Clifton Garrett is from Plainfield, Ill., which is in the heart of Big Ten country. But the 5-star outside linebacker has high interest in a few notable SEC schools, especially a certain school from Louisiana.
No, Ragin' Cajuns fans. That school is not Louisiana–Lafayette.
LSU is the top team on Garrett's 247Sports interest list, and in a recent phone interview with Bleacher Report, he confirmed that the Tigers were indeed his No. 1.
Garrett also had some interesting things to say about Tennessee and Ole Miss, though, so it's not as if his recruitment is a done deal.
Bleacher Report: Being from Illinois, how did you acquire such a strong interest in LSU?
Garrett: I've always had an interest in LSU since I was a little kid. I would be flipping through the channels and see those uniforms pop up, or see advertisements they did before the games. I would just see LSU. It was always the crazy atmosphere, all these people screaming with their face painted.
Once I started getting older and once this process started, LSU stuck out to me. That's a school always in the running for the national championship, great coaching staff, a nasty defense with a great D-coordinator [John Chavis]. I also have a good relationship with the head coach [Les Miles] and Coach Chavis, who will also be my position coach. That's just a plus for me.
LSU, you can't really go wrong picking that school. It's definitely still a hard option for me with other schools like Florida in the mix and Tennessee as well. It's definitely not going to be an easy choice.
B/R: So, LSU is your favorite?
CG: It's definitely my No. 1 team.
B/R: What's Les Miles like?
CG: He's a real fun guy. He's always asking me how my team is doing. He's getting in depth. 'How are the defensive lineman looking? How are the linebackers looking?' He's asking about every position, asking if there are other guys on the team that are standing out to me.
He's just really involved with his players' lives. He's always asking about my family. He talks to my mom sometimes.
He's a really fun guy. He definitely brings a lot of energy to the table.
B/R: LSU has sent a ton of defensive players to the NFL. How does that impact your decision?
CG: It doesn't impact my decision a lot. If you're good enough, the NFL is going to find you. It just shows how much the strength and conditioning staff works with their guys to get them ready for the NFL.
Coach Chavis does an amazing job of putting those guys in position to make plays that they make, so they can be eligible for the next level.
The coaching staff, they do a tremendous job with their guys. I can't give enough credit to the strength and conditioning staff as well.
B/R: What's the football culture like in Louisiana?
CG: They live, sleep and breathe LSU football down there. As soon as we got to the state, you just see LSU billboards. You're always seeing things about the Tigers.
Once you're driving through to get to the stadium, you just see this huge, enormous stadium come up out of nowhere. It's just amazing. They've got the Mississippi River not even a mile away on the other side of the practice facilities. It's just a really nice area down there.
B/R: Have you ever had Cajun food?
CG: No, not really.
B/R: Do you think you'd try it?
CG: Oh yeah, I'll try anything. As long as it's not looking nasty. I'll give it at least a try. I'm kind of a picky eater. But if it looks appealing to me, I'll try it.
B/R: It's pretty spicy...
CG: I love spicy stuff. I eat jalapeno peppers with basically everything I eat.
CG: I eat it with pizza, fried chicken. Anything that's kind of fried, I'll eat a hot pepper with it.
After discussing food, the conversation naturally turned back to football, specifically, a few other programs on Garrett's interest list.
B/R: Is Ole Miss a program you're looking at?
CG: It's definitely a school that I look at. I can't wait to get back down there for my official. It's going to be a great time for me because I get a chance to see LSU play away, and I get to see how Ole Miss plays against a school like LSU in person. It's going to be huge. I can't wait for that.
B/R: So you're going to take an official visit to the Ole Miss vs. LSU game?
B/R: What are your thoughts on Ole Miss?
CG: Their coaching staff is doing a tremendous job. Coach [Paul] Jackson in the weight room [is] getting those guys ready.They're definitely getting a good workout in down there.
I talked to [2013 Ole Miss signee] Laquon [Treadwell] a few times. He said, 'You're going to get a workout down there.' He said it's a real good time down there.
I went down for my visit four months ago. We went down there, and it was a really good time, really good atmosphere. It's a small town, but everyone knows everyone. Everyone knows who you are if you're on the football team. It's just a real good atmosphere down there. I liked it.
B/R: Tennessee is hot on the recruiting trail. Thoughts on the Volunteers?
CG: They're really high on my list as well. I talk to Coach [Butch] Jones all the time, and he's a real cool guy. I just want a chance to get down on the campus in Knoxville and meet everybody in person.
I've seen all the the virtual tours of the new facilities...It's really impressive on video, but I want to get down there and get a feel for the place. See what kind of vibe I'm getting off Knoxville itself, the people down there and the coaching staff.
B/R: How much does Tennessee's positive recruiting momentum factor in for you?
CG: I want to go in with a great recruiting class. Everybody's going to be hard working, everyone wants the same thing, to win a national championship.
I know all those guys in that class are real tight. I talk to Dillon Bates all the time, I talk to a lot of guys down there. They're real family-oriented down there in this class, and Coach Jones is definitely putting an emphasis on that.
I know those guys definitely love the work, and I know they've got a bunch of top guys in that group, so that's real exciting for them.
B/R: What's your top five?
CG: LSU at the top of the list. Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss and USC as well. (No order for the bottom four).
B/R: Official visits?
CG: I'm going to take all five officials. As of now, I just have Florida, Tennessee and Ole Miss set up. I'm going to be taking an unofficial visit to LSU when they play Texas A&M.
B/R: Decision date? What's your thought process?
CG: Sometime after the season. After I take all my officials, I'm going to definitely start sitting down and start getting real serious. Those five schools, going over the pros and cons of each school, it's definitely going to take me a few weeks to get all that stuff squared away.
If I'm not making a decision before the Army All-American Bowl, I'll be making one at the All-American Bowl.