Alabama athlete Malcolm Askew has plenty to consider as his junior season at McAdory High School reaches the second round of Class 6A state playoffs.
The 4-star prospect, who caught a touchdown in his team's postseason opener, reports he possesses 43 scholarship offers. The first arrived from Georgia when Askew camped in Athens before his sophomore season.
Early efforts by the Bulldogs staff continue to resonate more than a year later.
"Georgia is my leader," Askew said.
He landed on the radar of Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in middle school, when the coach first caught a glimpse of Askew during Alabama camps. The former Crimson Tide assistant didn't hesitate to extend an offer just a few years later.
"That's what makes it so special," Askew said. "He remembered me all that time before I got into high school and then Georgia became the first college that really made contact with me."
Below the Bulldogs, Clemson and Ole Miss sit No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, among his top choices at this stage. Askew is also focused on Florida and LSU, who will both receive visits this month.
"Those are the schools that stay in contact with me day in and day out," he said. "They all say I'm a top priority."
Clemson welcomed Askew to campus Saturday. He road-tripped to the university with a collection that included his parents and sister.
The group witnessed a pivotal victory for the Tigers, who defeated conference rival Florida State to remain unbeaten this fall.
"It was a big game for them and the atmosphere was great. Fans were loud the entire game and some of them actually knew who I was. My family and I really enjoyed the whole visit," Askew said.
Conversations with head coach Dabo Swinney and Clemson assistants further reinforced what he already knew about the team's intent.
"They made it clear how much they want me to become a part of the program," Askew said.
Aside from the Tigers' success—Askew predicts a national championship game appearance—he is drawn to team dynamics instilled by Swinney.
"Coach Dabo preaches about family there and every member of that staff is going to treat you like a son," Askew said. "Clemson has a great graduation rate and some of the best facilities in the country. There's a lot of good things going on there."
Ole Miss rounds out his Top 3 list, due again in large part to the attitude of its leader.
"I love [head coach Hugh] Freeze and talk to him every time I go down there," Askew said. "He's not one of those head coaches who stays in their office away from the crowd. Coach Freeze is just like any other position coach because he's that cool of a guy."
He enjoyed an NBA finals game alongside Freeze earlier this year. They watched the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors battle from the Rebels' team room in Oxford.
While Askew knows the order of his three favorites, he's not done sorting through an array of options.
"I'm taking a hard look at No. 4 and No. 5," Askew said.
As of now, expect LSU and Florida to fill those positions. The order of preference remains murky, but upcoming campus visits should help clear things up.
Askew will head to Gainesville on Nov. 21 for the Gators' game against Florida Atlantic. He previously established a rapport with members of Florida's first-year regime when they represented the Crimson Tide.
"On my first visit, it felt like Florida could be home. The coaches were treating me like they'd already known me a long time," Askew said. "I remember Coach Mac [head coach Jim McElwain] from Alabama camps and he's a great guy. I have a great relationship with [offensive coordinator Doug] Nussmeier from his days at Alabama too. They've know me for a while and it felt like family."
LSU, set to host Askew for a Nov. 14 game against Arkansas, also has ties to his early recruiting relationship with Nick Saban's staff.
"I spoke with [defensive coordinator Kevin] Steele a lot when he was at Alabama," Askew said. "As soon as he changed over to LSU, they became a much bigger contender for me even though I already had the offer from there. I had a great camp with them, love their facilities and campus."
Georgia, his favorite for now, faces uncertainty moving forward. Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt, now three years removed from an SEC division title and 4-3 against conference foes this season, seems to be facing more pressure than ever in Athens.
It's an element of the process Askew plans to closely monitor, especially since it could alter the entire Georgia staff.
"If Coach Pruitt leaves it would impact things a lot," he said. "I'll have to reevaluate things if there are coaching changes. I also like Georgia for its school environment, but that's why I don't want to make a commitment too early and continue to look at other schools."
Askew, rated sixth among 2017 prospects in his home state, is strongly considering schools with several coaches who've worked for the Crimson Tide. Ironically, Alabama itself isn't currently among primary contenders.
"Alabama is a great school and I've been there more times than I can count. I'm sure it could become one of my top schools toward the end but right now they're not really up there just because other schools are recruiting me harder," he said.
Askew, who lists himself at 5'11 ½" and 180 pounds, also carries scholarship offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oregon.
Most programs are targeting Askew as a defensive back, though some see room for growth in other roles. He mentioned Ole Miss as a team interested in him at wide receiver, while others are selling an opportunity to play on both sides of the football.
USC mentioned sophomore Adoree' Jackson during discussions. The former 5-star recruit lines up at defensive back and wide receiver for the Trojans, collecting 23 catches, 18 tackles and an interception through nine games this season.
Georgia, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State also envision two-way potential for the scintillating standout.
McAdory High School routinely runs a base cover-3 defensive package, according to Askew. This game plan requires him to cover significant ground at safety, though he's enjoyed cornerback reps during camp settings.
Askew took snaps at quarterback while growing up and remained behind center through freshman year of high school. He switched over to wide receiver and defensive back full-time as a sophomore but believes past experience at the position makes him well-equipped to read offensive attacks.
Ultimately, Askew feels his highest ceiling is probably found at cornerback.
"The NFL loves guys who can play man-to-man coverage, play on an island. I feel like I can be that type of guy. I think my best credentials will be on defense in the future," he said.