May 19, 2008

Berry keeps the course

Recruiting has been in full swing for Miami (Fla.) Palmetto high school running back Jaamal Berry. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound four star already has more than 20 offers and is still hearing from many of college football's elite. The Rivals100 blue-chipper is ranked as the No. 37 player in the country with a combination of speed and strength that paid off with more than 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns in just ten games.

Berry was a top performer at the Gainesville (Fla.) NIKE camp and doesn't plan on sticking with the camp circuit this summer. School will let out in the first week of June and it will be business as usual for Berry in his off-season workout routine.

"I am going to keep up with what I have been doing," Berry said. "Working on explosion drills and box jumps. I will also go to Miami-Dade College and run the stairs and I am going to run the hills with the sled."

Currently Berry has the Buckeyes and the Florida Gators at the top of his list of schools but admits that there could be some fluctuation in his list as the summer progresses.

"Those are the only two schools that I have taken visits to so I really haven't seen anywhere else," Berry said. "After I go to a couple of schools after the summer it will probably change some."

But even with the promise of change there is one thing that won't change when it comes to Berry's recruitment.

"I really like Ohio State right now and they will be one in the top," Berry said.

While it might be a cliché to say that it was love at first sight but Berry was quick to say that the Buckeyes made a strong impression immediately and that Ohio State has set the bar very high.

"When I went up there for a visit I really fell in love with the place," Berry said. "There wasn't anything that I didn't like at all about it. I loved everything from the whole atmosphere and the academics were incredible. The facilities are great and they have a lot of tradition at that school."

Academically Berry would like to pursue a degree in either business or sports management while he is in college.

The Buckeyes have made recruiting the state of Florida a priority in past years and it has been playing off recently with many upper echelon Floridians heading North to Columbus. With the Buckeyes pursuing several top players including Brandon McGee and Vladimir Emilien does it play role in his decision making to get to play alongside players that he already knows well?

"It's a big thing but really at the end you are going to go where you are happy and that could be different for each of us," Berry said. "I already know a couple of people on the Ohio State right now. I know Etienne Sabino and I have talked with Michael Brewster."

And what have the two early enrollees from Florida told him about their brief time in Columbus?

"They say it is a great place and everything is cool around it and that it is hard to beat that place," Berry said. "(They have also said) the whole team is like a big family and they just love and breathe football there."

Berry is not the only running back out of the state of Florida that the Buckeyes are looking at with Ohio State being led to believe for Naples (Fla.) running back Carlos Hyde. Does the possible addition of Hyde do anything to sway Berry away?

"Wherever you are going to go you are going to have to compete for the starting position and that's wherever you go," Berry said. "He's a bigger back and I guess we have different running styles but the best back is going to play."

With or without Hyde in the class if Berry is to commit he will have players like Brandon Saine and Daniel Herron to compete with for carries.

"I just love competition honestly," Berry said. "I do everything to compete."

Does Berry have any sort of timetable for his recruitment that he would like to try and stick with?

"Time will tell but I am probably going to look at around seven schools and probably try and visit five schools but I don't know yet… I am going to talk it over with my mom," Berry said. "Then I will check those five schools and I guess after that I will make my decision."

Berry has talked about making an official visit to Columbus for the Big Ten finale against Michigan but that is still several months off for the Miami running back. Schools may come and go on and off of Berry's list but one thing will remain a constant.

"I will say that Ohio State will be in the mix the whole time though after falling in love with the place when I was up there," Berry said.

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