Football

All eyes on Wake Forest as NC’s top recruit, Dexter Lawrence, makes decision

Dexter Lawrence (71) penetrates the line at Wake Forest HS football practice on August 13, 2015. Dexter is the #1-ranked player in the nation, a 6-foot-4, 330-pound defensive lineman.
Dexter Lawrence (71) penetrates the line at Wake Forest HS football practice on August 13, 2015. Dexter is the #1-ranked player in the nation, a 6-foot-4, 330-pound defensive lineman. cseward@newsobserver.com

Reggie Lucas has seen this all before.

The scouts, the rumors, the speculation, the never-ending questions. The recruitment.

So as his star football player prepares to make one of this year’s most-anticipated college decisions in Wake County prep athletics on Monday, Lucas will be just as surprised as everyone who’s been waiting.

Wake Forest senior defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence has narrowed his choices and will announce his decision in the school’s auditorium at 3:30 p.m. Monday.

“We’re just excited and happy for Dexter,” said Lucas, who saw standout running back Bryce Love through a big recruitment a season ago. “I think everyone is anxious to know what school he’s going to choose. They’re asking me if I know. I’m waiting on Monday just like everybody else. It’s just kind of a buzz right now about where Dexter is going to go to school.”

Lawrence, a 6-foot-5, 335-pound lineman, visited Clemson on Nov. 7. Alabama’s Nick Saban conducted an in-home visit on Wednesday.

North Carolina’s top football recruit of 2016 will hit his final official visit at N.C. State this weekend, days before the decision.

Lucas said Lawrence’s top three choices include Alabama, Clemson and N.C. State. Florida and UNC may still be in the running, too.

“You may see all of those hats. Those five schools were definitely in the mix,” Lucas said.

During Lawrence’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey presentation on Nov. 10, when he was fresh off his Clemson visit, he still had defending national champion Ohio State high on the list.

“Standing out is Alabama, Florida, Clemson, (N.C.) State, UNC and Ohio State,” Lawrence said. “Clemson, it was a great atmosphere out there. The fan base was good. The coaches really treated me well, and the players were pretty cool, too.”

I don’t think he can make a bad decision.

Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas on his five-star recruit

Though the Cap-8 player of the year’s moves have intrigued the Wake Forest community, his recruitment differed from that of Love, who now plays for Stanford.

Lawrence, a five-star recruit who is No. 3 overall in the nation, will be leaving high school early for his college of choice after slicing some 22 offers.

“By Dexter leaving school early, it really changes things,” Lucas said. “Bryce was being recruited up into the spring. It’s really different. Dexter was there through the process with Bryce, and we just kind of learned from that situation.”

At this point, Lucas said he’s given Lawrence, who had been recruited since his freshman season at Wake Forest, all the advice he may need.

“I’ve been advising Dexter throughout,” Lucas said. “I’m in more of a supportive role now. I want him to know whatever decision he makes, I’m going to be there for him.

“I don’t think he can make a bad decision.”

The Cougars’ season unexpectedly ended in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA playoffs with a loss to Greensboro Page on Nov. 20. Lawrence was hoping to win a state championship to close his high school football career after being on the title stage twice in three seasons.

He finished with 91 tackles and a conference-leading 13 sacks (112 yards lost) this year. He led the Cougars with 21 tackles for loss.

“Dexter’s size is uncanny for a high school athlete,” Lucas said. “He’s 6-5, 335 pounds. His ability comes with that. He’s running right at a 5.0 40. His quickness is second to none with guys his size. I think his speed and athletic ability is phenomenal for a kid his size. I think that makes him special.”

His impact also goes beyond the football field, Lucas added, noting college coaches desire well-rounded recruits.

In all, Lawrence earlier expressed how much he’s enjoyed the support of his family, friends, peers and community.

“It just feels great that they all supported me through this process the whole time,” Lawrence said. “(I) just learned that they have my back and I have theirs.”

Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan

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