His senior high school football season is over. But Warner Robins’ Jeff Whitaker is not hanging his head.
“I’m good. I’m fine,” the Demons’ 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle said. “I have no regrets. I played as hard as I could.”
The Demons finished 6-4, which meant a rare playoff miss for the four-time state champions. But Whitaker had a fantastic individual season.
“He’s a great player,” coach Bryan Way said. “And a good kid, too.”
Apparently college recruiters think so, too. Whitaker, a four-star prospect who shot up as high as 11th in the nation at his position in recruiting rankings, landed more than a dozen major college scholarship offers.
His season now officially over, this U.S. Army High School All-American has trimmed down his list to five schools: Georgia, Auburn, California, North Carolina and South Carolina. Most recently Whitaker went to Athens this past weekend to watch two of his favorites battle it out in the oldest rivalry in the South.
“The visit to Athens was great. I’m still tired from that visit,” Whitaker said on Monday. “It was a great atmosphere. I had a lot of fun. Before the game I met with Coach [Mark] Richt and everybody. They were saying they really wanted me. The last time I had been there was the blackout game so it was good to get back up there. And the game was fantastic. That’s how a rivalry is supposed to be.”
That Whitaker was in Athens at all is somewhat of a surprise since the Bulldogs seemed to have dropped off his radar for a while. That’s not the case any more. Whitaker says Georgia is a serious contender for his services.
“[Richt] made it clear he really wanted me,” Whitaker said of their Saturday afternoon meeting. “It was really just a matter of miscommunication. At one point we just weren’t communicating at all. But Georgia has been interested in me since I was a sophomore. They never forgot about me but we just lost touch there for a little while.”
Whitaker reiterated that he is “very interested in Auburn, too,” and made it clear that at this point, “I don’t have a leader.”
“What’s it going to come down to?,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s so close I could probably reach into a hat and pull somebody out and it would be fine.”
Working in Georgia’s favor is the fact that Geno Atkins, Jeff Owens and Kade Weston all will be graduating at the end of this season.
“In all there’s five of them that are leaving, five senior defensive tackles,” Whitaker said. “So it’s going to be good for them. Auburn is dealing with some similar things. It’s a great time to be a D-lineman in 2010.”
Whitaker said he’s going to take his time with his decision and set up some official visits. He said he’ll likely come back to Georgia and go to Auburn and he’s really enamored with Cal, which has recruited him hard. “I don’t mind going away from home,” he said.
As for his recruiting timeline, Whitaker figures he’ll announce a decision in mid-January.
“I’m not going to do it on signing day and I’m not going to do it at the U.S. Army All-American game,” Whitaker said. “I’m just not comfortable with either one. I don’t want to do it in San Antonio. And national signing day is everybody’s day. It’s not ‘Jeff Whitaker Day.’ I owe everybody else that respect. So I’ll probably do it like two weeks before that.”