Tucker linebacker James Vaughters hopes to narrow his list down to five schools by the beginning of the summer. (AJC photo by John Spink)
Tucker’s James Vaughters is one of the top linebackers in the country and may be the top college prospect in the state of Georgia. So while he still has almost a year before he has to make a final decision on what school to attend, he felt compelled this week to cut down a list of offers that had already swelled beyond 30 colleges.
The good news for Georgia and Georgia Tech is the two in-state schools made the first cut down to nine schools. The bad news is they will be up against some very tough competition to attain the services of this 6-foot-2, 232-pound athlete.
“Every one of the colleges I am considering are strong academically, have a strong track record of developing players for the NFL and have an enthusiastic fan base,” Vaughters told me in an e-mail this morning. “I have appreciated all of the schools that have shown interest in me. I think it is time for me to ‘narrow the field’ and I wanted to share the things that stand out right now about the schools I am currently considering.”
A brief caveat here: One of the things that is kind of neat and different about Vaughters is he prefers to communicate only by e-mail about his recruiting. The reason is he wants to be careful about his remarks and not offend any schools or mislead the public. By utilizing e-mail he has written copy of what he said so there is no chance of being misquoted. His father Jonathan Vaughters always approves James’ e-mails before he sends them.
Vaughters’ final nine is as follows (he listed them alphabetically, of course): Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Stanford and Texas.
Ever the diplomat, Vaughters addressed the many schools that did not make his cut.
“There are a lot of great schools that are not on this list that I like and respect, but I had to narrow my choices,” he said. “I only hope all of the schools that I have talked to understand how much I appreciate their interest in me. It is something I don’t take for granted.”
As for the criteria he will use to make his final decision, Vaughters said: “I have felt comfortable with so many of the schools I have visited, so far. For me, it will be a matter of finding the best ‘Linebacker U’ with great academics, a great student body, with student-athletes I have a lot in common and a place I feel ‘fits’ me the best.”
Vaughters’ father said he’d like to cut the list down to five by summertime. “That does one of two things. Either goes to those five on official visits or we may see if we can swing each one of these as unofficial visits and then make a commitment prior to the season.”
Vaughters will not be an early enrollee. Initially he wanted to but Tucker’s switch from block to traditional scheduling will not allow it.
Without further adieu, here are Vaughters’ comments on each of his finalists:
- Alabama — “They have a great staff, great facilities, and Coach [Nick] Saban will have them competing for Championships every year. Based on what I saw, they will continue to get better, and continue to put their best players in he NFL.”
- Florida — “Their championship tradition is most recent, the facilities are best-in-class, and the coaching staff is one of the best. Just this year, they have 10 players invited to the NFL Combine, so for someone like me, that wants a degree and a shot at the next level, Florida is very attractive.”
- Georgia — “I like Coach [Mark] Richt and his staff and their focus on character and the whole person. UGA is close to home, so my family and friends can watch me play often. The new defensive staff brings great NFL experience and UGA has a good track record with Tucker High guys.”
- Georgia Tech – “At first, I didn’t consider Georgia Tech, because I thought it was just too close to home. But as I’ve learned more, I am recognizing it for what it is, a great academic school with a top-notch football program and a coaching staff that develops people first and develops players for the NFL.”
- UNC – “It’s a great school, both athletically and academically. The football program continues to be on the rise under Coach [Butch] Davis’ leadership and they do a great job of producing players every year for the NFL, especially LBs. My dad is a UNC alumnus and continues to tell me how special of a place it is and how he had a great experience going to school there.”
- Ohio State – “Both my parents are from Ohio, and I have a lot of family still in Ohio, so it would feel like being away from home, but not too far from “home.” Ohio State is one of the schools I think of as being a “Linebacker U” because they develop LBs players for the NFL. Coach [Jim] Tressel seems to be one of the nicest and most genuine coaches I have met.
- Southern Cal – “They have great tradition, and in any given year, can compete for a national championship. It’s a private school, so the academics are great and the student body is a manageable size. USC is also one of the schools I think of as being a “Linebacker U” because they do a great job of developing LBs for the NFL.”
- Stanford –- “The program is rising quickly and the academics are at or near the top of every list. I believe a PAC-10 title is within reach during the time I would be there and it’s believable the PAC-10 champion can compete for a National Championship. A Stanford degree, would just be incredible, and combine that with the possibility of playing at the next level is a great combination.
- Texas — “Competes in a great conference and year after year sends players to the NFL. Texas seems to be one of the top State schools, academically, in the country and they get the best players from Texas and out-of-state on those occasions when they go outside of Texas. I can see them contending for national championships often.”
So which school do you think Vaughters will choose?