SAN ANTONIO — Five-star defensive end Ray Drew always has a lot on his mind.
As a licensed minister, Drew regularly speaks to youth groups and has been preaching at Paradise Missionary Baptist Church in his hometown of Thomasville, Ga. for more than two years.
As the No. 3-ranked overall in the ESPNU 150, Drew (6-5/253) has collected more scholarship offers than most people could attempt to count while playing at Thomas County Central High School.
Drew has a clear definition of what he is looking for in potential college suitors.
“For me, personally, it’s going to come down to academics because football’s not going to last forever,” Drew said. “Secondly, I would say it is going to come down to relationships and if I feel comfortable at that school with who’s going to be coaching me, that type of deal. Thirdly, it would be playing time because I’m a player. If you love football the way you say you do, you would rather be on the field than the sideline any day.”
When it comes to making a decision about where he will play college football, Drew suddenly has other considerations to make. Recent coaching changes at Clemson and Florida have left him conflicted about which college will get his letter of intent National Signing Day.
“As a recruit, it weighs on you,” Drew said on Tuesday after his East team practice for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “It get down this close to making your decision and all these things that play factors into your final decision just blow up and go all out of place. You just sit down and think about stuff again, all over.”
Less than four weeks remain in the recruitment period. Most top players sign on Feb. 2, but occasionally players wait longer.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to visit (Florida) or not,” Drew said. “I threw them out of the running with everything that was going on.
“What I’m looking at with Florida right now is, as a defensive player there are really four people that you need to get to know: your head coach, your position coach, your strength and conditioning coach and your defensive coordinator.”
Drew announced he had eliminated UF from consideration following the resignation of Urban Meyer as the Gators’ head coach.
“At the time, when coach Meyer announced his resignation they didn’t have a defensive coordinator in place, they didn’t have a defensive line coach in place and I only met the strength and conditioning coach maybe once or twice,” Drew said. “It would kind of be like me going into a program blinded. Also, even though it has nothing to do with me, the offensive coordinator left as well. You really don’t know what to expect from them now.
“With everything going on this late in the recruiting process, if they were going to get back into the hunt with me, it would have to be something very drastic. It would be hard for them to get back in it.”
Florida head coach Will Muschamp will have to fight an uphill battle to sign Drew, but that hasn’t stopped the new coach from making the effort.
“I’ve talked with him twice,” Drew said. “One time, when I was up in New York I had to cut the conversation short because I was busy, but I called him back.”
Drew was in New York City as part of a promotion tour for Saturday’s game (1 p.m. NBC).
“I talked with him for a little while, he was talking about what he plans to do as far as defensive schemes and the people he planned to bring in,” Drew said. “He said he couldn’t really name them at the time because he was going to wait until after the (Outback) bowl to name anybody.”
The day after the Gators’ 37-24 win against Penn State, Muschamp announced the hiring of assistant coaches Aubrey Hill as receivers coach and Travaris Robinson as defensive backs coach and that announced that linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin, tight ends coach Brian White and running backs coach Stan Drayton will be retained from Meyer’s staff. White had been responsible for leading the recruitment of Drew.
“(Muschamp) wanted me to keep a close eye on the program,” Drew said. “He said that the people he was going to bring in were going to be top-notch people who had knowledge of the game and they knew exactly what they would be doing.”
A day after the first wave of coaching announcements, Muschamp announced the hiring of Charlie Weis as the Gators’ offensive coordinator, Frank Verducci as the offensive line coach/ running game coordinator and Dan Quinn as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach.
Drew has said he prefers to play weakside defensive end, as opposed to linebacker.
“Everywhere he’s been, they’ve run a 3-4 defense,” Drew said. “He said that right now, with taking over another program, he’s going to base the defensive scheme off of the players. If he has a bunch of players who seem like they can fit the 3-4 scheme better, then he’s going to move to a 3-4. If they fit the 4-3 scheme better, then he’s going to stay at a 4-3 for now. I think his ultimate goal is to get to a 3-4 there at Florida.”
