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Wednesday, Aug 16, 2017
Home Team

Many top prep athletes still seeking initial college offer

TAMPA - If you were a high school quarterback, you would want the stats Tommy Eveld rolled up last season as a Jesuit senior: 2,326 yards and 20 touchdowns passing, with an another 111 yards and three TDs rushing. But if you were the same Eveld, who one week from National Signing Day is still waiting for a major college scholarship offer, well, you may not want to trade places. "It's frustrating sometimes but it's out of my control,'' said the 6-foot-5, 185-pound Eveld. "At this point, I feel like whatever happens, happens.'' With signing day looming, Eveld is one of several area prep football athletes sitting atop impressive numbers and performances but, for a variety of reasons, have few or no college scholarship offers.
For them, the offers either haven't come, have disappeared or have come from schools either too small or too far from home — or both. In Eveld's case, he has only managed to land a grey shirt offer from Western Kentucky and a preferred walk-on invitation from South Florida, where his brother, Bobby Eveld, is a sophomore quarterback. Grey shirts are offered to incoming freshmen who wait until their second semester to start their college eligibility. Preferred walk-ons are recruited by a school but typically not given a scholarship until the following year. Jesuit coach James Harrell says the quarterback spot is a particularly difficult position to earn a scholarship offer. For starters, it's specialized, where athletes tend to play only that position and cannot be utilized elsewhere. Secondly, Harrell says, there is a growing trend for colleges to go after a high school quarterback early, during their junior season or sooner, and lock into the player after receiving a commitment. Players like Eveld and Plant quarterback James Few, who led the Panthers to the Class 8A state title, produced big numbers during their senior seasons. But because they had to play behind other standouts until their senior year, they have sometimes missed out on many of the offers given to quarterbacks by Division I schools. Few, however, is one of the top students at Plant and is considering academically prestigious schools like Cornell and Lehigh. "If you look across the county, at all the quarterbacks who got offers at that position, almost all of them got them earlier than later,'' Harrell said. "Most of the schools I've tried to get (Eveld) on with, they've already got four guys on scholarship now (at QB) and the reality of it all is, most freshmen are going to redshirt anyway.'' Even when prep players do get scholarship offers, they sometimes come with strings. Some colleges have been known to offer more scholarships than they actually have available and even pull scholarship offers. Last year, Armwood coach Sean Callahan said Purdue withdrew its offer to receiver A.J. King over the Boilermakers' concerns about the type of surgery performed on an injured knee. As a result, Callahan banned Purdue from recruiting on his campus. This year, Callahan says he has had no such issues from college recruiters. Bobbie Holder, the father of Tampa Catholic senior cornerback Tyree Holder, says his son was pressured by the previous coaching staff at Washington State to commit early. And that, Bobbie said, was a red flag. Instead, Tyree recently committed to Ball State, where Bobbie said the lines of communication were always clear. "We didn't like being pressured (by Washington State),'' Bobbie Holder said. "We weren't going to let him go somewhere where they tried something like that.'' Former Florida State star receiver Lawrence Dawsey, who went on to play in the NFL, including with the Buccaneers, is now a recruiter in the Tampa Bay area for the Seminoles. He says FSU doesn't over-offer scholarships or pressure athletes to commit early. For him, the key to the recruiting process is building strong relationships. "There's never a problem finding talent,'' Dawsey said. "You have to find the right kid and have the right relationship before signing day.'' Veteran high school coach Dominick Ciao of Berkeley Prep says he has seen plenty of good players capable of playing college football never get the chance. In some ways, Ciao says, it often comes down to patience because some offers come well after signing day, when colleges learn players have de-committed or don't meet academic eligibility standards. In any case, Ciao says the recruiting process is often frustrating and almost always complicated. Unfortunately, not all recruits are holding the same cards as his star athlete, Nelson Agholor, who has offers from just about every major program in the country. "As the high school coach, you're never really sure what's going on with the college recruiter and at the end of the day, it's never really in your hands,'' Ciao said. "All you can do is put your players in front of college coaches and hope they believe your player is the right guy. "I tell our players, 'Until you've signed the paperwork on signing day, you're never really sure if it's for real.' ''

wward@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7456

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