By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
In less than a week, after the College Football Playoff championship has been decided and the 2014 season is officially in the books, recruiting for the 2015 class hits the final turn.
There are 24 calendar days between now and National Signing Day on Feb. 4. And every Ole Miss football fan interested in recruiting will have to wait that long to figure out where the nation’s top defensive end, CeCe Jefferson, will end up.
Tom MacPherson, Jefferson’s coach at Baker County High in North Florida, said he has no idea what school will garner his signature. He wasn’t sure if Jefferson would make his public choice in the morning or afternoon on signing day. MacPherson did feel pretty certain that it would be on TV, but everything boiled down to what Jefferson and his family wanted to do in regards to a ceremony.
“He has kept his recruiting open and he will not commit until signing day and I can tell you for a fact that is 100 percent,” MacPherson said adding he stays out of the recruiting process as much as possible. “I have no idea where he’s going to go, and I won’t know until signing day. The one thing I will give him credit for is he has kept the process open and he has kept everyone actively involved at a very high level. That’s the way he wanted it. I think he wanted there to be intrigue and he wanted there to be a lot of speculation. He wanted people to tune in on signing day to see where he’s going to go.”
Jefferson has said Ole Miss is his leader, or maybe better put, said that in an interview while he was at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. MacPherson added that Jefferson is very aware of where he actually stands in the recruiting realm.
“CeCe is very good with social media. He really understands how to work a crowd,” MacPherson said. “I think the one thing he really understands is, and this is a little bit more advance than most his age, is all the people that are recruiting him are playing a game with him; And he understands how to play the game back. I give him a lot of credit for that because you’re only going to go through this once. Less than 1 percent of high school football players are going to go through it and he understands he’s a part of that small minority.”
MacPherson added that the other thing Jefferson understands is that after signing day, he was just a “pawn in a bigger game of chess.”
“Leading up to signing day, he understands that he is in full control,” MacPherson said. “He totally gets it as far as how people view him as a recruit. He also totally gets the idea of the game being played by everyone involved. He gets that he’s a coveted piece of the puzzle for fan bases and coaches. But he also gets as soon as he signs somewhere, he becomes one of 115 players or he becomes the enemy of all the other teams.”
In regards to where Ole Miss stands, MacPherson felt like defensive line coach Chris Kiffin, cornerbacks coach Jason Jones and former linebackers coach Tom Allen have all done a great job. Allen was the first coach to visit in person in the spring. MacPherson then said that he felt Kiffin was the one that sold Jefferson on visiting Oxford during the football season.
“They got him on campus and that was the first thing,” MacPherson said. “That was the big thing for them. With all these people that were coming here in the spring, you had to get him on campus to see what it was like. If you’ve never been to Ole Miss and you’re not aware of the Grove, that setting, you can’t really see it and can’t really see game day until you actually go through it yourself. To get him on campus and to get him at the Alabama game, and to win the Alabama game while he was there, that was obviously huge.”
While MacPherson doesn’t try to influence Jefferson on a specific school, he has given some advice about choosing one.
“I tell him to go to a place that is a good fit for you, to make sure you commit to a place and not a coach because the coaches change like a merry-go-round,” MacPherson said. “The guys that sign you, they probably won’t be there when you graduate. Coach Allen has already taken another job. Coach (Hugh) Freeze’s name comes up for every job that is open until he just signed a new extension. As long as Ole Miss keeps doing the things they are doing and making a splash in recruiting and being an active part of the SEC West, Coach Freeze’s name is going to come up for every job that comes open.”
Jefferson had been leaning towards Florida for several years, but when Will Muschamp was let go, and recently hired by Auburn as defensive coordinator, MacPherson said the Tigers emerged as a possible destination. Auburn is set to host Jefferson this next weekend. MacPherson said Jefferson hasn’t been on campus there in three years since he went to a camp as a freshman.
“Auburn is an outside contender, but I don’t think that just because Muschamp is there it will be his only deciding factor,” MacPherson said. “If you ask me, I think Muschamp changed the game with a lot of recruits. Outside of winning and losing games and a fan base perspective, kids in general like Muschamp. He’s a likable coach and the kids like the fact that he puts them in great position to be successful. A lot of recruits really like him as a football coach. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t win enough games at Florida and the business side of it took over and he got fired.”
MacPherson felt like Ole Miss did their best selling job to Jefferson to get him on to campus.
“They created enough of a relationship for CeCe to actually come and see the campus and the game day atmosphere. That’s where they did their best,” MacPherson said. “After that, as far as I’m concerned, the relationship part of it becomes secondary because the coaches that you develop a relationship with might leave. So now you really have to like Ole Miss, you have to like Oxford, you have to like the Grove. You have to like everything Ole Miss has to offer because it might not be the same coaches.”
The other school that is considered a main contender to land Jefferson is Alabama. Nick Saban has already completed an in-home visit, a fact Jefferson highlighted on his Twitter account last month.