Auburn and Alabama are both favorites to secure the services of Oxford, Ala. running back Racean "Roc" Thomas, but don't write it in ink that the 5-star prospect in the 247Sports composite will be staying in-state.
The 5'11", 196-pounder participated in the IMG 7v7 National Championships last week and was very outspoken in his desire to keep his options open in an interview with 247Sports.com (via: Matt Scalici of AL.com).
LSU, Oregon, Ole Miss and Georgia are all in the mix, but another SEC program could join the increasingly large group of big-time programs vying for his services.
"If Florida starts recruiting me hard, then I guess they'll come into the mix," Thomas told Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover.com.
If that isn't an invitation, I'm not sure what is.
Matt Jones would be an upper classman for the Gators when Thomas starts his career, and he could form a stout tandem with incoming freshman Kelvin Taylor.
It sounds like Thomas is searching for something that is invaluable during the recruiting process—leverage.
In the 247Sports' crystal ball, which is an invaluable tool that gives recruiting experts the opportunity to make and adjust predictions for top prospects based on conversations, 94 percent of participants have Thomas going to Auburn and the remaining six percent (one vote) is in favor of the Crimson Tide.
It's clear that staying within the confines of the Alabama borders is big, but the teams Thomas favors indicates that he could be playing big-time programs against each other and isn't totally set on staying in-state.
Florida would join LSU, Alabama and Georgia as big-time programs that use a more traditional running scheme; while Auburn, Ole Miss and Oregon employ variations of a run-based spread attack.
He's approaching the recruiting process in a very responsible way. Recruiting is the only time a prospect has leverage until he signs his second NFL contract. With so much fluidity in coaching staffs, schemes and recruiting rankings, if you're not sure, open it up to as many programs as possible and invite competition.
Despite Thomas' rather large list and lobbying efforts, the two in-state schools appear to be in good shape.
"It's a good place," Thomas said regarding Auburn. "They've got a great program. They've got a great tradition. Great coaches."
He would provide some stability once the current trio of juniors—Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant—move on. He's big enough to take the pounding between the tackles and dangerous in space, which is what head coach Gus Malzahn wants in a running back.
But that behemoth across the state may have something to say about that.
Thomas would join a loaded backfield in Tuscaloosa, with at least one more season of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, Altee Tenpenny, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara and about 824 more running backs waiting in the wings (only a slight exaggeration).
"They're recruiting me pretty hard," he said. "I try to contact them like two days a week every week."
It's hard to argue with success. Alabama has sent four running backs (Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy) to the NFL in the first three rounds of the draft since head coach Nick Saban took over before the 2007 season.
Thomas' recruitment will be fascinating. Alabama is in the midst of a dynasty and is hard to turn down for running backs, but Auburn's long-term success at the running back position is hard to ignore. Toss in several other programs into the mix—all of which have produced quality running backs in a variety of ways—and we have the recipe for a big-time recruiting battle for one of the top prospects in the country.