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Freshman QB Landi eager to line up, anywhere



Landi TAMPA -- He has been the surprise star of spring football at USF, a freshman praised nearly daily by coach Jim Leavitt.

On Saturday, as the Bulls play their spring game at Raymond James Stadium, fans will get their first look at the versatile Evan Landi, a former all-state safety brought to USF to play quarterback who will also line up at receiver and even as holder on kicks.

Think the 6-foot-3, 214-pound freshman is versatile because he can line up nearly anywhere? You should see him on ice.

"I do remember him. He was quite a player," says Dale DeGray, general manager of the Owen Sound Attack, a junior hockey franchise in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada. "He was a tremendous athlete, but we knew he was a pretty good quarterback, so we didn't think it was going to truly be in the cards."

Landi spent a weekend in Ontario, during a bye week in football season his senior year at Coral Springs Charter School. He showed enough promise -- his personal scouting report on himself is as a "tall, physical defenseman" -- to be offered a spot on the Attack roster, which just a year earlier had Bobby Ryan, now a high-scoring rookie with the Anaheim Ducks.

"It was a tough decision," Landi said Friday. "I had to figure out what I loved to do more."

And so Landi is a football player, enjoying his first year at USF and excited for Saturday's debut and the positional flexibility that helped him choose the Bulls. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier liked him as a wide receiver, and other schools recruited him as a linebacker, but Leavitt promised him a chance to prove himself as a quarterback -- he'll guide the White team during at least the second half of today's scrimmage.

Landi and fellow freshman B.J. Daniels are competing to be the top backup to rising senior Matt Grothe, and eventually for the starting job in 2010. Ask Leavitt what he likes about Landi, and fittingly, it's a little bit of everything.

"To me, he's really special," Leavitt said. "His leadership, his mentality, his want to be better every day. He's a very good athlete, very composed, very tough, very physical. He has very good hands, runs good routes, he's very coachable. No matter what's happening, he's always positive, doesn't get down."

Landi, who turns 19 on Wednesday, had more than football and hockey on his resume, starring in baseball and basketball as well. The Landis are a multi-sport family, as his parents met as athletes at Central Florida, where Mike was a receiver on the football team and Dee played basketball. His older sister Justine was a first-team All-Big East selection last fall in volleyball, leading Louisville to a Big East championship.

"She's the star in the family," said Landi, who showed his brotherly loyalty as a high school senior by wearing a Louisville T-shirt on USF's campus while attending one of her matches ... after he'd committed to the Bulls.

For all the family ties to UCF, the Knights didn't recruit him out of high school, a slight that didn't bother Landi because he saw the persistence that assistant coach Larry Scott showed in recruiting him to come to Tampa.

"I was a little surprised, but it didn't really bother me," Landi said of UCF. "I liked USF, obviously, so no biggie there."

His parents will be in Tampa on Saturday to see the spring game, where Landi will see action at receiver and behind center. Leavitt still isn't sure what position Landi's future is at, but for now, he'll continue to be impressed with him everywhere he lines up.

"I don't know where he'll play," Leavitt said. "Can he play quarterback for us? Yes. I'm convinced of it. Can he play receiver for us? Yes. Could he play DB? I think he could, but he probably won't get over to that side. I told him 'I'm so happy you're here.'"

Landi knows where he'll be playing Saturday -- at Raymond James, where even a modest spring crowd, likely around 5,000 fans, will be the biggest he's played in front of, with bigger crowds and bigger games to come this fall.

"That will kill the largest crowd I've played for," said Landi, whose graduating class at Coral Springs was about 175. "With hockey, I wouldn't have gotten the college experience, so I'm excited about playing in a big stadium."

(Times photo by Willie J. Allen Jr.)

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 6:15pm]


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