It's said that home is where the heart is, and that statement oftentimes rings true in the world of college football recruiting.
Proximity to home is a factor that many recruits look at when choosing a program, and while there are exceptions, there's no doubting the role "home-state advantage" has on the recruiting trail.
For 4-star running back Elijah Hood, the thought of staying closer to home has reportedly changed his recruiting process quite a bit. Hood has a previous top three of Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State according to Tom VanHaaren of ESPN.com (subscription required), but that could change because of proximity:
'I'm talking with my family and probably going to have to reconsider some of my schools,' he said. 'Just the ones further away. I kind of want to stay close to home I believe.'
Hood went on to discuss the change of heart a bit more, per VanHaaren:
'Family is really important to me and I kind of forget that sometimes. This time is going to be the last time I'll really be around them and I have certain family and friends who are older,' he said. 'It would mean the world for them to watch me in person because I don't know how long they'll be around. My family doesn't have the funds to make really long trips and it will make me happy to play closer to home.'
We oftentimes forget that these highly ranked recruits are indeed high school students going away to college as well. So often it's easy to focus on the recruiting and football aspect of things and completely disregard that much like it was for many of us—it's challenging to go away to school.
Being a college football player is undoubtedly a pressure packed endeavor, but these players also have normal every day college problems to deal with as well. Homework, social life (and sometimes social drama) all add to that pressure. Being away from home can sometimes be hard, especially if the recruit is family oriented.
When a recruit goes closer to home, it also makes it easier for his family and friends to follow his career and the program that he plays for. Not everyone can drive or fly cross country every weekend to watch a game, and even in today's media heavy culture, not every game for every program is easy to find.
Sometimes, staying closer to home makes the most sense. In the case of Hood, it seems to be a major factor.
This is bad news for his previous favorites up north—Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame—because Hood is a very good recruit.
He's 5'11.5'', 214 pounds and runs a 4.51 40 according to 247Sports. He's ranked as the No. 6 athlete in the 2014 class and the No. 2 player from the state of North Carolina, both according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. According to VanHaaren's report, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Georgia are three schools that Hood is taking a look at now, so it's rather obvious that staying close to home is indeed a priority based on those choices.
For Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame, there may not be much each program can pitch to change that preference. Ohio State and Notre Dame can focus on their national championship aspirations and how Hood would fit into both of their offenses (which he would), but their respective depth charts are both already pretty solid.
For Michigan, it has national championship hopes that are realistically a year or two away. Hood could be a big backup behind 2013 running back Derrick Green, and he could play for a very nationally relevant program. That said, Georgia can provide the same powerhouse potential, but in the SEC, and it's much closer to North Carolina than Michigan, Ohio State or Notre Dame is.
Of course, North Carolina now seems to have the home-state advantage, and Virginia Tech is a sleeper powerhouse in the ACC.
For every point for the up north schools, there's a counterpoint for the closer to home schools.
Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State certainly have the draw, the prestige and the ability to regain the lead for Hood, but considering how important staying close to home seems to be—it just doesn't seem realistic at this point.
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