Elite DE Azeez Ojulari has much to say about Florida, UGA ahead of decision
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MARIETTA, Ga. — DawgNation reported Monday that 4-star defensive end prospect Azeez Ojulari is ready to make his decision.
That announcement is scheduled to take place Aug. 17 at 3 p.m. at a school assembly the day before Marietta High School opens its season against Wheeler.
Ojulari’s recruiting story has been interesting. It is an example of a recruit not needing a lot of time to make such a life-changing decision. The bulk of his offers, including the one from UGA, came in April.
Offers in hand, Ojulari visited the schools he needed to see. Now, he is ready to settle the issue.
“I have been almost everywhere with the schools I am looking at — multiple times — and feel very comfortable making this decision right now.”
Which schools are really in it?
“I know and feel that South Carolina, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee are the schools that I will be considering here,” he said.
His coach, Richard Morgan, emphasized that Ojulari is looking at more than football in making this choice. Morgan said it is important for him to select a school where he’s be happy, even if football were taken away from him. Which programs meet that standard?
“Florida for sure,” Ojulari said. “Great academic program. Great degree. Georgia as well. The ‘G’ afterlife and what that ‘G’ can do for you in that football afterlife. Coach Kirby [Smart] has been preaching that to me for a long time now, too. There’s Georgia there and Tennessee and Auburn, too. Auburn is a family-like school and a great academic school, too.”
The body language factor with Azeez Ojulari
The 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions are unanimous that Ojulari will choose UGA. I didn’t get that feeling when we talked Monday after practice.
When we covered all his schools, his very big smile and most transparent facial expressions trended toward Florida. He also articulated his thoughts about Florida in a way that matched up with his gestures when discussing those Gators.
“It was a great first time,” Ojulari said. “Great feelings and a great atmosphere. Great time meeting with [Florida defensive line] coach [Chris] Rumph and coach [Jim] McElwain the first time. It was great. Great meeting up with coach [JaJuan] Seider is on me very hard, too.”
Here are a few quick points on that front:
- Ojulari said Florida and Georgia are the two schools that met the academic criteria and relationship to his degree. Those were the academic heavyweights in his mind.
- He said that trip to Gainesville met every expectation he had for any school visit. The 4-star DE camped when 5-star QB Matt Corral was still in town. He also chatted extensively with a current Florida defensive end. “He was telling me about the coaching staff and all the players and how things would really be if I went there,” Ojulari said.
- Ojulari made it very clear that he had seen everything he needed to see to commit to the Gators off of that one visit to that campus.
He said the Gators really “took him in” and “made him feel wanted as an impact target” for this class.
“Florida is a great place,” Ojulari said. “Great academics. Great place. Just a great opportunity there for me to play, too. … They are preaching family and all that with me right now.”
If he chooses to play for the Gators, he said those relationships he has with coaches Rumph and Seider would be the big reason why.
How close is the race for Azeez Ojulari?
How tight is this decision?
“They are all bunched up and neck-and-neck right now,” Ojulari said.
Does he know already? Ojulari initially seemed ready to answer that question, but then backed off.
“Still got a little soul-searching left to do, probably,” he said.
He said that he has yet to share this decision with any coaching staff. That said, he told DawgNation that when he makes his commitment next week that he will likely stop his recruitment. No more unofficial or any official visits.
“I will probably just shut it all down,” Ojulari said.
Which schools are really in it? I quizzed him to get quick, stream-of-consciousness answers about all the teams he has most strongly considered.
Breaking down the other big Azeez Ojulari contenders
Auburn: “Just an opportunity to play at Auburn and be a part of that family culture,” he said. “My dad loves Auburn, too. When we went there he was like, ‘Auburn, Auburn and Auburn.’ He loves Auburn. That’s Dad’s vote right there.”
Clemson: “The relationship with [defensive line] coach Todd Bates is big there,” he said. “Both with him and with [defensive coordinator] Brent Venables there. Those relationships are strong, and they are pushing me hard. My dad and my sister and I all went there for that first time. It was just great. Family atmosphere. They gave it their all, showing us everything we could want. There’s a comfort and a comfy feel that I get there. That’s all good.”
Georgia: “I’ve been up there to Georgia for a couple of times now. It just gets better and better and better. Every time I have been there I have just built upon those relationships to make them stronger. There is [outside linebackers] coach [Kevin] Sherrer and [running backs] coach [Dell] McGee and then coach Kirby Smart. It is just a great relationship there for me with Georgia. Just like it is with Florida and South Carolina and Auburn.”
The group of finalists also includes South Carolina and Tennessee. He wasn’t able to ascertain which one of those schools have recruited him the hardest.
“I just feel like if you are really ready and you have seen the place that you really like and like the best out of everyone you are looking at, then this stuff is not that hard,” Ojulari said. “If you have found that place that you really like, then why wait all that time? Just get it done and get it over with if you are ready, if you are comfortable with the place you want to choose as your school.”
The good stuff about Azeez Ojulari
Ojulari sounds just like a regular high school kid. He listens to 21 Savage, Future and Lil Uzi Vert.
The nation’s No. 3 DE (per 247Sports) likes to go to Six Flags. The Batman ride is his favorite roller coaster there, with Superman a close second. If he could have any of mythical super powers, he’d want to be invisible.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound prospect loves his Marietta High teammates. Big-time QB prospect Harrison Bailey shared a story about Ojulari that shows he’s pretty tough. When the team was helping somebody with moving, Bailey said, Ojulari somehow had one of those old school “box” TVs fall on him. He didn’t even flinch. That wasn’t any flat screen or LED TV at that. This was one of those 40-year-old relics that looked more like a piece of furniture rather than any high-end electronics.
Morgan describes him as a very humble teenager.
“Azeez and his younger brother, B.J.. are some of our hardest workers on the team,” Morgan said. “Leaders both on and off the field. I compare Azeez to when I had Josh Sweat [now at Florida State] with me when I coached up in Virginia. To me, they are the same type of player.”
Morgan also said Ojulari was the strongest member of the Blue Devils. The 4-star DE is just five pounds away from the school record of 335 pounds in the power clean. Ojulari also can bench press 355 pounds and squat 500-plus in the weight room.
Ojulari ‘just leads us every day with a strong example of working hard and taking care of his business,” Morgan said. “He’s a great character kid. He’s everything you want in a player already, but he can also improve a great deal in terms of his remaining football potential.”
That reflects the way Ojulari aspires to be every day.
“I am a really humble guy that is just ready to work,” Ojulari said. “I am really laid back. When it is time to work, I am going to work and just give it all I’ve got.”
He said he aims to pursue a field of study in architecture, business or communications.
Next week could provide a surge or a stall in momentum
Most of the fans on our DawgNation.com message board forum are waiting for a momentum spike this month. They also fret about a lull in commitments, thinking that’s a sign that things aren’t up to par with recruiting for the Class of 2018.
The end of next week is setting up as a boom or bust time for UGA recruiting. If UGA can wrangle in the following two, then that national rank of No. 59 overall will get a swift kick up that leaderboard.
- On Aug. 17, the Bulldogs could add a commit from Ojulari. He’d be Georgia’s second-highest commitment (at No. 136 overall) in the 2018 class, behind 5-star RB Zamir White.
- The Bulldogs also are in the race with Alabama and Auburn for 4-star WR Kearis Jackson from Peach County. He has said he will announce his decision Aug. 19 from a summer cookout in Fort Valley, Ga. If Jackson picks UGA, then he would become the second-highest commitment (at No. 124 overall) in the 2018 class, behind White.