In a program full of impact prospects, there may not have been a more 'wow' type player for Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy during Thursday's scrimmage than five-star linebacker/rush end Samuel M'Pemba.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder lined up at linebacker and on the edge, making a few plays at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield.
At one time he was listed as an athlete capable of playing on either side of the ball, but he said that is in the past.
“I'm finished playing on offense,” said M'Pemba. “I'm going to be playing defense on the next level. I've been practicing playing different positions on defense, being moved around putting me in a position where the matchups allow me to make plays.”
Heading into the spring M'Pemba has been involved with a host of programs, including the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Missouri, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, and Texas A&M.
However, on Thursday evening he said that he is on the verge of cutting his list down dramatically.
“I'm probably going to have a top seven come out soon,” said M'Penda. “I'll be focusing on those schools and take my visits from that list.”
As for visits, over the past week, M'Penda has tweeted out June official visits to Notre Dame (6/17) and Oregon (6/24)
When asked, M'Pemba said that he doesn't have any outright leaders and hasn't finalized the list, but he does know of three programs that have made the cut.
“Georgia, Notre Dame, and Miami are on there,” said M'Pemba. “That's probably all I know of for right now and I'll add in the other three or four soon.”
Florida, which first hosted M'Pemba on campus last year and then twice this spring under the new staff, is in the hunt to be one of those four additional finalists.
The Gators received one of his final unofficial visits of the spring when he attended the Gators’ annual Orange & Blue Game.
"It was a lot like my other visit there except the atmosphere from the crowd was better," said M'Pemba. "I got to see the defense in action in a game atmosphere and talked to all of the coaches. Coach [Billy] Napier, Coach [Mike] Peterson, they let me know that they think I am a big priority for them and they really want to visit again and let me know how much they need me."
He visited both the Gators and Hurricanes twice over the spring.
Miami has secured a spot in his final seven, while Florida hasn't just yet.
What are the differences that he sees in the two programs?
“Between them, I like Miami a lot. The vibe there, the brand. It fits me. Florida's a great place as well because in a place like Gainesville it's easier to stay focused.”
The Inside Scoop: When a prospect won’t name a leader or leaders, the follow-up is always, ‘is there a program or two that you know will be there until the end?’ If there are, that is basically saying they lead, whether they want to state it or not. Things can change, but the fact that UF wasn't in that group of three for sure finalists, isn’t great news. It also wasn't good that he said the Miami vibe fit him better. Also, after changing after the scrimmage, he came out in a Georgia t-shirt. You can all but write in Georgia, Miami, Notre Dame, and Oregon as finalists. Home state Missouri is another good bet, leaving UF to fight for one of the two remaining spots. Even then, it might be hard to get an official visit. The Gators need Knijeah Harris to work some magic here.