Steve Chase (Chase Photography)
Although he projects as an outside linebacker at the collegiate level, Stone Mountain (GA) High School's Markuss Eligwe prefers the middle.
Markuss Eligwe, a linebacker from Stone Mountain (GA) High School, is a verbal commitment to Florida State for the class of 2012, even before he walks the halls as a big-man-on-campus senior.
A growing trend in college football, not only are players being recruited younger and younger thanks to all the camps at their disposal and the rise of 7-on-7 action in the offseason, but they're also making their decisions earlier and earlier. The Seminoles, for example, already have 14 rising seniors that have verbally committed to the program, and National Signing Day isn't even until February. Now a lot will change between now and then, but unlike the legendary Bobby Bowden, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher prefers getting off to a fast start instead of hoping for a strong finish.
According to Eligwe, a 6-2, 215-pound, four-star outside linebacker ranked 15th nationally at his position by Scout.com, committing to the ‘Noles as early as he did had nothing to do with drawing attention to himself.
"With me, it wasn't necessarily committing early," Eligwe said Wednesday, watching but not participating on Day 1 of the Jimbo Fisher Football Camp. "It was just knowing what I wanted to do when everything just came down to it and [when] I knew that I had a chance to play D-1 football, because I really wasn't even thinking about it. I didn't see it coming. I never saw all this coming. But when I got all the offers and stuff, I just got tired of it after a while. And I'm not going to be one of those kids that's trying to commit at a big game – the Army or Under Armour. I'm going to get this out of the way, and then it's no big deal. And I narrowed my decision down to schools that were in Florida and schools that were in California, and I just chose Florida State. It's the best thing for me."
Despite the fact that he already has a scholarship in his back pocket to attend one of the top football factories in the nation, Eligwe says his coaches and teammates at Stone Mountain have nothing to worry about this coming season – they're still going to get the very best from him.
"That's one of the reasons why I got it out of the way," he said. "I'm not one of those kids that just loves attention and wants to be seen in the spotlight and all that stuff. I really wanted to just get this out of the way, focus on my senior season and try to lead my team to a championship. It really wasn't a big deal for me, and my coaches know how I am. I'm a team player. I'm not that kind of individual guy. I really care about all my teammates and everything."
While Eligwe looks like the kind of outside linebacker Florida State has featured over the years on both the strong (Sam) and weak (Will) side, meaning a little lean but blessed with great athleticism, he appears to have a soft spot for the middle (Mike) position.
"On the high school level, I'll play Will, Mike, Sam," he said. "I play all the positions, even safety. I played everywhere. I feel like I'm best at middle because I really don't like being set to one side, but it really doesn't matter to me. Wherever I get on the field first at, where I play early at, wherever I fit in at, wherever I feel like I'm the best at, I'll play. I can play all three, so it really doesn't affect me."
And for any of those recruiting coordinators out there from Florida or California programs thinking they still have a chance to steal Eligwe from Fisher and Co, it may be time to scratch his name off their list.
"I pretty much have cut everybody off," said Eligwe. "Probably a few schools here and there, they might still try to come after me. But everybody knows I'm 100 percent [committed to Florida State], so some schools don't waste their time anymore."
Chad Simmons, the South Recruiting Manager for Scout.com, believes Eligwe "is one of the better coverage linebackers in the South" and "has the frame to add a good bit of weight," although he "can take bad angles and sometimes over-pursue the ball."
John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.