- Jc Shurburtt
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There is no question that most of the state of Alabama's top prospects stay in-state to play college football for either the Crimson Tide or the Auburn Tigers. In the Class of 2009, it appears that another talented player from the Yellowhammer State may indeed stick close to his hometown.
Linebacker Nico Johnson (Andalusia, Ala.) does not claim a leader at this point but says proximity will play a factor in his final decision when he makes it.
"Getting far away from home could be a big issue," Johnson said. "My mom is sick all the time and I need to stay close to here."
Johnson's mother Mamie is a diabetic.
At this point, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound ESPNU 150 member has five schools at the top of his list and under consideration.
"Right now, it's Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU and Texas A&M," Johnson said.
Johnson plans on heading to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Saturday night to watch the Crimson Tide play Clemson. The nation's second-ranked inside linebacker prospect says he is heading up to the game with a friend of his and didn't grow up a fan of Alabama or Auburn.
"I am just really going up there to see a good game," Johnson said. "I do hope Alabama wins because they are an in-state team and all. Both Alabama and Auburn are great programs and I like them both. I really have no leader right now. I can't really say when I will make a decision. It could be anywhere from next week until national signing day."
Johnson added there are several things he is going to weigh several factors when he makes visits.
"I am looking at the education first and foremost," Johnson said. "I want to major in criminal justice. I also am looking at what school gives me the best chance to start, so I will be looking at the two-deep."
Johnson also has been nursing an injury during the summer. He had to have surgery on his finger to repair some ligament damage suffered during a 7-on-7 event two months ago. He had surgery and is expected to be ready to go this weekend.
• Under Armour All-American Stephon Gilmore (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe) will make an unofficial visit to South Carolina tonight when the Gamecocks play host to the Wolfpack (8 p.m., ESPN). Gilmore is down to South Carolina, Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee and Florida State and is expected to be in Atlanta Saturday night to watch the Crimson Tide battle the Tigers (8 p.m., ABC). In addition to Gilmore, Southern California wide receiver commit Alshon Jeffrey (St. Matthews, S.C./Calhoun County) and ESPNU150 defensive lineman Chris Bonds (Columbia, S.C./Richland Northeast) both are expected at Williams-Brice Stadium as well. Jeffrey also is an Under Armour All-American and an ESPNU 150 selection.
• Two-way lineman Corey Gaines (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) says Iowa State is recruiting him the hardest at this time. He had an official visit set up for Sept. 6 to Ames but had to push that back. According to Gaines, the Cyclones coaches are trying to decide what side of the ball to play him on.
"(Iowa State recruiter and defensive coordinator) Wayne Bolt tells me that he wants me on defense, but he says other coaches want me on offense," Gaines said. "I told him that I would play anywhere."
Tennessee, Auburn, Rutgers, Tulane, Central Florida and South Florida also have been showing interest in Gaines.
• Athlete Mywan Jackson (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) is believed to be leaning toward the hometown South Florida Bulls, according to sources. Jackson also holds scholarship offers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Auburn, Michigan and Nebraska. Jackson is an explosive athlete who plays quarterback for Armwood, one of the top high school programs in the Tampa area.
• The recruitment of safety Jawanza Starling (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) is a battle between a hometown legend and one of his star pupils as Florida State and head coach Bobby Bowden are neck and neck with Mark Richt and Georgia. Richt was Bowden's offensive coordinator prior to taking the UGA job shortly after the 2000 season.
JC Shurburtt covers Southeast recruiting for ESPN.com.