Whitaker Entering Home Stretch

SAN ANTONIO --- Based off the relationship he has with each school's defensive line coach, Jeff Whitaker recently trimmed his list of schools under consideration to five.

The five finalists are Auburn, California, Georgia, Miami, and North Carolina.

"You've got to have a relationship with the position coach," Whitaker said. "Let's be honest, you're not going to see the head coach when you go to college. If you see the head coach, that's bad, unless you just walk into his office and chit-chat.

"[Your relationship with] the position coach [is important], because that's who you're going to see for four years. When you are with him, you want to see if this is the person you want to be around."

Specifically with UNC, Whitaker, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound defensive tackle from Warner-Robins (Ga.), says he has developed a great relationship with John Blake.

"We're cool," Whitaker said of Blake. "Coach Blake is cool. I try not to get too attached with anybody, because it's a business."

Thus far, UNC is the only school Whitaker has officially visited. He made that trip about a month ago.

"The official visit was great," Whitaker said. "I didn't know that Chapel Hill was that beautiful. But there were also good people around there – and that's a good thing.

"North Carolina is a place where you have activities, you've got chill time – it's like that place with everything. Some places might be a great school, but there's nothing to do. North Carolina is versatile place – you can do anything and you have everything."

During the weekend of Jan. 15 Whitaker will officially visit Auburn. He's also has an official trip scheduled with Georgia for the weekend of Jan. 22.

"I might just do three [official visits]," Whitaker said.

Even if he doesn't officially visit California or Miami, Whitaker says he'll still consider both schools. However, he admits that the lack of an official visit will put a school at a huge disadvantage.

Whitaker's recruitment will conclude in three weeks. He will make a verbal commitment on Feb. 1.

"[I'm announcing] two days before Signing Day, because Signing Day we'll have other people at my school signing that may not be as big as me but it's their day," Whitaker said. "So I don't want to take that away and have the spotlight all on me. I'm a country boy, I don't need all the spotlight on me."

Before hitting the homestretch of his recruitment, Whitaker is enjoying his time in San Antonio preparing for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Saturday.

"Everything is going good," Whitaker said. "It's great. I can't complain.

Whitaker will start at three-technique (rush defensive tackle) for the East squad.

"It looks like I'm going to kick it off Saturday," Whitaker said. "Sharrif [Floyd] and I are going to kick it off in the middle… I plan to compete and do my thing."

Practice has – and the game will, too – given Whitaker a taste of football on the collegiate level.

"I think the biggest difference for all of us is the competition level," Whitaker said. "... It's basically like playing your first college game before you go to college, because everybody is bigger, everybody is faster, everybody was ‘the man' where they came from."

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