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Prized Florida LB Grayson Howard Ready For Slate of Visits, Talks Recruitment

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Andrew Jackson (Fla.) linebacker Grayson Howard is coming off a junior season that saw him total 157 total tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and an interception. The 6'3", 215lbs standout from Jacksonville now has the attention of colleges across the country, and he is gearing up for a slate of visits. 

"I've got three visits, back-to-back-to-back. South Carolina on the 15th, then Tennessee on the 22nd, then the 3rd visit on the 29th, I will be at Clemson," Howard told Sports Illustrated. 

Howard holds over 20 Division 1 offers, and ideally, he would like to visit all of the schools which have extended offers, but he notes those three schools have worked their way up his list. 

"Those are the ones that are making their way up towards the top of the list," Howard said. "They have separated themselves a little bit. It would be good to get around the other 23 programs and learn about them and the players I could possibly be playing with all over the country." 

"A lot of them talk about the inside," Howard said of a potential position fit at the next level. "I think once I get to the next level, I will be able to change or do what I need to, but right now, it is definitely inside." 

Howard's first trip will be a return trip to Columbia to see Shane Beamer's second-year program, and he likes what he has seen from the head ball coach and the family feel. 

"Coach Beamer is a phenomenal coach," Howard said of what stands out about the South Carolina program. "It is obvious to see what he has done with the program in the last year. He is a family guy, so when I go up there, it is all built around family. From Coach Beamer to the GA's to the strength coach, Coach Day, I am family with everybody, and it is just a big family up there." 

The message from the Gamecocks has been simple. 

Definitely, my leadership and versatility, being able to be that dominate force on their defense," Howard said about what the Gamecocks have told him about why he is a priority for them. "Being able to help the team to an SEC championship and a national championship and all of those good things. They are really interested in me, which I really appreciate."

Howard visited South Carolina most recently in November, and he came away impressed. He will look to use this upcoming visit to build on his relationship with the staff. 

"The initial trips, it was a family atmosphere and a beautiful campus," he said. "I went to the Kentucky game and saw the foundation they are building upon. I am looking forward to continuing to build on that with this visit."

Tennessee got Howard to campus over the Summer, and he was impressed with Josh Heupel's program in year one. 

"Definitely like what Coach Heupel is doing," Howard said of what stands out about the Vols. "It is amazing watching them on TV. It is electrifying. Coach BJ, Coach Banks and Coach (Tyson) Kee, I am really close to them. They saw me at the Mercer camp, then offered me after I talked to the staff later on. I was really excited. I talked with Coach Banks and Coach BJ when I went up there, and it was just unbelievable learning their background of coaching top-tier linebackers and watching film with them to see where I fit in their defense and how I could have an impact. Just like any other SEC campus, Tennessee has top-notch facilities."

"A lot of it is character and versatility," Howard said about what the Vols have told him they like the most about him. " I think those are my two best attributes. What I could bring to their program in terms of leadership and being able to learn early and put it out. I think those are my best attributes too."

Having the previous visit on the books with Tennessee will allow him to dive even deeper into the program this time around. 

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"My initial visit there was definitely the relationships and a beautiful campus," Howard said of what stood out on his previous trip to Rocky Top. "I am looking forward to definitely learning about and knowing some of the players and getting deeper into the schemes and everything like that." 

Clemson is an offer that meant a lot to Howard, and he is excited to get to learn more about Dabo Swinney's program. 

"Just the rich tradition," Howard said about what stands out with Dabo Swinney's program. "I grew up watching them. I would watch videos of them on YouTube before my games in middle school and work hard to think about that and have it as motivation to be there one day. Now, it is a blessing that I have that opportunity, and that is a program that I really have an interest in. Their family tradition, winning tradition, and talent they have produced also. I definitely admire Isaiah Simmons. He was a versatile player that came from Clemson, so having that role model also coming from that program." 

Clemson, like the other two, has been to the point with Howard about what they like about him.

"They like my football aspects and my character, along with having a 3.8 in the classroom and being a good person," Howard said. " Before they offered me, Coach Goodwin and I had developed a phenomenal relationship outside of football and all of that. We talk every day and let each other know how we are doing." 

This will be Howard's first trip to campus to check out the Tigers, and it will just be about seeing those relationships in person. 

" I am beyond excited about seeing the program, learning everything, and meeting the coaches in person," Howard said. " I had a couple of coaches reach out about that, and I am just excited to meet them." 

Howard was a late riser in the process, and he feels his game grew even more during his junior season. 

"I definitely think consistency," he said when asked of this. "Going into my junior year, I was so consistent. Being that dominant person on the field they had to gameplan for. Being that force where my coach could count on me on every single down, every single quarter, it was just definitely being consistent. "

Still, with a looming college decision and senior season ahead of him, Howard remains focused on improving on a daily basis. 

"The first thing would definitely be getting bigger, stronger, and faster. That is the first step. The next step is improving my IQ. My head coach, Coach Foy, is one of the best coaches I have ever been around. He is a great example of that (IQ), and he teaches me what he sees on the field. On the field, would be getting some more interceptions, forced fumbles and scoring on defense."

Howard will work every day to improve his game before getting to the next level, but he is well aware of the major decision that awaits him. 

"I think relationships are a huge thing," he said of what is most important for him with making a college decision. "For the next three to four years, I think it is going to be important to be around people that you love being around and people that you want to work hard for. That is what is going to win you national championships and win you games and build bonds. Those types of relationships are going to be important for the rest of your life, so I definitely want to surround myself with the right people."

Howard is not certain of a timeline, but he does have an idea in mind. 

"I don't really know at this point," Howard said of this. "It has just been a blessing as I am taking it all in. I am early enrolling, so I think I might drop a top schools list in the spring or early Summer, then I will most likely be choosing my school on early signing day and then early enroll."