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Plenty of hidden gems remain in the Class of 2012

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Mon. January 30, 2012 | Matt Baker | Email

Plenty of hidden gems remain in the Class of 2012

It’s easy to see why a Florida State recruiter traveled to Dade City last spring to see Jacob Guy.

The Pasco High School senior quarterback stands 6 feet 5, 200 pounds. He was the Tampa Bay Times’ reigning North Suncoast Player of the Year, an accurate passer with a strong arm and unflappable poise.

After the Seminoles coach sized up Guy, he turned to Pirates coach Tom McHugh and asked the question others have wondered before and since: Why doesn’t he have more offers?
McHugh was speechless.

“Beats me,” McHugh said during the season as Guy led Pasco to the Class 5A state semifinals. “I’ve talked to them. I don’t know what they’re looking for.”

As recruits from across Tampa Bay and the country sign with majors colleges Wednesday, others will be overlooked or underappreciated. They’ll slip through the cracks.

Some can’t overcome their lack of size.

Palm Harbor University quarterback Billy Pavlock only recently picked up his first offer, from Division II Ferris State, after a 24-touchdown, 2,000-yard senior season, but recruiters must look past his 5-foot-11 frame. Plant receiver Austin Aikens has a handful of offers, but his 6-foot height overshadows his 40-inch vertical and 13 touchdowns for the Class 8A state champions.

Hernando’s Malcolm Hudson was a Times’ all-Suncoast pick and a Florida Athletic Coaches Association all-star after recording 55 tackles at defensive tackle. Several D-II and D-III schools have been in touch, while Miami, USF and Jacksonville are interested in him as a walk-on.

Because he’s 5-11 and 235 pounds, colleges will likely have to move him to linebacker or safety. With no film of him playing those positions, recruiters have been hesitant. Hudson tells his mother, Georgia, that coaches approach him like they’re buying a car.

“You want a car you know is going to run right,” Georgia said, “not the one you think will.”

And then there’s Guy.

The three-star recruit and the Times’ all-Suncoast quarterback has offers from Ohio, UMass and Western Michigan. Miami (Ohio) and Memphis have shown interest of late, and Florida has offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on after he broke Pasco County single-season records in touchdowns (42) and yards (2,672) — records that were held by Drew Weatherford, who started at FSU.

But BCS programs haven’t extended him a scholarship.

“It’s amazing to me that by word of mouth and what he’s done this year, his stats on the field haven’t produced more interest in him,” Rivals analyst Chris Nee said.

Like most high school passers, Guy isn’t a finished product, Nee said. His footwork and mechanics need refining, but there are no major issues. His competition was weak, so it’s harder to evaluate his results — especially at the most hotly contested, highly scrutinized position.

Colleges only sign one or two quarterbacks a year, so there are about 180 open slots. Because the position is so valuable, colleges recruit quarterbacks nationally rather than regionally. Of Rivals’ 18 four- or five-star QB prospects, 11 are committed to schools outside of their home state. That means a lot of competition for players like Guy and Jesuit’s 6-foot-5 QB, Tommy Eveld, who is thinking about walking on at USF.

With so many top prospects vying for so few spots, every throwing hitch and hiccup is judged and rejudged. Before UF offensive coordinator Charlie Weis took the head coaching job at Kansas, Weis sat with Guy in his Gainesville office and told him that quarterbacks are the most scrutinized players in all of sports.

“You throw five touchdowns and one pick-six,” Guy said after one practice this fall, “everyone’s going to remember that pick-six.”

Sometimes overlooked players turn into stars. Robinson’s Javier Arenas was considering Florida Atlantic and Florida A&M before Alabama offered him a few days before signing day. Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy slipped to Toledo, where he was the team’s second-leading receiver as a sophomore and the Military Bowl MVP.

Georgia Hudson thinks her son can be like them. That’s why, with one day remaining before the signing period begins, she’s contacting as many coaches and recruiters as she can, hoping someone gives her son a chance.

“You just keep calling,” Georgia Hudson said. “When one door’s closed, hopefully another one opens. We know it will. It’s just a matter of when.”

More: Our Facebook friends weigh in on more under-the-radar athletes

Signing day 2012
Have offers, visits or commitments we should know about? Want to send us photos from your signing day ceremony Wednesday? Shoot us an email at hometeam@tampabay.

Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com.

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