Largo’s Donavan Hale and Clearwater Central Catholic’s Jeff Smith Jr. are dual-threat quarterbacks who each led their teams to the playoffs as first-year starters last season.
The two also are dual-sport athletes who now have to play the game of choice with each deciding for entirely different reasons which sport is best in regards to their college future.
Hale might be an even bigger star in basketball. He led his AAU team to two tournament titles last summer and the 6-foot-3 guard is ranked as the 13th best prospect in the state for the class of 2015 by ESPN.com. Last month, he got his first offer from Florida State, the same school where his father, former Packer standout Ron Hale, once was a star.
The Seminoles’ basketball offer does not come with a stipulation to drop football in high school.
“The only thing FSU has said is that they hope I choose basketball and come there to play,” said Hale, who also has been receiving interest from Mississippi State and Tennessee, among others.
Picking basketball, though, is not a slam dunk. This week, Hale got a football offer from Louisville, his first from a major Divison I school in that sport. Hale has no idea what position he would play in football. Louisville offered for him to play safety. He could get offers as a quarterback or receiver.
“I like football, too, and I don’t care what position I play,” Hale said. “It’s such a tough choice.”
Hale will play spring football in May and anticipates picking up more offers then. After that, the focus will shift to basketball with a barnstorming tour of national tournaments and camps with his AAU team, which is similar to the schedule he had last year.
“Honestly, I can’t even say which way I’m leaning because I’ve got big-time offers in both sports,” Hale said. “I probably won’t make up my mind until the last minute.”
Smith’s decision is more clear. He plans to play football, especially after leading the Marauders to Class 3A state championship game and picking up his first offer from Wisconsin last month.
Other Big Ten schools such as Indiana and Northwestern could come through with offers after watching Smith in workouts during spring football.
Trouble is, Smith might not be there.
He also plays baseball for CCC, which is 19-0 and expected to make a deep run in the playoffs. That means Smith could miss nearly all of spring football, which happened last year when the Marauders advanced to the state semifinals.
This year there is more at stake with his football future. Smith said he should be able to work out a deal that would allow him to be at football practices this spring whenever colleges are scheduled to appear.
“It’ll be tough not to be there the whole time in football, but I’m talking with the baseball coach (Todd Vaughan) and we should be able to hash something out,” Smith said.
CCC football coach John Davis said he will not interfere.
“Of course I would love to have Jeff here,” Davis said. “I think it would be important for his college options. But that’s between Jeff and the baseball coach. All I know is I’m staying out of it.”
Smith said he is not sure whether he will play baseball as a senior.
“If I’ve already decided which school I’m going to attend in football, it would probably be tough to come back and play baseball,” he said.
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BobbyHomeTeam.