BEAVERTON, Ore. — Donovan Peoples-Jones is taking a practical, if not unconventional, approach to the recruiting process.
The nation’s No. 6 overall prospect and No. 1 receiver in the 247Sports.com Composite rankings plans to take his official visits only to distant schools.
The Detroit Cass Tech senior is still considering a number of local schools — Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State are among them — but he has enough familiarity that it’s not necessary to spend one of his unique weekends getting the carpet treatment.
The NCAA only allows players to take five official visits and Peoples-Jones’ list sits at 10, so Florida, Florida State and USC are among those he’s considering for official visits, not U-M and MSU.
“I’m not taking any officials that are inside of my region,” he said. “Florida is one of the schools that’s in my Top 10 that are of region. It’s a good opportunity to see something new.”
Spending one of the valuable school-paid official visits to a nearby school where he already has friends seems restrictive to him, limiting his options instead of expanding them.
“(I have) easy access to the school,” he said of those nearby. “Michigan’s not far, Michigan State’s not far, the same with Notre Dame and Ohio State. I’ve been there a lot of times. I’m blessed with the opportunity to see any school I want, so I’m going to make the most of that.”
As the nation’s top receiver, Peoples-Jones is a coveted target, with Florida head coach Jim McElwain showing him Alabama film of what they did with Julio Jones and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher promoting their success.
Getting to see schools in different places — some which he’s seen in an unofficial capacity — this fall will be important.
“I’ll try to take close to all my officials,” he said. “Every school has its own different unique characteristics. I’m seeing what every school has to offer. I’m all ears right now and taking in information.”
The criteria for schools: “No. 1 academics, No. 2 I want to play with the best, No. 3 got to be in a comfortable environment.”
As is apparent by his process, Peoples-Jones said distance is not a factor. The Midwest schools still have a bit of an edge in familiarity because of those pre-existing friendships.
“I’m close to a lot of people,” he said, “Obviously I’m going to be close to the people that went to my high school, (Michigan’s) Jourdan Lewis, guys from Ohio State — Mike Weber, Damon Webb — I’d obviously be closer to them.”
This week in Oregon, it’s others who are trying to get close to him.
The Elite 11 is a quarterback-driven event, and the receivers and tight ends are there to help the QBs get a rhythm.
While Peoples-Jones hasn’t done much the first two days because of a hamstring injury, he understands the off-field relationships are important as well.
“He’s a little quiet, but I think I am myself in my nature,” said U-M 2017 quarterback commit Dylan McCaffrey. “I’ve really had to branch out of that at these things and try and open up to people so I can kind of relate to him from that. I haven’t had too much time with him, but I’m looking forward to the whole weekend.”
Peoples-Jones understands it goes both ways but, as the highest-ranked receiver and without a leaning, all the recruits are selling him, even if he’s not seeing those discussions as pitches.
“I’m just building my relationship with them,” Peoples-Jones said. “I’m not really worried about recruiting right now, just building that relationship and experience.”
When Peoples-Jones came to the Elite 11 and The Opening weekend, he was hoping to make a splash. A year ago, entering his junior year, he won the Nike Football Rating Championship at this event and now has a chance to defend his title.
“It’s a lot of motivation,” Peoples-Jones said. “I had a lot of fun last year and it was a great experience.”
He still isn’t sure whether he’ll be healthy enough for Friday’s testing.
But whether he participates or not, he knows this is where they’re being watched.
“This is a national showcase, a national spotlight, national media and the best players in the country,” he said.
Contact Mark Snyder: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mark__snyder.