- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
Vincent Valentine Jr. is trying to take it slow. The problem is he has a little more than 36 hours to make a decision.
The three-star defensive tackle from Edwardsville, Ill., is down to a final three of Florida, Illinois and Nebraska. He took his last official visit on Jan. 20 and spent last week mulling his options over.
“This week has been crazy,” he said. “Nonstop coaches are calling me, Facebooking me and working me all day. All of my [high school] coaches are giving me their opinions.
“I just got to figure out where I want to be at. I’m trying to take it slow, but I don’t have that much time.”
Though Valentine claims a top three, it appears to be a two-team race between Illinois and Nebraska, which led for Valentine for quite some time heading into his Illinois visit Jan. 20. When he left he said things were even.
Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis and defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski visited Valentine last week, and the Illini sent defensive coordinator Tim Banks and line coach Keith Gilmore. Florida did not visit with Valentine last week.
“Nebraska is definitely a great, traditional program,” Valentine said. “They’re always consistent, and they have great coaches. They develop defensive players. On my visit I really bonded with the players and coaches and got a good feel for the campus.”
At Illinois, the coaching staff, despite being new, has made a major impression on Valentine. The one constant on the Illini staff is Gilmore, a holdover from the Ron Zook regime.
“The coaching staff is one of the best nation. They put guys in the league,” Valentine said. “I really like Illinois as a whole.
“I talked to some players and the chemistry broke down at the end of the year, so I didn’t want to hold it against them too much. And with the new staff things could be different.”
Valentine will announce his decision at 1 p.m. CT in a ceremony at his high school on Wednesday. He said he has an idea of where he wants to go but is still “skeptical” if it’s the right decision.
“This [last day] is going to be just me thinking, putting myself at those schools and getting a good feel,” Valentine said. “I’m going to be thinking about all the info and put the pieces together to make the right choice for me ultimately.”
547dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert