Dawson, from Charlotte (NC) Bear Academy, has listed the Tigers at the top of his list this spring, but now says Louisville has narrowed the gap. In fact, Dawson raved about his visit to Louisville and told InsideTheVille.com that the Cardinals and Tigers are the two leaders in his recruitment.
"[Louisville] just swept me off my feet," Dawson said. "Louisville has always been my second choice of schools [behind Clemson]. Louisville is now in the running with Clemson. I really like Louisville. Those two schools are the team beat. Clemson is still on top, but I really, really, really like Louisville."
Dawson, the No. 22 outside linebacker in the nation, is spending the week in town with his father and aunt who live in the area. He said he's planning to spend more time with Charlie Strong's program this week.
"I talked to the strength coach and he talked about how he was going to build me up," Dawson said. "I talked to Coach Brian Jean-Mary and the academic support lady and she said if I do all my work on time how I would graduate with a degree. I talked with the athletic trainer who said he was going to keep me healthy. And I talked to Coach Strong for a long time."
Strong, Louisville's second-year head coach, told Dawson he could make an immediate impact on the Cardinals defense.
"He broke down the linebacker position," Dawson said. "He's a defensive head coach and I like the Louisville program as a whole. He told me if I want to play early come to Louisville. He said even after I leave Louisville they're going to take care of me. Dexter Heyman, their starting middle linebacker is leaving after this season, so hopefully I could compete for a starting position next year."
Dawson, a Louisville native, has heard positive things about Strong's rebuilding efforts at UofL from his father.
"I'm here until Wednesday or Thursday and I'll probably go back to Louisville [Tuesday]," Dawson said. "My dad would like to see me here, but he told me to go where I feel comfortable at. He told me that Coach Strong has turned the program around."
Clemson, Dawson's other favorite school, has made a big impression this spring. In fact, Dawson considered committing to the Tigers after a recent visit, but held out because he wanted to check out some other programs, including Louisville.
"Every time I go there it feels like a family," Dawson said. "Today, when I looked at Louisville, everything felt like a family here too. And that's what I really like in a school. I really like the coaching staff at both Clemson and Louisville. The money is on those two schools. Both of those schools make me feel like family."
How will Dawson choose between Clemson and Louisville?
"I'm really not sure," Dawson admitted. "I don't really know what it's going to come down to. I'm glad I didn't commit to Clemson earlier when I started to because Clemson, Tennessee and Louisville, all schools that I've seen, made me feel like family. I'm not sure, when the time comes to make a [decision] it comes."
As a junior, Dawson, 6-2, 215, recorded 113 tackles, 14 for a loss, five sacks, six forced fumbles.