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TRIO TOO BUSY FOR ALL THAT SIGNING FANFARE

Former Chamberlain High star receiver Fred Sykes admits his new schedule can be overwhelming.

But Sykes, an Illinois commitment, has embraced the grind of college life since he joined a growing trend of football players graduating early to kick-start their college careers.

Sykes, Jefferson defensive lineman Max Holloway (Boston College) and Armwood tackle Matt Patchan (Florida) won't be joining their peers posing for pictures in extravagant signing day ceremonies Wednesday; Sykes and Holloway both have a 15-credit load of college classes to handle, and Patchan is rehabbing offseason shoulder surgery.

"It's definitely a lot different than Jefferson," Holloway said. "It's pretty intense, but I like it."

Holloway balances his law and economics courses with bulking up; coaches have told him if he puts on 10 to 15 pounds, he could earn playing time on the Eagles defensive line. Sykes stayed with former Hillsborough standout Jarred Fayson, a transfer to Illinois from Florida, playing video games and hanging out on the Champaign campus until his dorm setup was ready.

The trio have been happy to skip the second half of their would-be senior years in high school; not that they will totally miss out. Sykes said there's a good chance he will come back into town for graduation and possibly prom.

"I've got to take care of things here first," Sykes said. "It's my first priority."

Winter to go Orange and Blue:Plant senior receiver Derek Winter enjoyed his weekend visit to Virginia, and could decide between the Cavaliers and Auburn as early as today, said his father, Dave. Winter, the Guy Toph Award winner for Hillsborough County's top player, had offers from Iowa, Illinois, Georgia Tech and USF, but his father said, "It'll be orange and blue, either way."

Commitments: East Bay senior Ryan Stubbs has orally committed to Nicholls State, a Division I-AA school near New Orleans, Indians coach Brian Thornton said Sunday. Stubbs, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound tailback, rushed for 800 yards (7.6 per carry) last season.

Cambridge senior tailback Taylor Cabral, Hillsborough County's rushing leader last season (1,568 yards), committed to Campbell University, Lancers coach Rick Shears said.

Riverview nose guard Roman Rodriguez orally committed Saturday to Carson-Newman during a recruiting trip, Sharks coach Dan O'Regan said. O'Regan said it's possible Rodriguez, a 5-foot-9, 230-pound senior, could play fullback for the Division II program in Tennessee.

Freedom punter Cass Couey said he has committed to the Citadel and could get a chance to "compete for a starting spot right away." Couey said a teammate, defensive lineman Rolando Fines, committed to Jacksonville.

Armwood defensive end Sergio Joyner committed to Western Kentucky, Hawks coach Sean Callahan said.

Plant receiver Kevin James said he accepted a preferred walk-on spot atBethune-Cookman.

Odds and ends: Jefferson quarterback Zack Grossi, Hillsborough County's second-leading passer, said he loved his trip to California University of Pennsylvania, which advanced to the Division II national semifinals. Grossi received an offer, and could commit after talking it over with his parents the next couple of days. ... Armwood defensive lineman Josh Alston said he will either play for Air Force or attend USF on a Bright Futures scholarship.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com or at (813) 310-9024.

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