A Q&A WITH STEPHON TUITT:
Monroe Area’s Stephon Tuitt lives 43 miles from Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium and 28 miles from Georgia’s Sanford Stadium. And like you’d expect of an elite prospect growing up in such close proximity to two major football programs, both schools are pulling hard in a tug-of-war for his services. At the moment, the handkerchief is on the side of the Yellow Jackets, who Tuitt named this week as his clear leader. But the Bulldogs haven’t given up and they’re pulling back hard. And several other schools are still battling to get in the game with the defensive end who has the perfect frame for the 3-4 defense so many teams are going to. I caught up with Tuitt, a rising senior, and one of the top 10-rated recruits in the state, after an afternoon workout with the Purple Hurricanes earlier this week. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: First tell me about Georgia Tech. I’ve heard you may be on the verge of committing to them?
A: “Being committed to Georgia Tech is not really the case; I don’t have a decision right now. But I can say I like the school at Georgia Tech. It’s a great school and there are many opportunities that you get by going to that school. That’s one of the reasons why I like Georgia Tech a lot. I’m thinking about committing there. I have a decision but I don’t know if my decision is 100 percent sure.”
Q: I understand you’ve been to Georgia Tech a bunch of times, including recently.
A: “I’ve been there at least four or five times. I went over there Friday of last week. We were out of school and I had the day off and they invited me to come over there. I went over there with my teammate, Darius Whitehead. He’s a sophomore defensive end. I went over there with him. They showed him around the school. But I went over there just to catch back up with the coaches and build my relationship with them and learn more about the program.”
Q: Your coach [Matt Fligg] tells me you’re a good student. Are you interested in some type of engineering specifically?
A: “I might have to start off in management because I want to do sports medicine. I talked to the head coach and if I start off in management first and get a degree in that and get to know people in my profession I want to do, then I’ll have another career to go to. I could have two degrees and that would be better for me.”
Q:I know you have 10 scholarship offers. Who would you say is competing best with the Yellow Jackets?
A: “I’d say Florida and Georgia. [long pause] And Clemson. I should put Clemson in there, too, because that’s three schools that are heavily recruiting me and I’ve been to their schools a lot. Florida, I went there one time; I went there for a junior day. So I’ve only been there once but I still talk to their coaches over the phone. I talk to Georgia a lot; I go there a lot. Clemson, I’ve been there at least four or five times. And South Carolina.”
Q: I know you live pretty close to UGA. Do you get pressure from the locals about the Bulldogs?
A: “Yeah, I’m about 25 or 30 minutes from there. There’s a lot of pressure to go there. It’s a great school, great football program. They’ve got a great football dynasty there. I have a good relationship with the coaches. Me and Coach [Bryan] McClendon, my recruiter down there, we have a great relationship. And I talk to Todd Grantham, the defensive coordinator there. He’s a great guy, too.”
Q: Coach Fligg was telling me you used to wear Miami Hurricanes clothes to school all the time. But I haven’t heard you mention them in regards to your recruiting. Are they not in it?
A: “I used to be obsessed with Miami. It was my hometown and I was homesick when I first came up here. Coming from Miami, Fla., to here was tough at first. But over time I started looking at other schools and starting realize what they have and things started to change. . . . I have family down there. But I haven’t visited down there. They haven’t written or called me or anything. So . . .”
Q: What’s it like living in Monroe?
A: “From my hometown in Florida, it’s a lot different. But it’s a great spot. I’ve developed some great relationships here with people at the school, got a lot of friends. I have a lot of people supporting me here. I actually enjoy the school. It’s a great environment.”
Q: Both Georgia and Tech are going to that 3-4 defense. Are they wanting you to play outside linebacker?
A: “Not really outside linebacker. They put me down as ‘versatile.’ I can play three positions. At Georgia Tech, I’m a true end. At Georgia, they say I can play three positions: Sam linebacker, Will linebacker and I can play end. They want to utilize my versatility and my speed.”
Q: Speaking of which, I’ve seen you listed at a bunch of different size and weights. What’s accurate?
A: “I’m 6-5, 252. But I’m 16 years old, still a junior in high school. They say I’ll probably make it up to 6-6, 6-6 ½ and make it to 280 [pounds]. That’s probably my max to stay muscular. Coach Grantham compares me to DeMarcus Ware, who was just like me when he came to college. He ate well and worked out well and grew. He weighs like 280, 285, something like that.”
Q: Do you play any offense?
A: “I play tackle but I’m going to play some tight end, too, this next year.”
Q: So what’s next for you as far as the recruiting process?
A: “I’m going to Auburn this weekend. I’d like to go to Georgia for one of their spring practices. I don’t know when I’ll make it there, probably by next week. I’ll probably go to their spring game, too. After that I’ll probably go to some of Tech’s spring practices after they start.”
Q: What is your timeline for making a decision?
A: “Before my senior season. I’d say probably by June.”