The mining began a year ago at Land O'Lakes, and with it came a windfall.
Word spread after the season about a couple of kids at Ridgewood, then one more over at Mitchell. When the 2008 signing class finishes its paperwork, five Pasco County players are expected to sign with Wayne State.
Only two signed Tuesday with the Division II school in Wayne, Neb., Land O'Lakes lineman Raleigh Bamberg and Ridgewood linebacker Ben Perry. When the other signings are complete, this Pasco County crop will join three more, Land O'Lakes' Dontarrius Thomas and Jerome Blyden, and Wesley Chapel's Mario Melvin,already on campus.
This was a down year for recruiting on the North Suncoast, but the story of Wayne State's excavation of talent exposed a rarely seen side of coaching, one in which rivals recommended the very opponents who caused them headaches.
"We are always willing to mention other players we feel as though will have an impact because of their outstanding play that could have an impact in college," Gators coach John Benedetto said. "We're talking to other schools about other kids in Pasco County all the time. I'm sure other coaches are doing the same for us."
Thomas, who signed with Wayne State last year as a receiver, bonded well with coaches, and because of that, Benedetto said they came back to find more like him.
At Land O'Lakes, they found Bamberg, a two-way lineman Benedetto called "the best trap blocker" he has ever coached. He joined teammate Joe Robinson at asigning ceremony at Land O'Lakes in a small conference room.
Robinson, a one-year player, borrowed a page of Bamberg's paperwork and ceremoniously signed for cameras. The lineman will visit Wayne State, likely this weekend, where he will sign a letter of intent.
The same is true of Mitchell's Tate Humphrey, who orally committed Tuesday afternoon, 10 minutes after Wayne State coaches finished watching his highlight tape. Wayne State targeted Humphrey, a quarterback for Mitchell who might play elsewhere in college, after Ridgewood coach Chris Taylor recommended him.
And when Taylor sat with Mitchell coach Scott Schmitz at a Rams basketball game last week, he urged the Mustangs coach to reach out to Wayne State.
"Chris had a lot to do with that," Schmitz said. "I think as coaches, we've done that for each other. It says a lot about the coaches we have in this county. We want the best for our kids."
Perry held a closed-door signing with family and friends. He could be joined by Rams lineman John Karakaris, whom Wayne State locked on to after a trip to Georgia Southern was canceled. The Wildcats learned of Perry through Rams assistant Brain Wachtel, who was teammates with a former Wayne State recruiter.
"We've only been blessed with a few major Division I athletes," Gators assistant Tom Carter said. "Those guys don't need to be recruited.
"It's the tweeners, the guys in between. ... When you have a good reputation, that's important."
Mustang SIGNS: Mitchell receiver Tyrone Hendrix signed a letter of intent with New Mexico Military Academy. He led the Mustangs in receiving with 625 yards and eight touchdowns.
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 580-5315.
Wayne State's World
Two Pasco County players signed with Division II Wayne State in Nebraskawith three more expected to do so soon. A quick look at the school and its team:
Enrollment: 3,450 (59 percent women)
Top majors: Business administration, elementary education, pre-professional (medical, dental, pharmacy, physical therapy, etc.), criminal justice, life sciences
2007 record: 7-5 (7-2 for second in the Northern Sun Conference)
Biggest game: Egg Bowl, annual game featuring the school (opponents vary)
Most notable football alumnus: Byron Chamberlain, tight end for Broncos, Vikings and Redskins from 1995-2003 and a Pro Bowl pick in 2001.