Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Sports

Illini, Gophers and Lions, oh my: All locked in on Tampa Bay recruits

Toledo, which has had at least three locals on the roster for the past seven seasons, is not the only non-state school having success landing local prospects from the 2018 class and beyond. Here are five others.

Illinois

Dirk Shadd | Times

LB Khalan Tolson says coach Lovie Smith helped sway him toward committing to Illinois.

Former Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith is in his second year with the program and is using his state ties to land recruits. Of the 11 players committed for the 2018 class, six are from Florida, including Admiral Farragut linebacker Khalan Tolson. .

Tolson has been getting offers from colleges since he was sophomore. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior made his first visit to Illinois this past weekend, and before he got on the plane back to Tampa he committed to the Illini.

"I liked the people, I liked the coaching staff, I liked everything," Tolson said from Illinois prior to his flight home. I talked to Coach Smith a lot. He's a big reason I committed."

Illinois has had success landing players on the defensive side of the ball with defensive lineman Bobby Roundtree (Largo) and linebackers Tre Watson (Tampa Catholic) and Jake Hansen (East Lake).

Indiana

Charlie Kaijo | Times

Will Armwood QB Devin Black be the next bay area player to land at Indiana?

The Hoosiers have perhaps the biggest area pipeline with 10 area players on the roster. The success has come mostly at two schools: Largo and Plant. There are two former Packers (defensive back Jonathan Crawford and receiver Donavan Hale) and four former Panthers (linebacker Thomas Allen, defensive back Juwan Burgess, receiver Whop Philyor and kicker Stephen Yaffe) with the program.

This run was due in large part to Greg Frey, the offensive line coach who recruited the area. Frey left to go to Michigan but the trend should continue with the promotion of defensive coordinator Tom Allen to head coach.

Allen was a former high school coach in the area and was the defensive coordinator at USF before joining Indiana last year.

Plant linebacker Micah McFadden committed to the Hoosiers earlier this week and Armwood quarterback Devin Black has narrowed his choices to Indiana and Louisville.

Minnesota

Times

Berkeley Prep DL Mayan Ahanotu can tick off many reasons why he picked the Gophers.

PJ Fleck is another coach with Buccaneers roots making inroads in the area. The Gophers landed Wiregrass Ranch/IMG defensive back Shamaur McDowell and Berkeley Prep defensive lineman Mayan Ahanotu. Both turned down offers from other big-time programs.

Fleck, a former receivers coach with the Buccaneers under Greg Schiano, has put more of an emphasis on the state. The Gophers currently have just four players from Florida on the roster and none from the bay area.

McDowell and Ahanotu are among the three Florida commits Minnesota has so far in the 2018 class.

"The people, opportunities, academics and football are the big reasons I decided on Minnesota," Ahanotu said. "I think it's great to have all the commits that we have right now. All of the people that have committed I know are great people and leaders that will help Minnesota get to that next level."

Penn State

Monica Herndon | Times

When Penn State recruits Florida, it usually lands locals like Plant DL Judge Culpepper.

The Nittany Lions typically do not recruit much in Florida. But the state players they do land are usually from the bay area.

Penn State has two Floridians on the roster: defensive back Amani Oruwariye (Gaither) and receiver Cody Hodgens (Robinson). Receiver KJ Hamler is from Michigan but played at IMG.

The only two state commits in the 2018 class also are from the area: Wiregrass Ranch defensive back Jordan Miner and Plant defensive lineman Judge Culpepper. Both are ranked among the top 75 players in Florida by 247Sports.

Miner said he is actively recruiting other state players to join the Nittany Lions.

Oregon

Monica Herndon | Times

Wesley Chapel DB Isaiah Bolden flipped from FSU to Oregon.

The impact of having former USF coach Willie Taggart in charge is noticeable. With flashy facilities and the lure of playing at a Power Five school, Taggart has been able to land the top-tier bay area players that eluded him with the Bulls.

Already, the Ducks have commitments from Wesley Chapel defensive back Isaiah Bolden, Tampa Bay Tech defensive lineman Jonathan King and Armwood receiver Warren Thompson. All are major prospects who turned down offers from state schools such as Florida and FSU.

The local haul does not include former Armwood athlete Darrian McNeal and former Pinellas Park defensive lineman Jordon Scott, who are currently freshmen at Oregon.

There could be more. Armwood defensive lineman Malcolm Lamar and Jefferson receiver Jermaine Eskridge have the Ducks among their short list of schools.

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