles and 17.5 sacks, per MaxPreps.
His dominance has been on display with 42.5 sacks through three high school seasons. That production keeps college teams in hot pursuit.
Jefferson spent time on campuses at Georgia and Florida last month. He comes from a household that quickly identified the Gators as a favorite.
“If it was up to my parents, I’d be signing with Florida right now,” Jefferson told Gainesville Sun reporter Zach Abolverdi last July.
Nearly a year later, the coveted defender isn’t in a rush to close the book on his recruitment. Despite a disappointing 2013 season and burgeoning uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff, Florida remains in the mix but is hardly alone.
His upcoming visit to Alabama is the latest step in a journey to find the right collegiate match.
“College is a four-year deal, and it could change your life or it might be miserable if you don’t pick the right place,” Jefferson told Saturday Down South in March. “You might as well enjoy (the recruiting process) and take your time and find the best fit for you. That’s my take on it.”
The Crimson Tide hope to convince him that fit can be found in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama isn’t clamoring for talent at any position after filling the roster with four straight No. 1 recruiting classes. Still, even the Tide would have a hard time keeping Jefferson off the field in 2015.
His versatility can open the door for Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to design schemes that allow for Jefferson to start plays with his hand in the dirt or in a standing position.
“I can help you at multiple positions,” Jefferson told Saturday Down South. “They could label me as an ‘athlete’ instead of just defensive end, and I’d take that as a compliment, you know?”
And that’s exactly how Alabama should address his potential role with the program. Prospects appreciate possibilities more than pigeonholes.
Many players are promised an opportunity to compete at various positions, but their fate is sealed long before they set foot on campus as an enrolled student. Given Jefferson’s skill set, the Tide are likely encouraged to use an imaginative approach while implementing him within a star-studded defensive unit.
Saban can certainly stress the importance of playing alongside other elite athletes.
Alabama already landed a commitment from 5-star Georgia defensive end Mekhi Brown, but he complements what Jefferson brings to the field. The 6’6″, 230-pound prospect is better suited for a career on the weak side, though he too possesses excellent range beyond the line of scrimmage.
The two have already addressed the possibility of teaming up in Tuscaloosa. Lofty expectations would undoubtedly be in place:
The Tide also hold a commitment from dominant 4-star defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, who is viewed as another potential instant-impact performer. If Jefferson is looking to earn his way onto the field, few programs compare to Alabama.
He would also contend with members of the team’s 2014 recruiting class for multiple seasons.
Standout junior college defensive end D.J. Pettway is already on campus, while 5-star edge-rushers Da’Shawn Hand and Christian Miller arrive this summer. As usual, there’s a surplus of stars in the Tide’s trenches.
Jefferson shouldn’t have any doubt about the team’s ambitions with him. The early offer, combined with multiple visits from Saban and Smart tell the story.
Alabama presents an opportunity to compete against the best before your first collegiate football game kicks off. Practice performances ultimately determine who develops as the next star players in crimson and white.
Those who can’t keep up fall by the wayside, relegated to reserve duties.
Jefferson has warranted a top ranking with his efforts and growth in high school. A commitment to Alabama would further signal that he has the confidence to live up to that lofty praise by beating out some of his most impressive contemporaries for playing time.
That’s the challenge Saban stands to reiterate this week, as Jefferson takes a close look at yet another potential destination.
Recruit rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
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