Georgia and Auburn are generally considered the leaders in the recruitment of Stephenson defensive tackle Mike Thornton. But don’t underestimate Penn State in the sweepstakes to land the state’s top uncommitted prospect.
Thornton, a 6-foot-2, 280-pound senior from Stone Mountain, said the only recruiting trip he is absolutely certain he and his father will make this fall is to State College, Penn., to check out the Nittany Lions.
“I’ve been watching them for a while,” Thornton said earlier this week. “I feel like they’ve got a real good program. And I love their defensive line coach, Larry Johnson. He’s a great guy and a great coach who has put a lot of players in the league. They have a good business school, too. I’m definitely going up there to check it out.”
Thornton said he visited Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, Miami and Florida unofficially this summer. He has not decided if or when he’ll take other official visits this fall.
Thornton said his recruitment picked up dramatically after he was named defensive MVP of the Nike camp at UGA last spring. He said he has received about scholarship offers from about 30 schools.
“I wouldn’t say it’s confusing because I don’t let it confuse me,” Thornton said. “I stay in contact with the ones I need to and let them know what I’m thinking.”
Thornton said he talks regularly with coaches from Georgia and Auburn. He is originally from Columbus, which is only about 30 miles from the Auburn campus.
For now, though, Thornton is trying not to think much about the recruiting process. He said he’s trying to concentrate on getting ready for his senior season and trying to lead Stephenson to a state championship. The Jaguars open against McNair on Saturday.
“That’s all that’s on my mind,” Thornton said. “Last year we had a lot of great players but we couldn’t put it together in the playoffs. We’ve been doubted a lot but I think this is the year.”
Thornton said he hopes to improve on last season, when he had 95 tackles and five sacks.
“Last year my my goals on defense were to get 100 tackles and I came up five short,” he said. “This year I want to get 120 tackles and 10 sacks.”