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U.S. Army All-American Bowl: USF not off the table for QB Asiantii Woulard

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Fri. January 4, 2013 | Joel Anderson

U.S. Army All-American Bowl: USF not off the table for QB Asiantii Woulard

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Michael Woulard could see the future for his son in the final moments of the Sugar Bowl, when Louisville coach Charlie Strong and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater shared a triumphant embrace.

“I was thinking, ‘That could be him and (USF coach Willie) Taggart right there,” ’ he said.

That would be a dream scenario for Taggart and the Bulls, who are doggedly trying to convince his 6-foot-4, 17-year-old, four-star recruit son, Asiantii, to reconsider his earlier commitment to the program.

But Michael envisions the eldest of his four boys thriving at a lot of places, for a lot of schools, under a lot of coaches, whether a few dozen miles away in Tampa or somewhere in North Carolina, Kentucky or Arkansas.

So does Asiantii, who came to San Antonio this week to take part in festivities for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl despite his ongoing recovery from a broken left fibula. Asiantii has said he will hold off on making a decision Saturday, unlike many other recruits here who plan to follow the tradition of announcing their commitments during the game.

“Decided not to rush it & push it back a little to make sure I’m making the right decision,” he said via Twitter recently.

A week later — and still not quite back to full strength — he remains as elusive about his plans as he was on the field.

“I’m kind of trying to wait and see,” he said Friday, moments before the final practice of the week. “There’s a lot to consider.”

Asiantii, reigning MVP of the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp in California, was once the centerpiece of Skip Holtz’s recruiting class at USF. But when Holtz was fired last month, Asiantii withdrew his pledge.

He said Taggart and USF are still in the running though. He has an official visit scheduled for Kentucky next weekend and is considering North Carolina State, Arkansas and Tennessee, among others.

Former USF quarterback Matt Grothe recently summed up the feelings of hundreds of local college football fans in response to Asiantii’s tweet about his plans for 2013: “The real question though is …where will your college game be played at?”

Coy as ever, Asiantii didn’t respond.

Landing the Winter Park product would be a coup for Taggart, who lured many Florida prospects to Western Kentucky and landed the job at USF in no small part because of his recruiting abilities.

According to several recruiting services, Taggart has secured 16 commitments in his first recruiting class at USF. The tally: 11 are from Florida, seven are Tampa products, one is a quarterback and none are considered an elite four-star recruit.

“It would be meaningful to get (Asiantii) on board to show it’s cool to go to USF,” 247 recruiting analyst Josh Newberg said. “I don’t think he’s the only guy who can be successful under Willie Taggart’s system. But from rankings, hype and an excitement standpoint for the fans, he’s an important piece for 2013.”

Asiantii said he was unconcerned that Taggart had already secured a commitment from Fort Lauderdale University quarterback Mike White, a two-star prospect and leader of the Class 3A state champion.

“I would just go there and compete,” he said. “Competition only brings the best out of a person.”

He carried a similar attitude to Redondo Beach, Calif., in July, when he entered the Elite 11 camp without much of a resume or reputation outside of the Orlando area.

Asiantii emerged as the star among a group of more highly-touted prospects and eventually caught the eye of head instructor and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Trent Dilfer.

“He was the last guy (invited to the camp),” Dilfer told reporters at the time. “When we invited him, he was what we called a high-ceiling prospect. …I never thought he could do what he did. I’m blown away by him.”

His father wasn’t surprised.

Michael, a former high school quarterback from a family of quarterbacks in the New Smyrna Beach area, has been drilling his son on the finer points of the position for years. He later convinced his son to concentrate his efforts on football instead of basketball, where being 6-4 is rather unexceptional.

After spending his first two years playing receiver at Orlando Freedom High, Asiantii and his father moved into the Winter Park school district and decided his future would be throwing balls and not catching them.

“I knew where his abilities were,” Michael said.

Recruiting analysts and college coaches soon discovered them, too.

Since then, Asiantii and his father have deliberated — sometimes publicly — about where he might spend his fall Saturdays the next few years.

Asiantii has expressed an interest in N.C.  State via Twitter. His father told another media outlet that he might commit to Kentucky during his official visit. Asiantii has also been connected to Maryland, Mississippi and Rutgers.

But USF had been the favorite for almost a year, with Asiantii first offering his commitment to Holtz in February.
Taggart has resumed the program’s courtship of Asiantii, meeting with him several times in the past month.

“We speak a lot,” Asiantii said. “He’s a really good guy and I like being around him.”

Michael, who said his only preference is for a school that nurtures his son both academically and athletically, did permit himself one more vision of the future: making the 90-minute drive along Interstate 4 to all of his son’s home games with their large family in tow.

“I could be at every home game and some of the away games — the close ones,” he said.

For USF, the dream isn’t quite over.

U.S. Army All-American Bowl
When: 1 p.m. today
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio
TV: Ch. 8

Photo courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel.

Joel Anderson can be reached at janderson@tampabay.com or Twitter @jdhometeam.

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