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Receiver holds on, for now

Choosing where to attend college can be a trying experience for football recruits. Take the experience of Wharton wide receiver Harold Leath, for example.

Leath took his official visit to West Virginia on Jan. 19-20. He was overwhelmed by the quality of the football facilities and impressed with the academics. Before leaving Morgantown he orally committed to the Mountaineers.

Case closed, right? Not quite. Oral commitments are non-binding. In Leath's case, it was about four-fifths binding.

"I'd say there's about an 80 percent chance I sign with West Virginia," Leath said Sunday afternoon, a week and a half after his commitment. "There's about a 20 percent chance I'll sign with Lehigh."

Leath, who had 37 catches for 609 yards and nine touchdowns this season, was giving himself the freedom to change his mind by Wednesday, national signing day.

Shortly after he returned from the West Virginia visit, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Leath flew back up north and visited Division I-AA Lehigh (Pa.) on Jan. 23 and 24. While there, Leath sprained his ankle in a pick-up basketball game with some Lehigh players, got stuck in bad weather and didn't make it back to Tampa until Wednesday.

"It's a hard decision. It's very confusing. I'm still confused. There's a chance I could change my mind," Leath said Sunday. "Lehigh is a great school. I know the education I would be getting is unbelievable. And they have a good football team and love to throw the ball."

One more night to think about it apparently was enough, however. Monday afternoon, Leath's confusion had lifted.

"I'm going to West Virginia. It's 100 percent," Leath said. "I've been talking to a lot of people, to my parents, and I think it's the best place for me.

The Mountaineers were the only Division I-A school to offer him a scholarship.

"The (West Virginia) campus was great, and the business department was impressive," said Leath, who wants to be a pharmacist but plans to minor in business. "The people (at West Virginia) are real nice, the coaches are real nice and the facilities are one of a kind."

TOP SECRET: Brandon coach Ernest Hayes said Eagles outside linebacker Julian Davis has narrowed his choice to Florida and Miami, but most likely will not sign until a week or two after signing day.

At the behest of Davis' family, Hayes said little more. "I was talking to his mother. They're going to wait and see what develops. They don't want me to say much else," he said. "I have a feeling I know what he's going to do, but I really can't say."

Apparently complicating matters for the 6-0, 215-pound Davis is his baseball ability. He wants to play both sports in college, and there is a possibility he could be selected in the amateur baseball draft in June. Hayes said Virginia Tech was making a late bid to recruit Davis.

LOL TO USF: Land O'Lakes offensive lineman Mark Sopcik committed to South Florida. Sopcik, a 6-4, 270-pounder, chose the Bulls over Eastern Kentucky.

UNDECIDED: Four players from the Times Blue Chip list of Top 10 recruits in Florida remain uncommitted and plan to announce their decisions on signing day.

The No. 1 Blue Chip, Bryant McFadden, a cornerback from Hollywood McArthur, reportedly is favoring Florida State, but he also is considering Tennessee, Miami, Michigan and Georgia.

The No. 4 Blue Chip, Eric Moore, a linebacker from Pahokee, has narrowed his choices to Tennessee and Florida State, with Miami considered a long shot; No. 7 Blue Chip Tre Orr, a safety from Lake City Columbia, favors Florida and Georgia, with Florida State or Tennessee also a possibility; and No. 9 Blue Chip Carl Walker, a safety from Jacksonville Jackson, favors Miami and Missouri, with Florida State, Ohio State and Georgia also a possibility.

TROUBLED RECRUIT: Georgia said Monday that it has withdrawn a scholarship offer to tackle Jason Respert after his weekend arrest in Gainesville.

Considered the top prospect in Georgia, Respert faces felony charges of attempted sexual battery and burglary of a residence. The 18-year-old senior at Northside High in Warner Robins was making an official visit to UF when he was arrested by Gainesville police Saturday. The Gators also pulled their scholarship offer.

Tennessee had shown interest in Respert, who visited the Knoxville campus Jan. 14. Sports information director Bud Ford declined to comment on whether the Vols remain interested.

Keith Kameg, public information officer with the Gainesville Police Department, said Respert was with Florida player Alex Brown and recruit Tre Orr of Lake City at 6:10 a.m. Saturday at an apartment rented by a Florida woman. Respert is accused of going into the woman's bedroom, pulling down the covers, pulling up her pajama top and putting his hand down her pajama bottoms.

Dawn Sharp, who was answering calls at Respert's home and called herself a family friend, said Respert will announce that he is innocent of all charges at a news conference today.

_ The Associated Press contributed to this report. To reach Pete Young, call (727) 893-8129 or (800) 333-7505 ext. 8129.

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