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Cyrus Jones keeps them guessing

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Give Cyrus Jones credit for being more than just an electrifying football prospect. He also knows how to keep a secret. So do his friends.

The four-star athlete prospect from Baltimore Gilman has known where he'll play college football for nearly a month, but unless you're one of his closest friends or a family member, you're in the dark.

"They know not to tell anybody," said Jones, the nation's No. 33 prospect. "I trust them, so I decided to go ahead and tell them. I'm sure I can trust them. If not, then we're going to have some problems."

Keeping the secret means the surprise will be unveiled Thursday during the Under Armour All-America Game (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPNU). Jones is one of the prospects set to announce his decision during the telecast.

Jones has kept his timeline, and that's somewhat surprising, considering Ohio State shook up the recruiting world by hiring Urban Meyer. The national championship-winning coach nearly secured a visit from Jones in mid-December, thanks to Meyer's resume and the relationship that Jones already had with former interim head coach assistant Luke Fickell, now an assistant.

"I was really close to taking an official visit but after talking it over with my parents, I just didn't think it was the right place for me, so I decided not to take the visit," Jones said. "Coach Fickell, he's a great guy. He's been on me from the start, basically. He was one of the guys I was really close to in the recruiting process. We had a great relationship. I think the highest of him, and I wish him luck."

Meyer's presence in Columbus has been strong, but it wasn't strong enough to make up enough ground on Jones.

"No hard feelings with Ohio State, but I just had to do what's right for me," he said. "It was so last-minute I just didn't feel like I had to go out there and visit. I had my strong base of schools I was looking at. I didn't want to prolong it more than it already was."

Jones' strong base of schools once consisted of Alabama, Auburn, Maryland and Virginia Tech. Now, the Crimson Tide and Hokies have surged to the top.

It's hard not to think Alabama might be the quiet leader.

Nick Saban has made Jones a priority and assistant Sal Sunseri has done a masterful job of recruiting the Baltimore area.

"When you feel like you're wanted, that's definitely a place you want to look into very seriously," said Jones, who raved about his official visit in October to Tuscaloosa, Ala. "Who doesn't want to feel wanted some place? I definitely felt like I'm a priority for them, and they would love to have me and they feel as if I can do great things down there."

Virginia Tech has long been the quiet contender, even before Jones took his official visit there in September.

The Hokies have been in the running for Jones partly because of friendships. Jones knows several players from the Baltimore area on Virginia Tech's roster and his good friend, J.C. Coleman from Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith, is committed there.

"Me and J.C. have become pretty good friends," Jones said. "We talk often. Of course he's always in my ear. He's kind of sly with it. He just kind of puts his two cents in every now and then. It's not really a big push from him."

Tech seems to offer something other schools don't, at least in Jones' mind.

"It's a great academic school not only a strong football institution," Jones said. "That's why they're still around, offering the best of both worlds."

Relationships have been a strong factor in Jones' long recruitment.

Alabama assistant Sal Sunseri and Virginia Tech receivers coach Kevin Sherman have distinguished themselves from the many recruiters that tried to land Jones.

"Those two guys, they kind of became extended family almost," Jones said. "I was always in contact with them. Coach Sal and coach Sherman were up in Maryland every chance they could get when they had a break from their jobs of coaching.

"They just became close friends, not just coaches trying to get me to go to their school."

Yet the business relationship with one coach will soon end when Jones announces his decision.

One coach will be spurned.

Another will rejoice.

He'll have to deliver the news.

"It's definitely going to be hard but I feel as though if a coach truly cares about you as he says he does then he'll respect any decision you make and just know that you're trying to do the best thing for yourself and your family," Jones said. "It's going to be hard saying 'No' but I feel as if they'll understand."

More recruiters than Jones can remember have been crossed off the list. One turned Jones off when he compared him to former Florida receiver Percy Harvin, who now plays for the Minnesota Vikings.

"It's a good comparison," Jones said. "I definitely have some of the same traits he does. But I'm my own player. I want to be compared to Cyrus Jones and nobody else.

"I'm not like anybody else and I don't try to mimic anybody. I just try to be me every time I'm on the field. I don't really like being compared to other players."

Just who made the wrong move of comparing Jones to Harvin is another secret that Jones is keeping under wraps.

Dave Hooker covers Southeast and Atlantic Coast recruiting. He has covered recruiting and college football for more than a decade. Email him at davehookerespn@gmail.com.