Decision day is rapidly approaching for JaCoby Stevens, and the 5-star prospect’s four finalists have dwindled down to two frontrunners.
The nation’s No. 2 safety in the Class of 2017 named LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Auburn as his four finalists, but two have emerged as the most likely contenders.
LSU and Alabama are the two schools sticking out to Stevens, his father told SEC Country on Monday, a week before his son makes his announcement public Aug. 8. Georgia was the presumptive favorite for much of the spring and summer, but fell behind the Tigers and Crimson Tide after a late surge from both SEC West powers.
“We, as a family, looked at not only the final four couple of schools but a lot of the schools that were still showing interest … teams like Clemson who was really engaged and (Tennessee),” Jeremy Stevens told SEC Country. “We talked about the pros and cons, the positives about LSU and most of our family being there and the supporting cast, and after we talked about those things, we made a decision.”
“Two stood out,” he added, “and the other two were right behind. Alabama made a strong push of late, but I would say it’s between LSU and Alabama.”
There’s a week remaining before we get the verdict, but committing to LSU wouldn’t be a new experience for Stevens. A one-time commit, the talented defensive back re-opened his recruitment after rescinding his pledge to the Tigers in November 2015 amid concerns of coach Les Miles’ job security. That, plus Stevens felt he didn’t give the other schools courting him adequate attention or make enough visits to other campuses.
It has been nearly nine months since Stevens’ de-commitment, which naturally has opened up the doors for the 5-star safety to make several unofficial visits to Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee twice, as well as LSU, Auburn and Clemson since the spring. Being so familiar with Louisiana and LSU already, the Crowley, La., native has gained more context as he prepares to announce a decision this time around.
“He obviously loves LSU, the Tigers, the coaching staff, but when he committed he felt that it was too soon to make one, too early in the recruiting process,” Jeremy Stevens explained. “When all the stuff around Les Miles went down, it showed him how important other schools and visits were to the process. I’ve watched the process closely and he’s seeing how Les Miles is a players’ coach and how he’s patient with Malachi Dupre and Leonard Fournette. In one season they showed they play the college game with a certain discipline, but still having fun, and you can tell it was a character-building experience.
“It’s not just about winning, but about the staff being intact, how JaCoby feels about them developing him and using him, playing at the highest level and preparing for his dream one day in the NFL.”
Most of LSU’s coaching staff remains intact as the team re-asserted itself in Stevens’ recruitment in the past nine months. The one loss — which was temporary — was Director of Player Personnel Austin Thomas departing for Southern Cal, but once he returned to LSU prioritized the recruitment of Stevens.
Thomas has been an integral force in the Tigers’ pursuit of the 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety.
“Yesterday he was talking about LSU and Austin Thomas, who said he reminds me of a Patrick Peterson, looking to show off that athleticism,” his father recalled. “They want him to focus on being a defensive back, his primary position, but with his athleticism throwing in a 10-play package on offense and possibly doing kick returns. He doesn’t want to be just an in-the-box safety. He wants to show off his athleticism as a corner and then come downhill and make plays. He wants to have an opportunity to showcase his talents and help the team win and be a complete player.”
Stevens’ relationship with Thomas dates back to his original pledge, and even after de-committing, Thomas displayed support in the decision and advised his to engage in the process. That continues to resonate with the Stevens family today.
Another bond that has carried significant weight in Stevens’ recruitment is with defensive back Corey Raymond, who has also maintained constant communication in recent months. The Oakland High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) product emphasizes “the trust factor” in his decision-making process, and Raymond has fit the bill for the entirety of that span.
“Austin has been really important, Les Miles is important and Corey Raymond is important. I don’t think LSU would be ‘DBU’ without him,” Jeremy Stevens said. “The one thing he always says stands out to him is that trust factor with Corey and Austin. That’s huge for him. They (JaCoby and Raymond) talk about schemes, about pushing him to work hard, he’s mentioned his track record. Austin and Corey — that’s key pieces in JaCoby’s reasons for wanting to go to LSU.”
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.