TAMPA — In recruiting jargon, a football player is often dubbed an "athlete" when his skills aren't limited to a single position or even one side of the ball.
Guito Ervilus, by nearly any jargon, is an athlete.
The USF signee didn't take up football until his sophomore year at Orlando's Oak Ridge High, when football coach Elijah Williams convinced the basketball player to try on a set of pads. With a lean 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame, Ervilus has lined up as a receiver, tight end, defensive end and linebacker; so while his first look as a Bull will be at defensive end, that's really just a starting point.
"He could end up anywhere," said Williams, himself a former Florida running back who wound up playing defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons from 1998 to 2001.
A four-minute YouTube highlight video of Ervilus, which says he runs a 4.56-second 40-yard dash and has a 38-inch vertical leap, is a dizzying collection of plays all over the field: a leaping catch, a quick-step sack, a pancake block on a running play. Ask USF's assistants, and there's a broad excitement about Guito Ervilus — that's GEE-to, with a hard G — as a raw talent to be molded into a college football player in the next few years.
"The guy I got really excited about at the end was Guito Ervilus," said defensive tackles coach Kevin Patrick, who played defensive end at Miami. "That kid right there, when you look at athletes and guys who can do more than one thing, he's a guy you could put anywhere on that field, with the exception of maybe offensive line, and he could play. That's what he brings to the table."
Last spring, Ervilus was on the radar of all the state's top programs, and even Ohio State, Tennessee and West Virginia, but he tore the ACL in his left knee in May, costing him the summer of 7-and-7 tournaments and combines and half of his senior season. He had thought he was headed to North Carolina, but when interim coach Everett Withers wasn't retained, he reopened his recruitment, and USF edged Kentucky among his final choices.
He's healthy enough that he's back playing basketball — Oak Ridge went undefeated in district and is hosting a region playoff game Thursday, with Ervilus playing forward. He has ruled out playing basketball in college — he was Oak Ridge's leading scorer as a junior — and if you ask him which football position he'd like to play most, he dodges the question nicely.
"I really want to play on both sides. It's actually kind of fun, being able to do both," Ervilus said. "I like receiver, but I don't think they'll try me there, because I'm too big. I'm just going to try to be the best player I can be."
USF coach Skip Holtz called him "extremely athletic" on signing day, and defensive ends coach Vernon Hargreaves admitted that part of the logic in introducing Ervilus as a defensive end was to make sure landing his commitment didn't hurt USF's position with Sean Price, a four-star tight end who also signed. Ervilus is one of four ends joining the Bulls this season, and the defensive coaches will lobby to keep him in the fall and beyond.
"He hasn't played football very long," Hargreaves said. "Those are the kind of guys that have so much upside that once you teach them and they start learning, they just take off. I'm excited about him."
Greg Auman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.