If Taylor Layner had a dime for every college recruiter who told him how good he was, how he would be able to help any team with his bat and his arm, the Osceola senior would have enough money for a cup of Starbucks coffee.
But after hearing the same thing month after month, Layner finally heard something different this week:
Come play for us.
The call came from national power Florida State, coming off its 20th appearance in the College World Series and 33 straight seasons of 40 or more wins.
“It just kind of came out of nowhere,” said Layner, a lefty who projects as a two-way college player. “He said they want me to be a two-way guy, play the outfield and pitch. I like that. I don’t just want to be a pitcher. I don’t like when people look at me as just a pitcher.”
Though Layner was Pinellas County’s Pitcher of the Year in 2009 and a first-team all-county pick in 2010, his 5-foot-7 height has been a detriment when it comes to reeling in college scholarship offers.
But a steady and clutch stick, a mid to high 80s fastball and ability to pitch his best in big games has drawn interest.
Last weekend at a Prospect Wire tournament, he led his West Florida Shockers to the 18-under state championship. FSU, which had seen Layner a few weeks earlier at a tournament in Orlando, was in attendance and the Warrior responded with a 12-for-19 weekend, including four doubles, two triples and a home run. He drove in 12 runs and was 2-0 on the mound with 12 strikeouts in nine innings of scoreless ball.
“The kid just does things the right way,” wrote Prospect Wire assistant director of scouting Brian Werner on its website. “From basically sprinting around the bases on HRs, running 100 percent full speed on a pop up anywhere, hustling out ground balls, always looking to take the extra base … the kid just knows how to win. He’s been the most exciting player to watch in Pinellas for the last three years.”
Layner, who has had interest from roughly a dozen schools, including Virginia, had barely unpacked his bags from the weekend when FSU called Tuesday and made him his first offer.
“I knew something would come up,” Layner said. I’ve been waiting, so it’s a relief. A lot of schools were talking about how they liked this or that, but no one had backed up their words.”
Layner said FSU is giving him a few weeks to make a decision, and the Osceola star said he expects to be ready to make one soon.
REAY OF SUNSHINE: Robinson senior offensive lineman Richie Reay, who received an on-the-spot scholarship offer from Division I-A Florida International last spring despite no prior varsity football experience, has taken the Golden Panthers up on their generosity.
Reay, projected to start at left tackle for the Knights, committed to FIU on Thursday night, Robinson coach Mike DePue said. He had visited the Miami campus this past summer with some teammates and coaches.
“They’ve taken a seriously vested interest in him,” DePue said. “He felt that he was really wanted there and that’s the place he wanted to be.”
Reay (6-5, 260), a former Knights JV player who didn’t play football at all in 2009, so impressed FIU offensive line coach Alex Mirabal at a spring practice he was offered a scholarship immediately.
PROSPECT WATCH: There’s hope for the offense at Dunedin this season, thanks to a crop of tall, athletic receivers and the potential of junior quarterback Anthony Diviney.
The Falcon signal caller is entering his first year as a starter, but has long been one of Pinellas County’s best young quarterback prospects. He started one game last year, throwing for more than 100 yards in a loss to East Lake.
But the 5-11, 180-pound right-hander has been a camp and combine regular in the offseason, excelling each time.
Recently, Diviney took third in the senior division at Darin Slack’s Quarterback Academy in Orlando. Measured on arm strength and velocity in the morning, Diviney advanced to the Dual of the Dozen in the afternoon before his finish.
Diviney was also the quarterback MVP at a National Underclassmen Combine in Tampa in the spring and had some solid 7-on-7 showings over the summer.
He’s one to keep an eye on as the season opener approaches.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org