It was his first year carrying the full load for Jacksonville (Fla.) Raines, but 2014 running back Alex Gardner more than held his own - and now college programs are taking notice.
Gardner finished the year with 997 yards rushing and four total touchdowns, helping Raines secure a playoff berth. Since his season ended he's received interest from Duke, Vanderbilt, Iowa State and Cal as well as visits at school from Miami and Louisville coaches.
"A lot of them have told me they're watching me closely and waiting to see how I look in the spring," Gardner said. "Miami [football operations coordinator] Coach Hurlie Brown said they want to see me in person down at their camp next year."
Article Continues Below
The teams in contact the longest have been the Blue Devils and the Commodores, with Gardner taking a visit for Duke's win over North Carolina earlier this fall.
"That was a great game," Gardner said. "I met some of the coaches and they really made me feel at home. The atmosphere was really impressive."
Gardner said academics are going to play a big part in his decision and Duke fits the criteria.
"They have great academics," he said. "That's another reason why I wanted to get up there and get a closer look."
If it weren't for the distance, Gardner said he also would have liked to have taken a trip to Cal during the fall. Either way, the Bears are still a very intriguing option for him and he's not concerned about the distance.
"Distance doesn't matter," he said. "The new staff has shown some interest and hopefully we talk soon because I would like to try to make it there for a visit."
In the meantime, Gardner said he's focused on bulking up in the offseason while also improving his speed. He's hoping increased athleticism will pay off when he hits the camp circuit.
"I'm going to go to a lot of camps," he said. "I'm going to go to Tennessee, Miami, hopefully California and Notre Dame as well."
Gardner added that if all goes according to plan, his first offer will come sometime in the spring.
"A lot of schools told me they'll be down to see me again in the spring," he said. "I'll continue to work hard and I think if I impress them then the offers will start coming."