Lee County (Ga.) linebacker prospect Jaron Willis is committed to play football for Geoff Collins and Georgia Tech next season, but the South Georgia product decided to unofficially visit Florida State for the Seminoles’ season opener versus Notre Dame on Sunday.
“Just seeing the big-time environment in a big-time game, even though Florida State didn’t come out on top of that game, you can see the fans’ energy — you could feel it, you could definitely hear it,” said Willis of the game atmosphere. “It was just good vibes and good energy, and it made you want to play a little bit harder with all the fans into it.”
Willis, who is 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, ranks as the 19th best linebacker and the 158th best overall prospect in the 2022 class. Willis has called Florida State his “dream school” multiple times publicly since April and decided to attend a game in hopes of witnessing how his advertised position (Stud linebacker) would be utilized against the Fighting Irish as well as the crowd atmosphere during the game. Willis was also in Atlanta on Saturday, attending Georgia Tech’s season opener, a loss to Northern Illinois.
“It just answered some questions that I always wanted to ask of what type of defense I see myself fitting in,” said Willis. “Seeing the defensive playing style, seeing how they coach their players, seeing how the coaches call the games, and seeing the environment of what it’s like to be on both sides of Georgia Tech and Florida State.”
A primary concern for Willis is how his talents will be utilized at the next level. Willis says he prefers a position that plays outside the box, closer resembling a safety. A “hybrid safety” or nickel safety role is what Willis plans to play at Georgia Tech, while the Stud linebacker position is where the FSU staff sees Willis being successful in Adam Fuller’s defense. Willis explained what he saw during the game, and where his thoughts are in that regard after seeing both the Yellow Jackets and the Seminoles in week 1.
“It just really hit the nail on the coffin with Georgia Tech,” said Willis. “I think I would be a better fit as a hybrid safety with (Georgia Tech) … With Florida State, I actually think I’d be a better outside linebacker with them. How they use Amari Gainer and how he can come off the edge and be in zone and just be that stud in that Stud position and how he just comes down and hits people. I always wanted that question answered and I finally got to see both teams in action. I felt pretty good about my answers.”
Willis also shared his thoughts on the importance of winning games, and what exactly he is looking for from the teams he is interested in this season.
“It’s about seeing what I can bring to the table for each team to help them get a better chance of winning games,” said Willis. “I don’t really look at the winning records, even though I do want to win. I really want to see how both teams handle adversity when they lose, and I could say that might really define what the outcome could be with each team.”
Willis has already taken three of his five possible official visits, including a June 4 visit to Arkansas, a June 11 visit to Georgia Tech and a June 25 visit to Florida State. He does intend to use all five of his official visits, and Willis said one of them will most likely be a trip to Gainesville. He also said he plans to catch another Florida State game this fall as well as another Georgia Tech game. Ole Miss is another program Willis is interested in as he attended the matchup with Louisville in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game on Monday in Atlanta.
After a packed weekend of football, the Leesburg native shared his thoughts on where Florida State stands within his recruitment.
“I’m still pretty heavy-hearted on Georgia Tech right now, but Florida State never fails to make a huge impact and really open up my eyes about what they can really do and what I really just see myself doing,” Willis said. “And asking if I see myself going there and seeing what type of environment it is, so seeing both teams in action is something I always planned on and I finally got to see it.”