As a junior, Zeke Motta was named first team all-state for Class 6A in talent-rich Florida after wreaking havoc both on opposing offenses with 143 tackles, two sacks, four fumble recoveries, and an interception, and on opposing special teams units with a remarkable five blocked kicks. The 6-3, 210-pound Vero Beach (Fla.) HS product was one of only two juniors to make the prestigious first team, with the other being Michigan commit Jeremy Gallon. The rest of the first team was populated by high-profile older players, including multiple prospects who signed with Ohio State and Miami and others who signed with Iowa State and Illinois.
Based on that performance as a standout junior free safety, Scout.com rates Motta as a 3-star safety. Many of the nearly 40 college programs recruiting him, however, see his size and playing style, which he describes as "passionate," profiling for the front seven.
"Most of them are Sam linebacker, some of them are strong safety depending on the package," the recruit relates of the position interest conveyed by the many schools recruiting him. Diplomatically, Motta admits to no preference for either safety or linebacker. Either position seems suited for Motta's prolific tackling abilities when the time comes for him to suit up on the college level.
With so many college suitors on his trail, he now faces the more urgent task of navigating a coast-to-coast recruitment. To that end, he spent the initial portion of his summer making unofficial visits to an array of colleges. Now that he is back he is enjoying a breather from the hectic pace of his recruitment provided by the current summer quiet period following the spring evaluation period in which colleges can legally make regular contact with recruits.
"It's going well," Motta says of recruiting. "I just got back on July 2nd. I had been traveling that whole month of June. I went to different colleges and stuff like that. Visited a total of seven. Now that I'm back it's kind of died down. I mean, I'm not really talking to many people, just kind of still reading the letters and getting the letters. Otherwise it's just died down a lot."
The busy June itinerary for Motta included stops at Clemson, Wake Forest, Auburn, Florida, Stanford, Boston College, and Notre Dame. All of those schools have offered with the exception of Florida. Motta acknowledges that those schools are capturing the bulk of his attention at this point but nonetheless seems fairly open in his recruitment.
"Those right now are kind of what I'm considering but I really don't know because there's still a lot of other colleges out there that I might still be interested in," he hedges. "Right now those are the ones that I'm looking at the most."
In addition to those schools, Motta highlights UCLA and Miami as two programs that have recently joined the fray and will receive consideration. For now, he is left to read the recruiting letters he continues to receive from a bevy of suitors and to reflect on the visits he made last month. Although his trips took him to schools representing three of the six Bowl Championship Series conferences as well as Notre Dame, Stanford sticks out on the list as a bit of a geographic outlier. The Floridian appears to have enjoyed his first trip to California.
"It was a pretty campus and I really enjoyed the coaching staff," Motta begins in reflecting on the visit to Stanford. "They were all really nice. It was good visiting with some of the '09 commits. I mean, it was fun. We were there for about five days, so I kind of got adjusted to the California lifestyle and got to see San Francisco. It was really pretty out there. I mean, I couldn't really tell you much more other than that I got to meet with a business professor and got to know Jim Harbaugh and some of the other coaches. It was nice."
While Motta enjoyed the trip, Stanford's sheer distance from the majority of the schools that have offered him and which he is considering begs the question of whether distance might factor into his ultimate decision.
"I mean, it's definitely something to think about when you're leaving," he admits. "But I think anywhere you go you're going to be able to make friends and it's not really going to be that big of a deal once you start going to school. I know that it takes an adjustment. That comes with every college you go to, so I don't think it's that big of a deal."
One feature that may enhance Motta's comfort level with Stanford, if he does head West for college, is a casual bond he seems to have formed with some of Stanford's current commits and other prospects. Indeed, as 4-star linebacker commit Shayne Skov recounted to The Bootleg in late June, Motta was among a group of visitors who stayed the night with Skov's family before attending recruiting events down on the Farm the next day.
"Yeah, yeah, one of the days I actually went up to his house and I stayed with him," Motta confirms when asked about spending time with Skov. "He had like four other guys staying with him for like three weeks. I think Brock [Sanders], Terrence [Stephens], I don't know, the really tall tight end…Levine [Toilolo]. And Jamal [Patterson] was there. We just got to kind of go out to dinner and go out, it was fun. I really think it's cool what [Shayne] is trying to do. He's almost like another recruiter. But it's cool."
"It's cool," the laid-back Floridian expands more generally on the chance to form friendships with recruits from other parts of the country who share his experience of being chased by myriad college football programs. "We keep in touch every now and then with what we're working on and how things are going. What schools we're looking at. So it's interesting to hear what people you're going to be playing with or playing against are thinking of doing."
As Motta approaches the remainder of his recruitment and the ultimate decision of which group of people he will be playing with at the next level, he does not anticipate taking many more unofficial visits this summer but does plan on taking official visits later in the fall.
"Right now I don't really think we're going to be able to because going around costs so much right now," he says in downplaying the likelihood of further unofficial visits. "I really don't think we'll be going any place else, but it's a possibility. Maybe some of the other Florida schools, they're not that far away. Other than that, that's about it." In contrast, he matter-of-factly says "yeah, of course" when asked if he will take advantage of fall official visits, though he does not yet know which schools will receive visits.
With plans to take official visits and a number of schools still under consideration, Motta does not appear to be on the verge of making a final decision. When, then, does he plan on making a decision?
"Probably after those official visits," he shares. "I'm going to be an early graduate so hopefully I can do that before I graduate. We'll see how it goes."
Motta says that he has received initial positive feedback from college coaches on his plans to graduate early.
"Most of them say it's a real beneficial thing," he says. "It gives you a chance to get acclimated to a school before all the other recruits do. And you get a chance to go through winter workouts and the spring game. It's real beneficial, I think."
Before Motta can get started orienting himself in college or participating in team workouts at the next level, he of course needs to take care of business in the classroom. The good student reports that his previously-documented attention to academics has actually extended into his supposed summer vacation.
"I am taking an AP English 4 online class right now so that's pretty much taking up most of my time," Motta reveals. "I mean, it's going to pay off. I'm taking a few other AP classes next year and hopefully I can keep my grades up. I have a 4.0 weighted right now." Motta thinks he has about a 3.4 unweighted grade point average. He has also taken the SAT and reports "I scored a 1640 with the essay and a 1080 without it."
"I'm happy with that score," he continues. "I mean, for most of the schools that's fine. That's good enough to get in."
As Motta enjoys a brief reprieve from the hustle and bustle of recruiting and focuses on his online studies, he is looking ahead to more than just a fall slate of official visits in preparation for making his college choice. He is also focused on his senior season of football for Vero Beach.
"Right now I'm just trying to focus on making our football team better and having a good season," he emphasizes. "I mean, it's kind of hard during this whole recruiting process to focus on that. You kind of forget that you still have a football season to go through."
Zeke Motta does indeed have one last season of high school football ahead of him before he heads off to college, a rare opportunity for somebody named first team all-state in Florida's touted 6A classification. We will be sure to check in on him as he tackles that next challenge and approaches a fall commitment.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!