Locksley decision could affect Hayes

SAN ANTONIO --- Jerome Hayes of Bayonne, New Jersey is one of the most talked about recruits on the Florida Gators board. Not only is this four-star linebacker at a position of great need, he’s also one of the nation’s elite, a US Army All-American.

Florida has made a big pitch to land Hayes, but the Gators ability to sign him may hinge on what running backs Coach Mike Locksley has decided. Locksley was offered a chance to become the offensive coordinator on Coach Ron Zook’s staff at Illinois. Wednesday morning news reports say Locksley accepted the position with Zook, informing Coach UrbanMeyer on Tuesday that he planned to leave Florida.

"Coach Locksley has been recruiting me since the beginning," said Hayes. "If he went to Illinois, I probably wouldn’t go to UF, that would sway my decision."

Jerome Hayes is in San Antonio for the US Army All-American Bowl Game. Just getting here was an ordeal for the 6-2, 225-pounder who is rated the number 14 player in the country at his position by Scout.com. Hayes and three other players encountered a few mishaps along the way before they finally arrived in Texas.

"Well first we got into flight trouble when our flight got cancelled so we had to jump on an earlier flight and our bags got delayed," said Hayes. "I came in with Brian Cushing, Michael Ray Garvin, and Eugene Munroe. Other than that, the Army people have done a great job.

Hayes parents will be arriving in San Antonio later in the week to be a part of the festivities that surround the game which has grown into the top high school all-star football game in the nation.

The East practices have been spirited affairs. The players are very intense and determined to extend the East winning streak to three games in this all-star contest.

"The competition is going to be great out here as the best of the best from all over the country will compete in practice and then finally in the game on Saturday," he said.

At linebacker, he also gets to go head to head against some of the best running backs in the country.

"It is just amazing to look over, and being a linebacker, seeing a scat back as good as Maurice Wells (Jacksonville Sandalwood) and a power back like Jason Gwaltney (North Babylon, NY) on the other side."

He is enjoying the chance to play on the same line backing crew with other players of the same caliber. He also thinks that the linebackers on the East will be the strength of the team.

"I’m a linebacker, but I’m going to be biased," he said. "I think the linebackers are the best. Brian Cushing, myself, Rico McCoy, and Derek Nicholson did pretty well."

Hayes is being heavily pursued by a number of schools, but he’s got two schools at the top and two others that he’ll consider. He took a look at the pros and cons of his top two.

"Miami has a little more depth, playing time as a freshman won’t happen," he said. "At Florida, they are not as deep at linebacker, they are great school and a great opportunity. They are even right there."

His second tier has Rutgers and Michigan State bunched together.

"At Rutgers I can play running back and at Michigan State, the running back coach just left so Rutgers is ahead," he said. Hayes ran for 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns during the recently completed high school season.

Hayes had an in-home visit with Florida Coach Urban Meyer last week. The UF coach made a favorable impression.

"I met with Coach Meyer last week and I didn’t know what to expect," he said. "He has great character and he speaks very well. For someone that hasn’t been at the university of Florida very long he speaks very highly of UF. He makes you believe."

Florida has a number of positives that make the Gators stand out.

"They have a great coaching staff and great weight training," he said. "I have been to several college games and I have never seen an atmosphere like that."

If Hayes signs with Florida, his position coach will be Charlie Strong, also the defensive coordinator. He and Strong have formed a good relationship in the recruiting process.

"Coach Strong is a cool guy," he said. "I met him over the summer at the Rising Senior Camp. I never went over anything about schemes, but person to person he seems like a top notch guy. So if I were to sign with UF, I would really be into that."

He is undecided at this moment when he will announce his college choice, noting that it will likely be "a signing day decision or at my football banquet on January 31."

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