The Southeastern Conference has produced the last seven BCS National Champions, and recruits outside of the Southeast have taken notice.
Dwight Morrow (Englewood, N.J.) athlete Juwann Winfree is tucked away in the northeast corner of the country, but he, like many others, has seen what SEC teams have accomplished over the last decade plus.
"I grew up a huge SEC fan," Winfree said. "My favorite team growing up was Florida. I used to love Florida. I know the SEC is just big time. It is the best conference in college football right now. They have the best players in the country most of the time. They definitely have the biggest players and the most dominant teams. When it comes to ranked teams, they are always near the top."
As someone who grew up following teams in the SEC closely Winfree didn't think he would get the opportunity to play there.
According to the New Jersey native, things have just recently started to pick up in his recruitment.
"It's all going great," he said. "The recruiting process is very hectic for me right now. This is something that is a dream come true. It is something that I've always looked forward to having. It finally came true. I didn't think it was going to happen because the only school that was interested in me for a long time was Rutgers. I kind of wanted to go farther away than that. Then schools started coming. Pitt gave me an offer, and then things started going crazy. I mean, next season hasn't even started yet and it is all surprising."
After receiving offers from South Carolina and Vanderbilt in 2013, Winfree got his third SEC offer from Georgia this week, but according to the Garden State star, it wasn't as easy as just a simple phone call.
"It is kind of funny, actually," Winfree said of the Georgia offer. "Last week they were trying to get in touch with me and they couldn't. I wasn't around. Then when we tried to get back in touch with them, we tried a couple of times and they weren't around. We kept trading voicemails, then a week ago we got in touch and they were telling me what they liked about me and stuff. The offer didn't come but I told myself I was just going to be patient. Then, on Tuesday, my coach let me know that they had an offer for me."
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Winfree already has a high opinion of the UGA program.
"I was excited. It is a huge offer because it's Georgia," he said. "My dad likes them. My family is down there. It is in the SEC. They have great receivers. I know that Coach Mark Richt is a great coach, but I don't know much about the program. I just know it is a huge program and it is a dominant program."
One of the reasons Georgia is on Winfree's radar is the fact that he has family in the Columbus and Atlanta area, and having family in the Peach State puts UGA in a situation where it can offer him more than most other schools that are far from home.
"It is big having family down there (Georgia) because it is like I could go there and still feel at home," he said. "I would have support behind me down there. It means I could go somewhere that I have comfort and support so that also makes it a great offer."
As is the case with many recruits, the big question is whether or not Winfree is willing to play his college ball outside of the region he grew up in.
According to the 6-foot-2, 180-pound playmaker, he is willing to leave home, but he isn't sure just how far he is willing to go.
"Most recruits usually come from like the Florida and Georgia area or the west coast or Texas area. So it is big for me to get these offers," Winfree said. "I want to stay on the East Coast. I don't want to go too far. A place like Georgia or South Carolina is good, but I don't want to go too far. I still have more research to do so I don't want to limit myself yet, but that is what I'm thinking right now. Mainly, I just want to go where I fit best and, right now, I don't want to be that far away from home but I'm not going to limit myself."
New offers are bound to come in the next few months that affect Winfree's recruitment, but in the meantime, he has a busy schedule with visits and camps.
"I plan on visiting Rutgers on March 30 for a quick visit there," he said. "I'm also going to the Rivals Under Armour Camp in Virginia on April 14. I'm probably going to go to Maryland for their spring game on April 12. I hope that I can get down to South Carolina, Georgia, and Vanderbilt during the spring, but if I can't I might have to wait until spring."
While he may have to move quickly to see all of the schools on his list in the near future, one thing Winfree won't rush is his decision.
"Right now I think I'll decide around signing day," he said. "I think that is when I'll do it."
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