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October 13, 2003In four of five games this season, Leon Hart of Columbia (S.C.) Spring Valley High School has graded out at 90 percent or higher. He also has 39 knockdowns on the season. His team is off to a 3-2 start but Hart has no worries about the team's record. He still feels that Spring Valley is in good position to make a run at the playoffs and the state crown in South Carolina.
Hart currently lists 21 offers and told InsidetheGators.net that he is looking hard at eight schools at this point in time. Hart listed in no particular order that South Carolina, Clemson, Ohio State, Virginia, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia are leading the pack of 21 offers. Hart has received phone calls from all the 21 schools that have offered him and then some.
"I have gotten phone calls from schools that I had to let them know I probably wouldn't be interested in going to their college," Hart said.
Hart has made it down to Athens, Ga., and the quick trip over to Williams Brice Stadium this season to take in a few games. He saw Georgia host South Carolina and South Carolina host Virginia.
"As far as Georgia, it really heightened my interest in Georgia. The whole experience was a lot different from when I went down there for the spring game," Hart said. "I have been to a lot of South Carolina games so I really felt the same vibe as before. I felt real comfortable being around there."
Hart doesn't have any officials set up but mentioned he was going to take some more unofficial trips before the season is over. Hart plans on attending the Georgia-Tennessee game in Knoxville on Oct. 11. Hart also noted that he is making plans on attending a game in Gainesville to watch the Gators play, but has not yet picked out which game to attend.
Hart's reasons for having Florida in his top eight are many. One of the main reasons is defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who held the same position at South Carolina the previous few seasons.
"He is a big part of the interest in Florida," Hart said. "I really like the offensive line coach (Joe Wickline) too."
Along with Strong and Wickline, Hart added that he has also forged great relationships with Virginia tight ends coach Andy Heck and South Carolina offensive coordinator Skip Holtz.
"I feel like I have a good bond with them as far as them being straight forward with me," Hart said. "They are letting me know that I can come in and compete for a job."
The eight schools that sit atop Hart's list are anxiously awaiting word from the 6-4, 290-pound lineman about his decision where to officially visit. But they are just going to have to wait a tad bit longer.
"I have been telling a lot of reporters that I will have a definite top five by Thanksgiving and that is where I will be taking my official visits," Hart said.
However, Hart did mention that one school may not have to wait that long for word.
"I know for a fact that that South Carolina is going to be one of them," Hart said. "I wouldn't say they are a leader but I know for sure because I have been to plenty of their games. I know the whole atmosphere so if there was a top five, not saying they are the leader but I know that is one of the places I am interested in."
Hart, like every other prospect in the nation has a criteria of what he is looking for in a program. But unlike some prospects who consider playing time a top priority, Hart looks at it from a different angle.
"I guess you could say the main things are just how I fit in with the coaches and how I feel comfortable with the program," Hart said. "I am looking at some depth charts but I have no problem coming in an redshirting my first year, which is probably realistic."
Hart also mentioned that the only school outside the Southeast that is getting serious consideration is Ohio State. He said that he would like to stay in the Southeast so his family can watch him play on Saturdays.
"The schools in that top eight I believe I will cut off three schools and I will have my top five," Hart added. "I don't think any other school is going to sneak into the picture."
Spring Valley teammate Mack Frost is also a highly sought-after prospect. The defensive lineman has much of the same offers as Hart does and Hart adds that playing with one of his best friends would be an added bonus.
"We haven't talked about it but if we end up at the same university it will be because of our own individual decision," Hart said.
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