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Richard Benjamin knew the verbal offers would come, eventually.
But all this, in the first week of spring practice?
“It’s been nonstop,” said Benjamin, the gifted Middleton sophomore wide receiver and defensive back who is ranked No. 1 in the 2013 class by the St. Petersburg Times.
“I can’t even explain how happy I am,” he said. “Happy and humble.”
In the first week of spring practice, Benjamin is quickly emerging as the area’s most sought-after football player, with nine offers already.
He got his first verbal scholarship offer in January from Kansas, then waited a few months for his second, from USF.
But after a strong spring in which he proved he belonged among the state’s elite recruits, colleges were bound to be impressed once they got a chance to eye him at practices.
“I didn’t imagine it would be like this, that’s why I’m so shocked,” said Benjamin, a big playmaker for the Tigers last season. “Miami and FSU were the first two schools that really just surprised me. And because they were my favorite two teams, it surprised me even more.”
But Benjamin said he’s staying grounded — “I still have two more years of high school football” — and has no problem doing so.
“Either way, no matter if someone is at practice or not, I’m working hard,” he said. “I work hard all the way around.”
It will undoubtedly continue to pay off. He hopes to land offers from Oregon and LSU, two more of his favorite schools, and could have an offer from another big name in the next week or so.
“Monte Kiffin from USC was here Tuesday, I shook his hand,” Benjamin said. “My coach was talking to him. He said he wanted to see how big I was. He liked my highlight tape and said I have the big size (6-0, 182 pounds) and the big body and soon, I’d have an offer.”
Benjamin has been hot this spring, but here are others just warming up, and the offers should start coming any day now.
Brandon Teeling, Armwood (2012): Brimming with potential and making the switch from DL to OL. Schools like Cincinnati and Western Michigan have expressed interest.
Ryan Green, St. Petersburg Catholic (2013): Has his sights set on 2,000 yards in 2011. Purdue, USF and USC, visitors to practice this week, may be close to making a decision.
Charles Booth and Will Watson, Jefferson (2012): Booth, a speedy slot receiver, has a great highlight film, and Watson is a strong defensive back. A handful of schools have been taking notes this week, including Troy, Bowling Green and Virginia.
Dazmond Patterson, Plant City (2012): We’ve said it 100 times: if he was a bit taller, there’d be no question that colleges would be clamoring for him. As it is, he’s just too good not to get an offer, and UCF is interested.
Tommy Eveld, Jesuit (2012): Has no film to speak of, which is hurting him, but had a good offseason. The quarterbacks coach from Bowling Green will be by next week so that first offer could be near.
Kenny Blanch, Palm Harbor University (2012): New coach Matt Lepain would love to feature him this spring and fall out of the power-I, though he could also play receiver.
Shawn Barker and Chris Skukalek, Largo (2012): The Packers linemen are going somewhere. Florida A&M is all over Barker, and Skukalek has been visited by Duke, Tulane, Kent State, Charleston Southern and Louisiana Lafayette, along with three other schools he has unofficially visited.
Jalen Butler, Plant City (2012): I asked Dazmond Patterson to choose one player on his team that would get the next big college offer, and he said Butler before I finished the question. Northwestern has been courting the linebacker.
Antonio Crawford, Plant (2012): We’re not sure what the delay is with colleges. He’s got 4.5 speed, really developed as a solid DB last year and is an offensive threat at multiple positions. Soon, says coach Bob Weiner.
Drew Madhu, Plant (2012): Defensive backs coach Bo Puckett has been singing his praises since forever. Good speed, good hitter; his time is coming.
Javaris Little, Lakewood (2012): “Stud”, says Spartans coach Cory Moore. USC has been by; Purdue, Duke and Noth Carolina could be ready to offer the cornerback with the 3.8 GPA.
Darryl Richardson, Armwood (2013): The 6-5, 235-pound quarterback will be loaded up with offers in a matter of days. He’s just too good and too big to pass up.