Though he can’t make it official for another two years, Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson made his intentions known Wednesday when he verbally pledged to accept a scholarship offer from Clemson University.
The sophomore who set Hall County records last season for yards in a season (4,324) and touchdowns (57) already had an official offer from the Tigers and made the decision with a phone call to Tigers coach Dabo Swinney late in the afternoon.
“Coach Swinney talks about a verbal commitment being like a marriage,” Watson said. “I’m all in with Clemson.”
Watson said he’ll cancel all future visits to other schools.
Watson is the most highly recruited underclassman prospect, but many others across Northeast Georgia are also receiving substantial attention.
For the upcoming senior class, Flowery Branch defensive back Darius Curry is the area’s most highly touted recruit, ranking as the No. 153 player in the nation by the recruiting website 247sports.com. The Falcons’ rising senior cornerback currently holds official offers from N.C. State, Oklahoma State and Tennessee. Even though his brother, C.J. Curry, signed a scholarship Wednesday to play wide receiver at Oklahoma State next season, he’s not ready to say that the Cowboys are his pick.
He’s more interested in letting the process play out and see which other schools come on board. Curry has also been on visits to see the campus at Clemson and Alabama.
“It feels like just yesterday that I was a freshman and wondering if I was going to get to play,” Curry said. “Now I’m about to be a senior and looking at the possibility of getting to play at a great school for the next four years.”
Also at Flowery Branch, junior linebacker Jacob Allen (136 tackles and 16 tackles for a loss in 2011) is receiving considerable Division-I attention, but has yet to pull in his first offer. In addition to recently sending out his highlight reel, he’s got a visit planned to Mississippi State in the coming weeks.
He’s also in regular contact with coaches from Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Duke, Maryland and Alabama.
“I’m not really picky about which schools I’m looking at,” Allen said. “I’m going to be as open as possible and give every school a look.”
Jefferson quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (1,873 yards, 19 TDs) has all the numbers to support his status as a college prospect, but still hasn’t pulled in his first offer. He’s noticed a trend that colleges seem to be waiting longer to offer prospects.
“I’m not really sure why that is,” said Shirreffs, who was a guest at the University of Georgia’s Junior Day event last weekend.
Like other top prospects in the area, he’s staying in contact with the big schools, in his case, North Carolina, Wake Forest N.C. State, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Clemson.
Jefferson coach T. McFerrin has also garnered attention for Shirreffs from Penn State and its new coach Bill O’Brien. When McFerrin was coach at South Gwinnett, O’Brien was an assistant coach at Georgia Tech and actively recruited Comets quarterback David Greene.
“It’s very exciting to go through the process of being recruited,” said Shirreffs, who was recently selected to play with the National Underclassmen Combine’s South Stars’ 7-on-7 squad.
West Hall junior offensive lineman Blake Manning is one of the area’s best at his position and has a solid tie to the University of Georgia through his high school position coach, Chris Davis, a former starter on the offensive line for the Bulldogs. Manning was also a guest at Georgia’s Junior Day last weekend. Manning’s father, Matt, said his son has also drawn attention from Georgia Tech, Duke, Georgia State, Tulsa and Delta State.
Another garnering Division-I attention is Johnson’s Cedric Harris. Known more as a running back (1,435 yards in 2011), he is being recruited heaviest by Duke University as a defensive back. Harris took a visit to Duke’s campus in November, but has yet to receive an official offer. Florida State also has expressed considerable attention in Harris as a defensive back.
But perhaps no player’s recruitment is going to be any more interesting to follow than Watson’s. Schools are not likely to back off their recruiting of Watson simply because of his verbal commitment.
“It looks like Deshaun is going to be one of the top quarterback prospects nationally in his senior class,” 247sports.com recruiting analyst Barton Simmons said. “He’s a kid with good size, productivity and has all the physical tools.”
Watson gained a great feel for the Tigers’ program this fall when he was a guest at five of the Tigers’ home games and was allowed on the field before the games to watch the players go through their pre-game routines. The week of the Orange Bowl game against West Virginia, Watson as able to sit in on meetings with the quarterbacks, since it fell during the Christmas holiday.
For Gainesville next season, Fred Payne (defensive back), Caleb Hayman (wide receiver) and Tray Harrison (athlete) all have the possibility of going Division I, according to Red Elephants coach Bruce Miller.