National contenders are defined, conference races become clearer and impact players emerge. It's also a pivotal time in the high school recruiting process, as players continue to develop and tweak plans for February's National Signing Day.
Of course, all eyes continue to be on Ernie Sims, considered by many as the nation's top prep football player.
Sims, a two-way standout at perennial power North Florida Christian in Tallahassee, and his family will make an unofficial visit to nearby Florida State Saturday for the Seminoles' noon showdown against sixth-ranked Notre Dame.
Of course, Sims will see familiar faces on both sidelines.
The Irish feature former prep teammate Matt Root, whose younger brother, Mark, currently plays at NFC. The Seminoles boast former NFC players Matt Heinz and Claudius Osei. A closer look reveals the rosters are filled with more than 30 Parade and USA Today first-team All-Americans. Both teams recruit nationally and the Irish have 10 players from Florida.
Sims' approach has been carefully planned and discussed by his family. He also was in the stands for the Florida-Miami, Auburn-Syracuse, and FSU-Miami games. Future unoffficial trips scheduled include the Georgia-Ol' Miss, Georgia-Auburn and FSU-Florida games. Sims also would like to take an unofficial visit to Tennessee, a late entry into the Sims sweepstakes.
While Sims' ties to FSU are well-known – father Ernie played football for the Seminoles and mother Alice B. Sims was a record-setting track star – the program is one of six he lists among his favorites. Sims and family will sit down in December to finalize his five official visits under NCAA rules.
Finalists include Auburn, Georgia, Florida, FSU, Miami and Tennessee. One school will be pushed out by Sims' interest in the Volunteers, according to his father.
"Tennessee has drawn some interest from Ernie during these last few months," his father Ernie said Thursday. "Simply because they have an outstanding football program and one of the top Vet (veterinarian) schools in the South."
While the college football season steams towards its conclusion, the prep recruiting process continues to generate steam, especially for a prized recruit such as Sims. The process has not affected his positive and upbeat disposition, according to Dad.
It's not uncommon for Sims to receive personal notes and telephone calls from some of the nation's most-recognized head coaches. With good reason, too. Sims has rushed for nearly 680 yards on 60 carries and has more than 60 tackles in six games as the high-flying Eagles soar towards yet another state-title run. Sims also has had the opportunity to be teamed with younger brother Marcus, who also appears to be an exceptional athlete.
"At this point in the recruiting process things are going well and we are still excited about what school Ernie will attend for college," his father said. "I believe the greatest excitment has been watching Ernie grow into a young man."