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THE RECRUITING GUY: Four-star LB flashes ability to handle safety spot

by Richard Davenport | February 23, 2021 at 2:11 a.m.

Four-star linebacker Jaron Willis is a major priority for University of Arkansas linebackers coach Michael Scherer for good reason.

Willis, 6-2, 220 pounds, of Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County has accumulated scholarship offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Texas A&M, Miami, Nebraska and numerous others.

"Jaron is a good-size kid with real good athleticism and explosiveness," Lee County Coach Dean Fabrizio said. "He has the size of a backer and moves like a safety."

He recorded 57 tackles, 2 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions and 6 pass breakups for the 12-2 Trojans, who fell 34-31 in overtime to Buford in the Class 6A state title game. It was Lee County's third state title game appearance since 2017 after winning two previous titles.

Willis traded texts messages on Monday afternoon with Scherer and special teams coordinator Scott Fountain, who recruits his area.

"They're expecting me to come in and make a big impact for the team," Willis said.

ESPN rates Willis a 4-star prospect, the No. 9 safety and No. 136 overall prospect for the 2022 class. He has the skill set and ability to play multiple positions in the Hogs' defensive scheme.

"He sees me not only just as a linebacker but also as a safety, too," Willis said of Scherer. "Just being a good hybrid rover guy. I could do a lot of things on the defense."

Willis announced his top 10 schools on Jan. 2, but said the list is no longer valid.

"I think I was trying to rush everything in my recruitment," Willis said.

Arkansas has made major inroads since extending an offer Jan. 28.

"They're definitely up there," he said.

Willis explained why he's so fond of the Razorbacks.

"The relationship me and Coach Scherer has has been great, and for them knowing what I can do on the field," Willis said. "I believe they can help me set my goals, and I can help them set the team goals. Of course they're always showing me love."

He wears No. 6, a jersey number that signifies excellence at Lee County.

"He wears No. 6, and the two previous guys both play in the SEC," Fabrizio said. "Otis Reese was a starter at Ole Miss, and Jammie Robinson just transferred and was a two-year starter at South Carolina. He just transferred to Florida State.

"That's a pretty big number here for guys to wear, and he's following that tradition."

National recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network visited with Willis on Friday as part of his nationwide tour visiting top prospects across the country. He rates him a 4-star-plus recruit, which is just shy of being a 5-star prospect.

"Willis is outstanding. He's a safety with linebacker size," Lemming said. "Exceptional quick twitch athlete with big-time speed. He's a great kid who has a terrific work ethic and never takes a play off, and is one of the more athletic defenders in the state of Georgia. Very competitive."

His highlight video shows an aggressive and hard-hitting defender.

"I'm from down south Georgia, so we bring a different physicality to the game," Willis said. "I'm always playing like I'm mad at something."

Willis has a good idea what he plans to major in while in college.

"Definitely sports broadcasting. I always want to talk about sports," he said.

He is expecting to do a virtual visit with Arkansas in the near future.

"Definitely doing a virtual visit with them," he said. "We just have to set it up. It's coming soon."

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