"I have not been to a Florida game yet, but I am looking forward to it," James Vaughters said. We had a chance to tour the stadium back in April, but it was empty and undergoing renovation. It will begreat to see the recent changes and the stadium filled to capacity. I'm anticipating it will be a lot like the Ohio State-USC game we went to last week. There should be a sea of loud and enthusiastic Gator fans."
Mr. and Mrs. Vaughters feel the same way.
"Similar to what James said, we are expecting the noise level and level of energy and excitement to be off the charts. For a prospective recruit, the electricity being generated has got to be impressive and convincing they could be part of this family."
Blessed with good speed (4.55) and great strength numbers (325 BP/450 squat) Vaughters is from Tucker (GA) and ended his sophomore season with 38 tackles, six sacks, eight tackles for loss, two caused fumbles and four fumble recoveries one going for a touchdown.
He played his first game of his junior season last Friday (part-time) returning from a wrist injury and ended the night with six tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss.
Vaughters has written offers from most of the nation's top programs, and he'll be on hand this Saturday when the Gators host Tennessee.
"The feel was pretty electric," Mr. Vaughters said. "The noise, the lights, and the prospects that were present really was impressive. James was quite impressed by the level of talent at Friday Night Lights. My wife Vanessa and I attended, with James. The campers got great experience working with the staff at UF and it gave James an opportunity to get a glimpse ofwhat practices are like at Florida."
Mr. and Mrs. Vaughters gave the Florida coaching staff rave reviews.
"The coaching staff at Florida is outstanding. Their experience, top to bottom, wreaks of quality and experience.Coach Meyer comes across as being very genuine. He seems to be really involved with the players and really focuses on developing them off the field as well as on the field. He is the kind of coach that I feel very comfortable entrusting my son to,as a coach and mentor. Plus, Coach Meyer is a native Ohioan, like myself, and that implies a certain set of similar family values."
"I was very impressed with the coaching staff at Florida. We had met them before during an earlier1-day visit to Florida and they seemed genuine, approachable and made us feel welcome.We observed the coaches interacting with team members and it seemed to be very much a family atmosphere. In fact, several athletes were going to have dinner at Coach Kenny Carter's home on Easter Sunday. As a mother, they instilled a high level of confidence in me that they would help James do his best academically and would look out for his well-being.It certainly doesn't hurt that Coach Meyer and I both attended the University of Cincinnati, although our paths didn't cross."
Vaughters also came away feeling very impressed with what the Gators had to offer.
"I could see myself playing in The Swamp, especially for a Championship season. I was really impressed by the level of talent that Florida was able to attract for Friday Night Lights. I believe the program at Florida will be strong for some time to come. It was great to meet Coach Meyer. He knew some things about me and our program and seemed to care about character and recruiting players like me that also are serious about performing in the classroom as well. It was really flattering about what the coaches were saying about me being an important recruit for the future of the Florida program. I also liked the aspect of being able to compete for a position as a freshman. There were no guarantees, but I thinkall players like me want is an opportunity to compete."
The entire Vaughters family will factor in heavily when decision time comes and while the top ranked middle linebacker in the state is in no hurry he does have some factors that will play into the decision making process.
"First and foremost, I want to go to a school with a great academic reputation. I also want to go to a school that has a great football program, and that includes tradition. It's important to me to have an opportunity to play in big games, including BCS bowls games and if I am fortunate, a BCS Championship game. The coaching staff is an important consideration, as well as the character of the football team and the other players I'll be in the trenches with for four years."
Vaughters feels blessed and fortunate with all the attention especially from in state schools Georgia and Georgia Tech. While many feel he will not leave the state the Vaughters family will make the best decision based on a number of factors.
"Let me first say how flattered and honored I feel that these great institutions are offering me these opportunities. I am not looking to leave the state of Georgia because I love it here. I love living here, and Georgia and Georgia Tech are great schools, with great football and academic programs. When the time comes to make a decision, I'll weigh everything I know about those two schools, along with other schools that I am considering like Florida, Alabama, UNC, Ohio State, USC and Stanford, among others and make the decision that I think works best for me andmy family. Right now, we have not ruled any out. There are so many great programs out there have expressed a genuine interest in me, which makes me feel really good. I plan to spend a lot of time this year, both during the season and after the season visiting schools. I really like a lot of the schools in the ACC and SEC. There are a few in the Big Ten and Pac-10 that I like as well, along with Notre Dame, as an Independent. Those are a little tougher to visit because of the distance, but I'd still like to try."
The thought of their son playing for the Gators is a very exciting possibility.
"From our first visit on, we have been really excited by how much Coach Carter, Coach Strong and Coach Meyer have enthusiastically recruited James. We are really impressed that the coaching staff of the national champions think our son can really be a difference-maker in their program. We have always been James' biggest fans and it is gratifying to us to see a national powerhouse like Florida recognize James for his talent, capability and potential."
Vaughters will be one of the most heavily recruited players in the state of Georgia and with that will come various pressures associated with being one of the states very best. It is something that Mr. Vaughters is well aware of and will not allow it to become a distraction moving forward.
"Yes, we have talked about it at length and I have stressed to James how important it is that he do his research on Georgia, Georgia Tech and any other schools out-of-state. He has to make sure that he makes a decision that is in his best interest. Obviously, his mother and I would love to have him go to a school where we could see him play all the time, but we are constantly discussing with him that this is a decision that he has to live with and be happy with. What we will continue to do is help him stay focused on his academics, athletics and being a kid, and we will do everything we can do to insulate him from a lot of the well-meaning outside interests that can be a distraction to a 16-year old."
Speaking of only being 16 years old he is one of the most well rounded and grounded players you will find in the class of 2011.
"I pride myself on being ready to play everydown I'm on the fieldand give it 100%. I don't like taking plays off and I try and make a big play every down, defensively or offensively. I have worked hard on improving my strength and game speed, which helps the game slow down for me. I consider myself a real student of the game, and mix in a high level of intensity to be a difference-maker. I try and lead by example on-the-field, at practice, in the weight room, in school and in the classroom. It inspires me to be at my best, because I can't lead others if I'm slacking off. I am not what you wouldconsider a loud player, but when I talk to my teammates, I want them to know it's important. I look for every opportunity to encourage and inspire. My primary goalis to help our team repeat as state champions. We have the talent, but lack team experience. It will be important for a lot of us juniors to step up and fill the void of having a small, but talented senior class."