Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. It’s Wednesday, and SEC Country catches up with top defensive line target Justin Eboigbe.
Relationship with Auburn DL coach stands out to top DE
FOREST PARK, Ga. — For Justin Eboigbe, it’s box-checking season.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive end isn’t in a rush to make his college decision. He has a flexible timeline, but at this rate Eboigbe (pronounced: e-boy-be) expects his decision will run through the fall so he can take official visits. So the spring and summer is about Eboigbe evaluating each of the schools courting him.
His list — which has grown exponentially since the Rising Stars all-star game in Atlanta — includes Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Mississippi State, Florida, Miami, Tennessee, Notre Dame and many others.
It is now time for Eboigbe to create his checklist and figure out which schools fit him best.
“I’m closer to the middle than the end. I’m still trying to figure things out. I’m still trying to go on visits. I’m still trying to see where I’ll take my official visits. I’m really just weighing my options right now,” Eboigbe told SEC Country.
“There is going to be a point in time where I narrow it down, but there’s a couple schools I’m waiting on: USC, Ohio State and LSU. … It’s been somewhat crazy trying to just figure out where I’m going to spend the next three-to-four years after my last year of high school.”
The boxes, in no particular order, that the Forest Park High School star wants checked by his college of choice: strong relationship with his position coach; a place where he feels “comfortable” on and off the field; a program with a winning history; and a school close enough for his family to attend games.
Auburn immediately checks the position-coach box, which is the factor about which Eboigbe speaks most passionately. Eboigbe said his four most tight-knit coaching relationships are with Florida defensive line coach Sal Sunseri, Clemson defensive line coach Todd Bates, Georgia defensive line coach Tray Scott and Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner.
When Eboigbe visited the Plains on Feb. 17, his interaction with Garner made an impression.
“Having conversation with Coach Garner and Coach [Kevin] Steele was just great. They’re great guys,” Eboigbe said. “I have a better relationship with Coach Garner because he’s my position coach. He’s an old-fashioned guy that has been around for a long time and has seen basically everything that you can see.
“He’s one of the most proven D-line coaches in the nation, has had plenty of guys go to the draft. But it’s more about life than football when you’re talking to him.”
Eboigbe has taken five college visits since his recruitment took off. He’s been to Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and Tennessee. Eboigbe said he didn’t have a favorite from that group, but all five stand out. He wanted to make it clear that those schools are the ones on his mind because he’s taken visits.
But based on that, he at least feels a sense of comfort at Auburn.
The proximity-to-home factor works in the Tigers’ favor, as well. It’s only an hour and a half from Forest Park to Auburn, which was on Eboigbe’s radar at an early age. He self-identifies as a Tigers fan growing up because his interest in college football was kicked off by the success of the 2010 football team led by Cam Newton.
It won’t be a major factor in his decision, but Eboigbe admitted that the Tigers’ special place in his heart will play a small role.
“I started watching college football right at the Cam Newton time, so that’s where it started. But I continued to like and want the success of Auburn with Nick Marshall and Tre Mason and so on. That was one of my favorite teams in sports and college football,” Eboigbe said.
“It factors in somewhat, but not really. You can like somewhere, but it may not be the most comfortable situation. But running out to Jordan-Hare Stadium thinking I grew up watching TV and seeing past players who I liked so much were doing this exact same thing — that was cool.”
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