Battle For Defensive End Down To Three

Auburn and two other teams are in the hunt for a big defensive end who says he is nearing decision time.

Chatham, Va.--With Auburn looking for immediate help on the defensive front, a full grown defensive end from Hargrave Military Academy says that he is giving the Tigers strong consideration.

Ray Gant, a 6-4, 287-pounder, says he has dropped Tennessee from what was a final four list of teams to select from. The surviving three are Auburn, Georgia and Maryland.

All are making a strong effort to sign him by visiting the lineman with coaching delegations in one last effort to convince him of the virtues of their universities.

"I don't have any visits set up this weekend so I am getting close to making a decision," Gant told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Coach Tuberville and the defensive staff came to visit me Sunday night." Gant says that the Auburn head coach's approach on the visit was to the point. "Coach Tuberville said that they need me."

Maryland coaches also visited the defensive end and Georgia coaches are scheduled to meet with Gant on Monday.

Gant says that he likes Auburn and is giving the Tigers strong consideration. He adds that he is nearing a choice. "I expect to commit sometime this week," he notes

This past fall at Hargrave, he made more than 80 tackles, including 15 quarterback sacks. He transferred to the prep school after playing the 2000 season as a junior at Chapel Hill, N.C., High School.

Auburn is graduating three senior defensive ends, including both starters. Gant says that is one reason he initially took a strong look at the Tigers. Once he got to the Auburn campus, the Tigers moved up in his pecking order.

Gant is still a relatively inexperienced football player who has a high ceiling. "I have only played three years," he says. "I was ineligible to play my sophomore year (when he lived in South Bend, Ind.) so I have played my freshman, junior and senior years."

Late last summer the defensive lineman packed his bags and headed away to Hargrave for more than just the football. "It is not exciting, but Hargrave brings out the best in you," Gant notes. "It is a good experience. It has helped me academically. I will be qualified."

The on-the-field aspect of the move has been a plus, too, the big defensive end says. "It has really been good for me playing there as a 17-year-old high school senior against teams that have older players and college players. It is definitely a higher level of intensity than a high school game could ever be. I think I will be a step ahead of other college freshmen this coming season because our level of competition is so good."

Gant traveled to Auburn during the Jan. 11-13th visit weekend. When asked his opinion of the official visit to AU, he said, "I like the atmosphere, I like the coaches, I like the players."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Gant says he has not picked his college major yet, but has some ideas. "I am considering psychology or criminal justice. I am going to go in undecided as a freshman."...Gant's favorite play of the 2001 season was a defensive end's dream. "The highlight was an interception that I batted to myself and ran 50 yards for a touchdown," he says.

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