Orlando (Fla.) East River three-star outside linebacker Ryne Rankin used his spring break to hit the road and check out a number of schools. His recent tour took him to Florida State, Georgia, N.C. State, Ole Miss, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, and West Virginia.
"I have seen about 15 schools now," Rankin said at the end of the road trip.
For the 6-foot-1, 231-pound linebacker, the trips allow him to gain an insight into the programs and people that are recruiting him.
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"It helps me out a lot because when the schools come down in the spring to talk with you and possibly offer you, you already know what their school looks like, what the atmosphere is like, how the coaches are, and what the people at the schools are like," Rankin said.
The visits have helped to craft a vision of what Rankin is looking for in his collegiate home.
"I am looking at the atmosphere of it because you are going to be there for four or five years," Rankin said. "As you saw last year with all of the coaching changes, that could happen at any time. You can't go just for the coaches, but you can go for the people that are there and how the people act in the community around the school and the fanbase. You can go for that. You can't always go for the coaches, because that can shake-up and change."
At this stage, Rankin doesn't claim any leaders but said a few schools have made a strong impression.
"I know Penn State is up there, Ole Miss is up there, and I will throw Cincinnati in there because they were the first team to offer me, to believe in me," Rankin said.
A visit to Penn State occurred during Rankin's most recent travels. He landed an offer from the Nittany Lions during the visit.
"The new coaching staff at Penn State with Coach (Bill) O'Brien, he was going out there and going after them boys," Rankin said. "It was exciting to watch that. It was an upbeat, up-tempo practice and they really get after it.
"I like the tradition and the atmosphere," Rankin added. "To be a linebacker and have a chance to play at Linebacker U, that is a great opportunity."
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze made an impression when Rankin made it Oxford to check out the Rebels during the trip.
"At Ole Miss they have a new coaching staff and they were real nice," Rankin said. "They aren't a coaching staff that is going to go out there and cuss you up and down. They are going to teach you fundamentals and work with you. There may be a cuss word here and there but they seem more like a religious type of coaches.
"They were also my first SEC offer," Rankin added. "That was a big deal to me. "
This most recent tour did not take Rankin to Cincinnati, but he is very familiar with the Bearcats. Rankin's father, Marc, played at Cincinnati in the late 80's and early 90's.
"I have a good relationship with Coach (Mark) Elder," Rankin said of Cincinnati. "I like how they were the first school to offer me and they have been there a long time."
As for upcoming visits, Rankin said he may visit Texas A&M for their spring game during April. That is the only upcoming visit he is planning at this time. The Aggies offered this past week.
With offers from Arizona, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Duke, Kansas, Louisville, N.C. State, Ole Miss, Penn State, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Temple, Texas A&M, UCF, Western Kentucky, and West Virginia, Rankin said the focus is to narrow things down to a shorter list of options and work towards a decision.
"I could narrow it down some right now but I haven't quite done that just yet," Rankin said. "I plan to commit probably at the end of spring football, before summer, because I am planning to do early enrollment. I want my senior year to be just about playing football and working out, not about recruiting and where I am going."
Rankin believes Georgia is the team closest to offering him.
As a junior, Rankin recorded 189 tackles, seven sacks, forced eight fumbles, recovered four fumbles, and also had an interception.