There are eight lucky schools still alive when it comes to the battle for the services of Camden (N.J.) Woodrow Wilson safety Antwine Perez. The 6-foot-1, 192-pounder with more than 40 written offers has set no geographical limits when it comes to choosing a school, so programs around the country are represented on his list.
"I'm down to eight final schools now and I plan on narrowing that down to five by the end of the summer," said Perez, one of the top safety prospects in the country. "My final eight is Southern Cal, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, Oklahoma and Ohio State."
Perez broke down what interests him the most about each school.
"With Southern Cal, it's the way the play freshmen and still win big. They also make their practices harder than the games so they're ready. My coach (Mike McBride) is good friends with my recruiting coach (Todd McNair), so I've known him for a long time.
"Georgia plays in the SEC, which is the best conference around so you always get to play against competition that will be in the NFL. The same goes for Florida, Tennessee and LSU. I really like coach Mallory at LSU. They were later to offer, but they recruit top players on defense. Florida is an elite program and I like the new coaching staff there. Tennessee has Turk McBride, who is my cousin so that gives them a little edge because he'd be there to show me around. But he could be gone to the NFL after this year, so that won't be a big factor to me."
"Michigan always produces good defensive backs and they have a great following. Ohio State was the first school out of my final eight to offer, they offered me really early. They also have a good tradition at defensive back and I really liked Mike Doss when he was there.
"Oklahoma has been one of the top programs in the country over the last 5-10 years and they have a great defense. Their defense is usually top five in most categories."
Perez, who will decide by mid-December so he can enroll at the school of his choice in January of 2006, has seen a few head coaches come through his school.
"Pete Carroll, Greg Schiano, Phil Fulmer, Jim Tressel have all be through and I think coach Miles from LSU might still come."
The only school of his final eight that he's visited so far is Tennessee.
"I'm hoping to get around to a few schools this summer," he said. "And I'll take at least four official visits most likely, maybe all five if I feel I need them. USC is one place I know I'd like to see this summer."
Four of his favorites, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma and Southern Cal, are also on the list of fellow New Jersey standout Myron Rolle. Rolle plans to commit in August. Will his commitment hurt or help any of the four in Perez's mind.
"I think it can only be a positive because Myron will challenge me and we can push each other to be better," he said. "I want to play with great players and we'd be a pretty good duo someplace. But in the end his decision won't factor in mine."
Perez was being recruited as a quarterback by programs like NC State, Virginia Tech and Boston College early. However, he feels the defensive side of the football is where his future lies.
"I love to hit and playing defense is always challenging," he said. "Quarterback is fun because you're involved in every play, but I think defense is the better choice in the long run. All of the schools on my final eight want me as a safety."