Saturday, September 22, 2018
Prep Sports Report

Armwood’s James Miller, TBT’s Jonathan King continue Tampa Bay exodus to Indiana

Armwood linebacker James Miller and Tampa Bay Tech defensive lineman Jonathan King waited until Wednesday to announce their college decisions.

Both were expected to stay in state.

After all, Miller had an offer from Florida State. King had one from Florida.

But instead …

Each picked Indiana, a school rapidly becoming a prime destination for some of the bay area's top players.

Miller and King joined Tampa Bay Tech quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (an early enrollee) and Plant linebacker Micah McFadden, who both signed during December's early period, in the Hoosiers' latest haul of locals.

Penix was the Tampa Bay Times' all-area offensive player of the year. Miller was the defensive player of the year.

In all, Indiana landed four players on the HomeTeam top 25 list of area seniors, more than Florida (two), FSU (three), USF (one) and Miami (none).

This is not a fluke.

For the past three years, the Hoosiers have gone toe-to-toe with the state's premier college programs over local recruits and come away with more than their share.

With the addition of four area stars from this class, Indiana will have 13 locals on the roster, most of any Division I-A program in the country.

What makes this run more impressive is that the Hoosiers have maintained a stranglehold in the area despite losing offensive line coach Greg Frey, a Clearwater graduate and key recruiter. Frey went to Michigan for one season before joining the Seminoles last month.

He is now battling with Indiana for some of the same kids.

The biggest factor for local prospects still wanting to go to Indiana is coach Tom Allen.

"I just like what Coach Allen has going up there," Miller said.

Though Allen is an Indiana native, he has ties to the area. Allen coached now-defunct Temple Heights Christian to a playoff berth in 1994 and was Taggart's defensive coordinator at USF in 2015.

His son, Thomas, went to Plant and was the Tampa Bay Times' defensive player of the year in 2016. Thomas joined his dad at Indiana and is among five Panthers who will be on this year's roster.

The local connection was enough to sway Miller, a three-star recruit, from the gravitational pull with FSU.

"I was set (Wednesday morning)," Miller said. "Tuesday night I was still leaning toward FSU, but I kept going back and forth. I talked to God and my mom and then made my decision.

Miller's reasons for going to Indiana were due in part to the friendships he had with the area players already in Bloomington.

"It played somewhat of a role knowing those guys were up there," Miller said.

During Miller's official visit, he got to spend time with Penix and former Plant standouts Whop Philyor and Thomas Allen.

"Indiana just felt like family," Miller said.

King said plenty of college coaches talk about what their program could do for him on the field.

Allen took a different approach.

"Sometimes coaches take a business standpoint," King said. "It is a business, but that doesn't mean you can't like the people you're around. I just liked (Allen's) approach. He talked to me about becoming a man and being a husband and a father to my kids down the road.

"His approach to me was outside of football where everyone else was football, football, football. The sport itself was always going to a main topic. I felt like me being mature and becoming a man was what was most important and that's what Coach talked about."