For E.J. Levenberry Jr. (Woodbridge, Va./C.D. Hylton), the quest to find the right college is a meticulous, ongoing process. Twice when he seemed to have settled on a school coaching changes forced him to reevaluate his decisions and look elsewhere.
The Georgia coaching staff is trying to push the Bulldogs to the forefront with Levenberry after offering the outside linebacker a scholarship recently.
“We hadn’t thought about Georgia really because a lot of schools have been recruiting E.J. since the ninth grade,” said Eric Levenberry, E.J.’s father. “Georgia is kind of like a school that has just come on, so we really don’t know much about Georgia other than E.J. saw them on TV last year when they had those nice helmets and uniforms. E.J. really liked that. So a little more research and investigation needs to be done.”
The elder Levenberry, however, has some knowledge of the Bulldogs.
“We know they always have very good recruiting classes,” Levenberry Sr. said. “I know Mark Richt was at Florida State and I know he is a spiritual guy. Those are things that are appealing as well. But we just don’t know enough about Georgia right now. E.J. is happy to get any offer from any university, especially one as prestigious as the University of Georgia.”
The Bulldogs didn’t sign an inside linebacker for the 2012 class so that position is a priority for 2013. Levenberry Jr. would be a big get for Georgia.
“He can play all three linebacker spots,” Levenberry Sr. said. “I personally think he is an outside linebacker. Some schools want him inside and some see him as outside. Georgia told him that he was versatile enough to play all four linebacker spots.”
The 6-foot-3, 223-pound junior and his father have left the door open for latecomers.
“Right now E.J. is looking at anyone who is looking at him, especially any school with as rich a tradition as Georgia,” Levenberry Sr. said. “E.J. saw the Herschel Walker ESPN documentary and was very impressed. So it is just a blessing to have an offer from any SEC school.”
The blessings have been plentiful, too. When asked for an update on which schools have offered, Levenberry Sr. needed to take a deep breath.
“He has offers from every school in the SEC except for Kentucky and every school in the ACC except for Wake Forest and Duke,” Levenberry Sr. said. “He has offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Oklahoma, USC, Washington, UCLA, Stanford -- he has got a lot.”
E.J.’s dad is helping his son wade through all the offers, and one issue stands out far above the rest.
“I don’t really care where he goes just so long as they meet our parameters,” Levenberry Sr. said. “My thing is the academics. He wants to be a business major. Everywhere you visit they show you the business school, but can you get in there? We are looking at everyone’s rosters and seeing what kids are majoring in. A lot of schools are doing just enough to keep kids eligible. A lot of kids are undeclared or general studies, or African-American studies or kinesiology.
“The NCAA says you have to have core courses in math, science, English and social studies. Well, look at most rosters and see how many kids and majoring in math, English, science or social studies.”
To that end the Levenberrys are taking notes and doing their own research, not taking anything at face value. Another criterion that they will evaluate involves the coaching staff and its stability, especially in light of how uncertain those staffs can be.
“The other thing for us is his relationship with the position coach, the person that is going to be coaching him and the defensive coordinator. The head coach can be just a figure head,” Levenberry Sr. said. “The guys you are going to deal with every day are the strength coach, the position coach and the defensive coordinator.
“I really thought he was headed to Oklahoma, but things change. Brent Venables went to Clemson. And E.J. really, really, really liked Tennessee. Tennessee was right there. When Peter Sirmon left and the defensive staff left, that threw that off. People say you should choose the school for the school but you choose the school and the coaches since that is who you have the relationship with.”
The Volunteers' loss likely will be another school’s gain. In the meantime the Levenberrys will continue to compile copious notes, as they did for Tennessee.
“He visited Tennessee and really liked the fans,” Levenberry Sr. said. “The fans knew who we were the second time he visited. They were yelling, chanting his name. And the amount of gear Tennessee gives out -- Tennessee gives their players five sweat suits and I don’t know how many T-shirts. To get into the business school you have to maintain a 2.7 GPA. The academic support they have is tremendous. They have this thing called ‘Vol for Life.’ If you don’t graduate, you can always come back and finish your degree at no cost. So when Sirmon left and the new defensive coordinator came in, E.J. hasn’t heard one word from the new coordinator. So things change every year.”
The Bulldogs are hoping that the new contract extensions for Mark Richt and Todd Grantham pay dividends on the recruiting trail as well.
“We will see,” Levenberry Sr. said.