TAMPA — Ish Witter won’t name names, but last year’s misfortune of a pair of moderately recruited friends who waited in vain on that big scholarship offer has stuck with him this summer.
Those friends, Witter said, passed on offers from some mid-major schools and played their senior year with hopes of drumming up interest from a BCS-caliber program.
It didn’t happen.
“Then they got their scholarship offers pulled” from the other schools, Witter said. “So they ended up going to school but not one of the big ones that had been recruiting them earlier.”
With that in mind, the Alonso running back has already whittled a list of 20 scholarship offers to three finalists: Missouri, Rutgers and Syracuse. He plans to announce his choice by the end of the month, about six months before national signing day.
Witter will continue the growing trend of top recruits securing a spot with a college program before their senior season. The early commitment gives recruits some certainty in case one of their top schools runs out of scholarships or simply decides to pull the offer in favor of another player.
Consider that seven of the Tampa Bay Times’ top 10 recruits in the Class of 2014, including the top four, have already announced their commitments.
Corey Long, a bay area-based analyst with FUEL Recruiting, said recruits are learning that committing early takes some of the pressure out of the process.
They’re also, in the manner of Witter, learning from recruits who overestimated their value and ended up waiting on offers from big schools that never came.
“You have to strike while the iron is hot, otherwise you’ll be on the outside looking in,” Long said. “Ish is probably making a smart move. Not saying that he won’t have a great season, but you have to know your market.”
Witter is a consensus three-star recruit, a 5-foot-8, 190-pound running back who is more quick than fast. He rushed for 902 yards and six touchdowns and caught 11 passes for another 117 yards in nine games last season.
He’s primed for another big year, teaming with two other top 2014 recruits in receiver Marcus Mosley and offensive tackle Gary Brown to potentially give Alonso one of the top offenses in the area.
Regardless, Witter isn’t taking any chances: he’s taking visits to Rutgers and Syracuse this week. He’ll make his decision shortly after he returns home.
“I want to get it over with early,” Witter said. “There’s not really any pressure. I just don’t feel like waiting until February.”
Q&A with Lakewood's Isaiah Wynn
Lakewood offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn committed to Georgia on Sunday, putting an end to speculation about where he would play at the next level. Wynn, 6-foot-2, 269 pounds, visited Athens with his family last weekend and quickly made things official. Wynn is back in St. Petersburg and focused on his senior year. He recently talked about his decision and plans for the future.
So it’s official, right? You’re done making visits?
“Oh, yeah. (Laughs.) I’m 100 percent Georgia Bulldog all the way.”
Just a few weeks ago you said you would likely take all your visits and make a decision on signing day. What changed?
“This time I went up there with my family. I wanted them to see what it was like and what they thought. They had the same good feeling I had. This was the second time I went up there. After the first visit I was really leaning their way, but I wanted to make sure my family liked it also.”
You had more than 30 offers. Did it ever get a little overwhelming, having people ask you where you were going to go every time you walked down the street?
“Not really. I didn’t mind that. It is a big weight off my shoulders, though.”
Now that the decision is made, what will you focus on?
“Getting better and better. I’ll focus on the fundamentals and helping Lakewood have a good season.”
Do you plan on graduating early?
“That’s the plan. I have to talk with my guidance counselor because we have to see if I can take a math and English class online this semester. All the other classes I need I can take this semester.” (He said he plans to enroll at Georgia in January if possible.)
What will you study?
“Sports medicine. That’s what I’m thinking right now.”
Camps give more than offers
When recruits visit colleges for camps, the focus usually falls on recruiting — meeting coaches, touring facilities, feeling out programs.
But top players also use them to get better.
Nature Coast lineman Christian Pellage said camps at USF and UCF have taught him more about pass blocking and how to stay squared up to pass rushers.
“I guess I’ve been not really doing it right,” said Pellage, a 6-foot-7, 255-pound junior. “I’ve been improving with all these camps. I’m really happy about that.”
Pellage has impressed colleges so far. Virginia gave him his first offer during spring practice after watching him once, and USF offered him last month at his first camp there. Pellage — a four-star prospect, according to 247Sports — visited Florida State this week for another camp and plans to hit USF again this weekend.
ESPN’s top juniors
East Lake star George Campbell earned more accolades this week. ESPN ranked him as the No. 3 overall prospect for the Class of 2015 when it unveiled its rankings. Campbell, a 6-foot-4 athlete, holds offers from every major state school, along with Michigan, Notre Dame and others.
Other locals among ESPN’s top 300 junior recruits:
• Armwood DE Byron Cowart (No. 90)
• Plant OL Jake Fruhmorgen (No. 158)
• Largo ATH Jonathan Crawford (No. 274)
• Former TBT and current IMG OL Tyree St. Louis (No. 287)
Staff writers Rodney Page and Matt Baker contributed to this report.
Photo: Alonso's Ish Witter