Atlee (Mechanicsville, Va.) safety J.J. Givens had been committed to South Carolina since June, and, for all intents and purposes, he was content with his decision. But with the Gamecocks’ coaching-staff shakeup, Givens opted to explore some of his other options, decommitting from USC Dec. 7. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound three-star has since released a top-eight leaderboard and plans to officially visit three of that octet in January after the dead recruiting period ends.
“I kind of restarted the recruiting process,” Givens said. “I’m now looking to keep every school in my top eight involved, build relationships with them, and then go from there. Maryland, Michigan State and Clemson, those three have really been pushing for me. And then Arizona State, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina and NC State are involved too.”
The Terps were the first school Givens mentioned, and when questioned why he chose to acknowledge UMD before the others, he chuckled. The Atlee safety readily admitted Maryland’s staff under head coach D.J. Durkin had been making a potent push. In addition to defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and UMD’s Virginia-area recruiter, Mike London, trekking down to Atlee before the dead period set in Dec. 14, Givens has maintained almost-daily contact with the staff.
“I’ve talked to Coach Durkin, Coach Rahim, Coach [Scott] Shafer and Coach London. All those guys are saying they want me at Maryland,” Givens said. “All of them are excellent mentors of the game and coaches I could see myself learning under. I think Coach Rahim is a great DB coach, and he’s really easy to talk to. He was really cool when he came down here. Coach London, I’ve known him for years when he was at UVA; he’s an awesome coach. Coach Shafer did some great things with the defense when he was at Syracuse. And Coach Durkin, I just spoke with him on the phone [Dec. 19], and he’s a real cool guy too. He’s putting together a real nice staff up there.”
Givens’ pro-UMD affinity isn’t new. He actually visited College Park, Md., three times during the spring and summer and had a budding rapport with former area-recruiter Chad Wilt and ex-head coach Randy Edsall. The Terps dropped off when the SEC and other major suitors came calling, but Givens has them back on the radar with the new coaches in place.
“Maryland is definitely going to be a finalist for me, and they’re very, very high on my list. I’m probably going to use one of my officials there,” Givens said. “There will be a few others there too, but Maryland is definitely going to be there. I love the new coaches, and I’ve been up there a lot for visits.
“I honestly love it up there. I liked the students there, the environment, the academics and I just got a family feel there. It’s a great place to be.”
In addition to UMD, Givens said MSU and Clemson could potentially be in line for officials, although that’s not set in stone. He took in a game at Clemson earlier in the fall and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Givens said the Tigers’ run to No. 1 this year, combined with the vibe in Death Valley, have his attention.
Meanwhile, Michigan State has been in constant communication and has Givens’ ear too. He mentioned that MSU is known for its defense and believes he would develop well in East Lansing, Mich.
As for South Carolina, the school the Atlee product originally committed to, Givens said, “I don’t really know about them. I kind of want to look somewhere new.”
After Givens takes his three intended officials, he said he’d probably announce his college destination on Signing Day.
“More likely than not I’ll do something at my school and announce my decision then,” Givens said. “That’s what it’s looking like right now. I definitely want to take an official every weekend in January before I commit.”
Givens is coming off a season where he racked up 78 tackles and five interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns. He had over 1,000 receiving yards on offense.