Wharton DT Eric Hammond knows he has work to do if he wants to earn a college scholarship.
Not on the field but in the classroom.
"I've got to put in overtime," Hammond said.
As a player, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound senior has major Division I-A potential. As a student, though, Hammond only recently decided to give it his all after three years of doing just enough to be eligible.
The proverbial lightbulb went off in his head this spring, partly because he got tired of reading about all the scholarship offers other players were getting.
"I feel like I'm up there with them," Hammond said.
So does his coach. "He's a big-time player," David Mitchell said.
Hammond is a four-year varsity performer, the first three of which were at Chamberlain. He bolted for Hillsborough last spring, then landed at Wharton in August.
According to Hammond, two schools have made offers — Florida Atlantic and Illinois — but both seem shaky at best. An Owls coach stopped by Wharton last week and said things were "iffy" because of Hammond's grades. Illinois hasn't called since the spring.
For Hammond, all of this is frustrating.
And he blames only himself.
"I know I'm better than what I had been doing," he said. "Sometimes I took school as a joke. All I cared about was football. Now, I'm suffering for it. I really wish I could go back in time and change things."
While he can't do that, Hammond is doing his best to fix things. He's taking an online class, which he hopes will boost his grade-point average. For the first time, he's actually studying. And before he takes the SAT for the first time (probably in November), he'll likely enroll in a prep course.
For now, colleges have taken a wait-and-see approach.
Auburn, which has recruited this area hard in recent years, is interested. So are Rutgers and Troy. Other programs are likely to jump on board if and when Hammond's academic situation is straightened out. He's simply too talented for that not to happen.
"If he gets that up to par, he'll be okay," Mitchell confidently predicted.
Thinking Bigger: When it comes to Largo TE/DE Mike Douglas, Packers coach Rick Rodriguez is adamant about one thing: Florida's Big Three, err … Big Four, are missing out.
"I'm surprised none of the Florida schools have offered," Rodriguez said. "They're going to miss out on him like they did with (former Largo great) Dexter McCluster." McCluster is a star receiver at Ole Miss.
Even if Florida, Florida State, Miami and USF don't pull the trigger, Douglas should be fine. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound standout, whom Rivals.com rates as the country's 50th-best weakside defensive end, holds offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kentucky, Missouri, Purdue and UCF.
Taking flight: Tarpon Springs junior RB Darius Daniels, one of the area's fastest players, is drawing early interest from Duke and Iowa State. He carries a 4.2 grade-point average.
Catching Eyes: A handful of Division I-AA schools (notably Furman, Illinois State and Lafayette) and I-A Florida International are showing interest in Hillsborough WR/LB Dixon Phillips.
Georgia Supplies SEC: A Birmingham (Ala.) News survey found that Georgia leads all states with 86 products on two-deep Southeastern Conference rosters this week. Florida was next with 84.
Got recruiting news? E-mail Keith Niebuhr at email@example.com.