Ali Groves visits Vanderbilt

Stephenson High School, in Stone Mountain, Ga., has become a hotbed of talent. The past three recruiting classes have seen 14 of their players sign with SEC schools. Ali Groves, a 5-foot-11, 177-pound safety, paid a visit to Nashville this past weekend for a Junior Day to learn more about the Commodore football program.

"It was a nice experience," said Ali Groves. "I had visited the campus a couple of times already. This visit I had a chance to get to know Coach Shoop, the defensive coordinator, and Coach Barlow, the coach of the defensive backs. I got to spend some one-on-one time with Coach Franklin. He told me he wanted me to come and that he thought I'd fit in well."

Groves only played in Stephenson's first four games at free safety before an injury ended his junior season. That, however, hasn't slowed down his recruiting. He's up to five offers and counting.

"My offers are from South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Florida, Wake Forest, and Missouri," Groves said. "I'm also hearing a lot from Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Auburn.

"Vanderbilt is a place I like, but I'm in no rush to commit anywhere yet. I'm going to wait to see who else is going to offer.

Groves talked of why the Commodore program has his attention.

"First and foremost, I like Vanderbilt's academics," he said. "Coach Franklin has come in and basically turned them into a totally different program. They also have two guys I played with at Stephenson, Kenny Ladler and Darreon Herring."

While Groves is enjoying the spring campus visits he has his mind on the fall and making a big impact at Stephenson in his final season. The Jaguars lost quite a few seniors off of their 2011 rosters, but there's plenty of talent remaining.

"When I got injured in the fourth game of the season and wasn't able to go I had 23 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception," said Groves.

"I was cleared to play back in December and feel like I'm back to 100-percent. Kyle Fleetwood played strong safety for us. He graduated and signed with South Carolina, so the coaches want me to fill that role for the defense.

"We got some guys coming up who are going to be real good. I think we're going to have a pretty good team honestly. The experienced players are going to have to help the younger ones along, but we'll be tough by the end of the year."

Groves has seen a lot of time on special teams the last two seasons. The coaches have also plugged him in at quarterback. It's defense though where college coaches like him best after seeing his excellent range and tackling ability.

"I do a good job of filling the alley on the run," Groves said of his game. "I'm physical. I defend aggressively and go get the ball carrier. When I play I put all of my heart into it."

Although Groves isn't ready to commit, he loves the idea of playing in the Southeastern Conference like his 14 former teammates.

"It's the most competitive league out of all of them, and I like competition," said Groves. "My family stresses education and academics will play a big part in my decision.

"Next is my comfort level. I want to be treated well by the coaches during the recruiting process and feel at home on visits.

"Distance could be a factor, but I'd be willing to play anywhere if it was the situation I was most comfortable with."

Groves said Stephenson teammate, Jonathan Wynn, a defensive end who also has a Vanderbilt offer, accompanied him on the visit to Nashville.

Groves reports an excellent GPA of 3.8.

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