Perhaps it was the 120 tackles and 20 tackles for loss as a junior. Or maybe it was the fact he finished the year as Florida's No. 3 sack man. Quite possibly it could have been the interception where he broke five tackles en route to a 40-yard TD return against Daytona-Mainland High School. Then again, the 10 tackle, one sack performance in the 2A state championship game was quite impressive. Whatever the case, and there are plenty, Eugene "Geno" Hayes has emerged as one of the nation's most sought-after LB's for the class of 2005.
At 6-2, 215 pounds, Hayes isn't overly imposing but this is a player that is described time and again as one that simply "blows up" plays when he gets to the ball carrier. He boasts solid 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash and bench presses in excess of 300 pounds.
This past season, the Madison County (Fla) High School product finished off the year by being named All-Big Bend first team, all-state first team, all-county and all-conference.
Big high school production means big-time college recruiting interest and such has been the case for Hayes. He's already garnered 17 scholarship offers including pledges from such perennial heavyweights as LSU, NC State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Florida, Maryland, Auburn, Georgia and Michigan State.
Not lost in the mad rush of May recruiting attention is the fact Hayes is crystal clear as to which school first told him he would be a priority for the class of 2005. Early notice paid dividends with Pack signee Willie Young this past February and the State coaches will hope for the same results in 2005. Like with Young, the Wolfpack has established itself as the early front runner for Hayes.
"Right now the main schools I'm looking at are Georgia, NC State, LSU and maybe Michigan State," said Hayes. "(NC) State is recruiting me the hardest. I mean, they've been on me since the beginning of last season and they're letting me know they've got two senior LB's leaving. It helps that they've got so many players from Florida because they know our style and how we do it.
"They're my number one right now. They're kinda like Madison in that it's not that big and it's not all city-like. I like the facilities I've seen. I was checking them out on the internet and was reading about their education (programs). I liked how it sounds."
Hayes' recruiting is being headed up by newly hired defensive coordinator and Pack LB coach Reggie Herring. State's new defensive head man has made quite an impression in the early going.
"I've talked to Coach Herring and he's a great guy," said Hayes. "He loves his players, I can tell you that much."
While State will have a void in the LB corps after the departures of Pat Thomas and Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay in 2005, Hayes stated that challenging for a starting role isn't necessarily a big consideration at this point.
"Just getting on the field is the main thing for me," Hayes said. "I haven't got to start but I want to get a little playing time."
Georgia and LSU appear to be the main threats for Hayes currently but there's definitely an old nemesis lurking in the shadows. Many insiders feel that Hayes has quietly been a Florida State lean, however, the Noles interest has been tepid- at least during the month of May. StateFans asked Hayes if a Seminole offer would automatically propel Florida State to the front of his wish list. He responded by simply saying "no".
Hayes' Madison County squad will attend the FCA camp this summer in Black Mountain, NC. He also has tentative plans to possibly attend camps at Florida, Florida State and LSU as well.
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