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Bulls reap the benefits of tenacity

Armwood guard Jake Griffin's decision to orally commit to South Florida while returning from a visit to Tennessee Sunday had nothing to do with the fact teammates Jariette Buie and Mike Williams picked the school or that it was close to home.

Griffin chose USF over more than 30 Division I schools for the same reasons as Buie and Williams: The Bulls jumped on him early and consistently showed more interest than other schools.

Armwood coach Sean Callahan said USF recruiter Rich Rachel and coach Jim Leavitt made regular visits to talk to players, and their persistence paid off.

"I'd get to school some mornings and Coach Leavitt would be already sitting in my office," Callahan said. "And I get to school at 7:40."

The formula has helped USF land five of the top 13 players in the Tampa Bay area, according to Times' rankings, and kept it in the running for three others. In addition to defensive end Buie (No. 2), Griffin (No. 6) and cornerback Williams (No. 12), the Bulls received oral commitments from Hillsborough running back Ricky Ponton (No. 7) and Blake defensive end George Kearse (No. 13). Countryside receiver Jermaine Filer (No. 5) is deciding among USF, Kansas State and Marshall.

Though they made oral commitments to other schools, Pasco receiver Johnny Peyton (No. 4, Pittsburgh) and Tampa Bay Tech linebacker Maurice Crum (No. 3, Notre Dame) are believed to be considering the Bulls.

NO SWEAT: Land O'Lakes quarterback Drew Weatherford said Daytona Beach Seabreeze quarterback Xavier Lee's oral commitment to Florida State on Sunday will not affect his decision to play for the Seminoles. Weatherford, who officially visited FSU over the weekend, said he has dreamed of playing for the Seminoles since childhood.

"Everyone there pretty much knew (Lee) was coming, and I didn't have a problem with it and I still don't," Weatherford said of the state's third-ranked prospect and No. 1 quarterback, according to the Times. "I think it will help our recruiting a lot, to get the other kids to commit."

RARE SIGHTING: Joe Paterno is scheduled to visit Peyton today in an effort to persuade the 6-foot-5 receiver to attend Penn State, which Peyton will visit this week. West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez is scheduled to arrive Wednesday and will host Peyton this weekend. Peyton also is considering Miami.

CHANGE OF HEART?: Running back Adrian Peterson of Palestine, Texas, the nation's top player according to the Times, attended the Texas A&M-Texas Tech basketball game and spent time with Aggies coach Dennis Franchione. Peterson told rivals100.com, however, his oral commitment to Oklahoma remains "pretty solid."

CALLING ALL RECRUITS: High school coaches from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties can meet with representatives from about 25 Division II and III and NAIA schools during a recruiting fair Feb. 14-15 at East Bay. The fifth-year event will be held in conjunction with a similar event Feb. 16-17 at Lake Wales.

"It's something that in the past has generated a number of scholarships and a number of opportunities for seniors who are not necessarily Division I prospects to go on and continue their education at the next level," Hillsborough County athletic director Vernon Korhn said. For details, call Korhn's office at (813) 740-3971 or East Bay coach Brian Thornton at (813) 671-5134.

THIS 'N THAT: Armwood DL Fred Hicks orally committed to East Carolina State. Chamberlain WR Brandon Williams visited Akron and expects to decide between Iowa State and the Zips in the next few days. Filer canceled a trip to West Virginia when the Mountaineers did not call him last week. He is set to visit Marshall this weekend.

_ EMILY NIPPS, GREG AUMAN,

JAMAL THALJI, PETE YOUNG

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