Millburn (N.J.) High athlete Jake Pickard is closing in on a decision. He visited Virginia and Syracuse over the last few days, and has one more before deciding. His visit to UVA on Monday gave him a better feel for the program.
”I actually spent most of the day and night with Connor (Wingo-Reeves), the running back,” Pickard said. “I got to hang out with the players and that was one of the main things I wanted to see. Was to see the campus from the players side of things not necessarily from the coaches. Be around all the players, see if I mesh with them and what kind of kids they are.
”The next day, I got to see a lot of their training and their conditioning. I toured the facilities a little bit more and spoke with the defensive coordinator (Jon Tenuta).”
The conversation with coach Tenuta was important. It gave Pickard a better feel for how he would fit into Virginia’s defensive scheme.
”We talked about where he sees me playing and how I fit into their system,” Pickard said. “Where he sees the program going. What kind of defense they run and all of the different fronts that they run. Then just how I would fit into that position (defensive end).”
The most important part of the trip was interacting with the players. It gave him a feel for the types of people they are and if he could see himself fitting in with the program.
”It was very good,” Pickard said. “That was one of the things because the last time I was there, they were just getting back from spring break. So this time I got to meet a bunch of different players. I got to see their dorms and see their houses. It was just good to see them off the field.”
After the trip to Virginia on Monday, Pickard visited Syracuse on Tuesday. He had a little extra company with him on this visit.
”This time my mom and coach got to come up with me,” Pickard said. “I just wanted to get around the players more. I didn’t get to see any the last time I was up there. There were a lot of players up there so I got to see them and talk to them a little bit and hang out with them. My mom got a tour of the campus.
”We were with the offensive coordinator (George McDonald), defensive coordinator (Chuck Bullough), defensive line coach (Tim Daoust), my recruiting coach (Bobby Acosta), (head) coach (Scott) Shafer and his wife and many graduate assistants. We got a tour of the facilities and see everybody with all of the players there. We met with the strength coach (Will Hicks) again. Really just go through everything, and talked with coach Shafer a lot.”
While Pickard made a point to interact with the players at Virginia, he did the same at Syracuse.
”With the players, it was kind of just meet and go,” Pickard said. “They were hanging out and eating in the cafeteria a little bit. I would go up and talk to them about the program and stuff a little bit. I didn’t really get to go too in-depth, but I got a feel for the kind of kids that are there. Those are definitely guys just like me. They were introducing me to kids from New Jersey and New York. It was good to see that those are the kind of kids I could definitely play with.”
Maybe the part of the visit that stood out the most was his conversation with head coach Scott Shafer. They spoke in his office at length, and it left Pickard with a strong impression of where the Orange are headed.
”It was very big,” Pickard said. “It was me, my mom, my coach, coach Shafer and his wife Missy. We were all just talking about Syracuse overall, that I was overall their number one prospect for defense. We talked about a lot of stuff, it wasn’t just football. Coach Shafer is just an awesome guy and he’s a good coach.
”He talked about what he’s doing with his players and with the university to make it stronger. He talked about how they finished third in the ACC behind Florida State and Clemson, and how they’re gunning for Florida State and Clemson this year.”
Pickard’s mom was able to visit Syracuse with him, though was unable to make the trip to Virginia. She was impressed with what she saw with the Orange program.
”She loved it,” Pickard said. “She loved the coaching staff, she loved the campus. She liked the coaching staff a lot. She loved the facilities and loved the kids. She spent a lot of time with Missy, coach Shafer’s wife and they got along very well. It was a very good environment and it was a great visit.”
While comparing both visits, Pickard would not disclose if one had a bigger impact than the other.
”I wouldn’t really say that one visit was better than the other,” Pickard said. “They both definitely had a great atmosphere. I definitely felt at home at both.”
The three-star athlete added that he saw what he needed at both in order to move closer to a final decision. Up next is a visit to Wisconsin on July 28th, with a decision to come within a week after that trip.