With his junior season coming to a close last fall, Lawrenceville (GA) Central Gwinnett receiver Jallah Zeze thought his main responsibility over the offseason was to focus on elevating his game to the next level. He never thought deciding on a school from a growing scholarship list would be in the cards.
The 6-1, 210-pound Zeze went from no offers at the start of February to now approaching double digits, as many more schools are starting to take notice of him.
“Honestly, going into my senior year, I didn’t know this was going to happen,” Zeze told BadgerNation. “I am shocked as everybody is for the offers that I am receiving.”
The self-doubt came from a junior season that Zeze felt was below expectations. Getting his first opportunity to be the team’s main receiver (meaning the ball was going to be thrown his way a lot), the pressure Zeze put on himself to success had the opposite effect early in the season.
“I wasn’t going out and just playing,” Zeze said. “I was putting myself in a further hole and not helping the team win. I thought I had to really step up, make plays, become a baller and be great. My coach helped me out, made me slow everything down. They just showed me I had a lot of size and a lot of movement that big guys my size don’t have, (and) that I could take advantage. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
Finishing the season with 42 catches for 678 yards and six touchdowns (all second best on his team), Zeze’s work was validated when Wisconsin wide receiver coach Ted Gilmore extended him a scholarship offer in early March.
“I was speechless really,” Zeze recalled of when the Badgers offered. “My coach announced it during offseason workouts. Wisconsin? Really? Coach you must be playing! I was just shocked and at the same time excited.”
Gilmore has developed a habit of finding under-the-radar receivers that he can work with. In 2015 he landed Quintez Cephus out of Macon, Ga., and saw Cephus – a former basketball commit – contribute as a true freshman and close the spring working with the starters. Last year Gilmore landed Cade Green and Emmet Perry out of Texas, a duo that had few Power-Five conference offers at the time they committed.
“They were my second offer and me and coach have really good talks,” Zeze said. “He would like for me to come up there and see (Madison) for myself. He says it’s better to see than to tell.”
Holding additional Big Ten offers from Indiana and Purdue, Zeze said he’s interested in visiting Wisconsin and likes Appalachian State and Colorado State. Of his few visits so far, visiting the Mountaineers in Boone, N.C., for a game stood out.
“Everything is close by, nothing is spread out, and it’s a small town,” Zeze said, adding that his cousin goes to Appalachian State. “Everybody is all about football and everything is packed, crazy. It’s hard for you to move around. Game day was crazy. Tailgating was crazy. I had so much fun over there. I didn’t get to tour the school, but I loved the warm-up and the attitude.”
Zeze plans to make a handful of recruiting visits this summer and take some official visits. He hopes to decide midway through or after his senior season.