5-Star Willis down to Gators and Tigers

It seems as though defensive end Gerald Willis has been in the recruiting game forever and in actuality that isn't far off. Offered college scholarships from SEC powers in the ninth grade, Willis is finally ready to make a pick after his senior year and the two teams that offered him first over three years ago are the two he will choose from next month.

For Gerald Willis it has been a very successful four years in high school. Playing on four different teams that went to the state championship game in Louisiana, the New Orleans Edna Karr standout has won more than his fair share of games. Unfortunately, the latest go around wasn't the ending he was hoping for.

"They went to the championship game and lost in the championship game, Gerald Willis Sr. said by phone on Wednesday. "It was a close game and they lost by a touchdown. He had a good season and a great high school career. It is time to move on and go help someone win a national championship.

"He's been there four years a row in the state championship and not a lot of people can say that. He doesn't have anything to hang his head about.

"He's been winning games ever since high school and right before that in little league football. He won a city championship there as well. He knows a whole lot about winning and hasn't lost too much."

To say he had a successful high school career would be more than a mild understatement. He finished his personal career off with a bang.

"He had 31 sacks and broke the sack record in Louisiana, broke Anthony Johnson's record who plays at LSU," his father said. "He had 6.5 sacks in one playoff game and nine sacks against a rival team."

Willis usually plays around 260 pounds but during a season he can lose a bit of weight playing the game he loves and for Edna Karr, he is a guy that played all over the line.

"He played all over the line in high school, his father said. "Florida and LSU want him at end and not inside. Who knows if that changes when he gets there? He is 6-4 and 245 and was 270, he lost a lot in the season. He carries it well and he's all muscle now."

The Tigers of LSU reside in nearby Baton Rouge. There are a lot of things in their favor heading down to the wire in Gerald's recruitment.

"I can't even count on my hands how many times we have visited LSU," the father said. "Ever since his recruitment and his brother's recruitment, there have been a lot of unofficial visits. He is very familiar with the campus and coaches over there.

"He really likes that they consider themselves The D-Line University and the accomplishments of the guys going to the draft and the tradition of the defensive line. He has bonded with a few coaches over there. He wants a chance to be able to play on a good defensive line. He and the defensive line coach have bonded."

For a school that is seven hours away by car, the Willis family has made several trips to Florida and Gainesville to visit the campus and the program.

"We have been to Florida four times," the father said. "It is a lot considering that it is so far away. We are in constant, constant, constant communication with the recruiting coordinator and the head coach. We have been down there four times and they have been here numerous times. They come to see him at school. We have been in constant communication almost like they are very close to us.

"The relationship has been built and is very, very strong with Florida and as well as LSU. On a scale of 1-10 it would be even."

The Gators have made Willis a priority since the beginning of his recruitment. They have not cut corners and even through some coaching change on campus, the Willis family felt like they knew everything that was going on in Gainesville.

"Florida has done an outstanding job recruiting him and kept it very professional from day one. There's been no smoke and mirrors, and nobody has been lying to us. Everything is put out there in front so we can see it and it has been great. LSU is the first to offer a scholarship in his ninth grade year, Florida was the second a few weeks later. He has been dedicated and loyal to these two teams since his ninth grade year.

"The only thing that changed at Florida is the defensive line coach. Bryant Young retired and now they have a new guy in Brad Lawing. We have a great relationship with him and we know all about him and his career and the kid's he has coached and how many years he has been doing this. We've studied him big time. I think it will be a great fit for him at either school."

Mr. Willis believes that Florida head coach Will Muschamp is a difference maker and someone they can trust.

"To me it doesn't get any better than Muschamp," he said. "He is straight up and a standup guy. He is very serious about this class and making these kids better and moving on to the next level. He has been straight forward ever since day one. I can't say enough about him. He has kept in communication with Gerald, if he doesn't talk with me he will talk to him. It's just been good."

Florida had a tough go around in 2013 wining just four games and losing eight. The tension is high to get things turned around. Mr. Willis thinks the Gators will be back, and quickly.

"That is a sticky situation," he said about the losing season. "If we based going to a school on the record, they wouldn't even be in his top choices. It is more about the relationships.

"We know they had a bad season and injuries. The cloud was just hanging over them for some reason. It takes everything out of you. They just had numerous injuries back to back. You have to look at the previous season where they were so close to playing for a national championship.

"We just look at Florida as a place where he can get on the field and playing time. Gerald isn't interested in being on the bench."

Willis plans on making his decision on January 2, at the under Armour game in Florida. The decision won't come easy and a very good program will get turned away.

"I hate the fact that he has to make a choice between the two," Mr. Willis said of Florida and LSU. "To be honest I like both schools. If he chose to leave the state and go to Florida I wouldn't sit down and cry about it because I like those guys up there. I wouldn't have a problem at all. His family circle will be there, so it doesn't matter about distance."

Stay tuned to Scout.com as we continue to follow the recruitment of Gerald Willis.


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