Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. It Thursday, and we break down our extensive 1-on-1 with Richard Jibunor and where his recruitment sits.
Why Richard Jibunor will briefly wait to decide
ATHENS, Ga. — Richard Jibunor has said throughout the recruiting cycle that he’d make a college decision before August is up.
It’s still possible, but he’s also willing to let the process dip into September. For one reason.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound multi-talented prospect still has one more visit he needs to take. Jibunor has visited Auburn and Tennessee more than anywhere else, which is a big reason why those two schools have been deemed his most likely landing spots throughout the summer.
But he still wants to make one more visit, but can’t do so until the dead period ends. That won’t be until August is over. And that visit will be to Gainesville, Fla.
The Gators have made a hard, late push.
“Florida’s coming hard now. I have to take that visit before I decide. As long as they give us permission to start visiting colleges, the week they let us go see them, I’ll be at Florida that weekend,” the 247Sports 4-star linebacker prospect told SEC Country. “I want to be in that meeting room. I want to see how many linebackers they’ve got, who is graduating and who they’ve got coming in. I want to go to see how it feels. I just want to see what kind of feeling I get when I go to Florida.”
As far as feelings go, Jibunor doesn’t hide the two places where he feels most comfortable. That’s at Auburn and Tennessee. His two strongest coaching relationships are with Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams and Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen. Jibunor says they have “basically the exact same personality.”
But Florida linebackers coach Tim Skipper has made a major impression on Jibunor lately, hence the wish to visit Gainesville before a decision.
The Gators will have one other selling point: Their only linebacker committed, David Reese, forged a strong bond with Jibunor at the Rivals 5-star Challenge in Indianapolis.
“He’s my very good friend. We actually went to camp together a few weeks ago. He’s been trying to bring me over,” Jibunor said. “Coach (Skipper) said he’s looking at three linebackers. It was David, me and [fellow Class of 2018 linebacker prospect] Channing Tindall. Florida is really pressing for the three of us. I think that’s what they’re really on my case right now.”
Auburn among several top contenders — technically speaking
Officially, Jibunor still has nine schools he’s still considering, though he admitted it’s been hard to stay focused on all nine.
The last few months have been about working toward three or four programs. There is still time for other suitors to work their way into contention, but Jibunor said his “heart and mind” are starting to close in on Auburn, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia Tech, which are the most likely schools to grab his commitment.
Auburn and Tennessee have had a clear advantage against other programs since the beginning. Tennessee was the first to offer him. Auburn has hosted him on the most visits. Georgia Tech’s biggest pull will be if Jibunor decides to study engineering, which he said would make it hard for him to choose another school. Florida has made up the most ground late.
But Auburn and Tennessee will be the teams the other two — and the unmentioned schools in his top nine — have to chase.
“Every time I go to Auburn I’m like, ‘Man this is my home.’ It’s the same way with Tennessee, those two places,” Jibunor said. “Coach T-Will, we talk all the time on FaceTime. I talk with his family too, his wife, his daughters. Coach (Gus) Malzahn too. Nothing has really changed with me and Auburn.”
Jibunor doesn’t know yet if he’ll visit Auburn again before he decides, but he also suggests it likely won’t matter either way. He knows what he’s getting from Auburn, its coaches and players. He’s visited the Plains enough times to know, unlike with Florida where he wants to take a test-the-waters visit before deciding.
Jibunor planned to visit Auburn for the cookout last weekend, but he wasn’t logistically able to attend. Not to worry. He desperately wanted to be there and Williams made sure to reach out regardless.
“Even when I don’t have a means of coming, he calls my family to make sure everything is OK with me,” Jibunor said. “We have that special kind of bond.”
Auburn’s special message to Richard Jibunor
One of the biggest question surrounding Jibunor: What position will he play?
At camps, he’s won positional MVPs as a defensive end and linebacker. For his high school team, he plays safety and wide receiver, too. When he was originally offered by Tennessee, the Volunteers wanted Jibunor as a tight end.
The basketball player, cross-country athlete and track star can truly do whatever he’s asked to do.
Jibunor said he’d prefer to play linebacker, but he understands much of that is dependent on his body’s development and how his speed responds to it. For Florida, Jibunor most likely projects as a linebacker. Auburn and Tennessee both see him more as someone who will grow into a Buck position option.
But Auburn has made one message quite clear to him. The Tigers simply want Jibunor, the person, in their class. The position will sort itself out later.
“They told me, even if they have complete linebacker commits on the team, just know you’re still going to be among the team. You’re still going to have a spot,” Jibunor said. “We’ll bring you in as a tight end or wide receiver or anything just to make sure you have a spot.”
Auburn wants him as a Buck, and that’s what he’ll be. But it shows how badly the Tigers want Jibunor to send him such a powerful message.
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