Former Clemson defensive end coach Chris Rumph recruited Drew to sign with the Tigers, but Rumph took a similar position with Alabama on Tuesday morning. Drew learned of Rumph’s departure from Clemson after practice.
“I just found out, maybe three minutes ago, that coach Rumph was going to Alabama,” Drew said. “I can honestly say that coach Rumph was one of the coaches that I had a close relationship with there at Clemson. He was the one who recruited me from there.
“There’s just a lot going on, but that’s the nature of the game. You have to look at what’s going on with Florida, what’s going on with Michigan with coach (Rich) Rodriguez being fired, you’ve got coach Rumph going to Alabama, people moving around, but that’s the game.”
Drew lamented the changes in college coaching so close to national signing day, but accepted it as something he can’t control.
“It’s the nature of the business,” Drew said. “You can’t really fault the coaches for moving around whereas opportunity might lie elsewhere for them. You’ve gotta look at John Chavis, who was at Tennessee forever and now he’s with LSU. When I talked with him he said he plans to be there forever, but you never know. An opportunity presented itself to Chris Rumph, the money might have been better, with the economic times, for his family. It’s not just about him, it’s not that he’s being selfish, he has something other than himself to look out for. He has a wife, Miss Kila, and his two sons, Chris and Elijah. You can’t blame a man for wanting to take care of himself and his family.”
Rumph reportedly earned a raise from Clemson to $180,000 in May. His predecessor at Alabama, Bo Davis, earned $270,000 last year according to the Tuscaloosa News.
“With the whole coach Muschamp deal, if you have the opportunity to go from being a defensive coordinator to the head of your own program, more than likely you’re going to jump at the opportunity,” Drew said. “That’s the deal with coach Rumph. Even if he was going to be in the same position, if the monetary side of it was better — a lot of people say it’s not about the money; in reality, it really is.
“Whenever they bring people in on scholarship, they’re paying for you to go to that school, it’s an investment. It was a difficult decision for him, I know, more than likely. He played at South Carolina, he coached at their rival, he has the best of both there. Having to leave the state of South Carolina t go to Alabama and having to uproot his family and move them over and everything, there’s a lot that plays into it.”
Is Drew happy for Rumph?
“I am,” Drew said. “If that’s what he feels is his best fit, you can’t fault him for it. If that’s the best move for him and his family then he has to do it.”
Drew said he plans to contact Rumph this week.
“I talked to him not long ago,” Drew said. “Before, when I set up my official visit to Clemson, none of this had come into play. I will talk to him about it and see what his reasons were for it. Whether they were good or not, I have no say in it. It’s not like my opinion is going to change anything.”
Drew is still giving Clemson a great deal of consideration despite Rumph’s departure.
“Clemson is a nice place,” Drew said. “It’s a very humble feeling there, not only with coach Rumph, but coach (Kevin) Steele and coach (Billy) Napier, who’s no longer there.
“Coach (Dabo) Swinney, I’ve seen a lot of similarities between him and coach (Mark) Richt at Georgia and coach (Gene) Chizik from Auburn. All of them have about the same worries as far as what they want to base their programs around. With them being the type of people they are, they are going to do what’s best for the program, they are going to get in the type of people that are going to move that program forward.”
* * *
Drew plans to major in communications in college so he can utilize his natural disposition and ability to speak in public.
“I love to talk, I talk all the time anyway, I might as well get paid for it,” Drew said. “Getting the chance to talk about something I love, which is football and talking about sports, that makes it even better.”
Despite being in high school, Drew is already building a potential network for employment.
“Michael Strahan is my mentor,” Drew said. “He does a thing with Fox Sports, I’ve talked with some people from NBC about some stuff. If I could do something like SportsCenter or Fox Sports, that would be great, that’s my plan after football.”
Perhaps colleges interested in Drew should invite him to tour the journalism and broadcasting facilities instead of the trophy room?