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USF turns attention toward Armwood defensive back, Chamberlain lineman

Ahead of national signing day on Feb. 5, Jalil Core and Cesar Reyes have increased interest from the Bulls.
Chamberlain offensive lineman Cesar Reyes lost some recruiting ground after an injury in his junior year, but is still expected to sign with a Division I-A program in February. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
Chamberlain offensive lineman Cesar Reyes lost some recruiting ground after an injury in his junior year, but is still expected to sign with a Division I-A program in February. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Jan. 9
Updated Jan. 9

New USF coach Jeff Scott made a name for himself as a recruiter at Clemson. Twice, the Tigers co-offensive coordinator was named the ACC recruiter of the year by websites that track prospects and he was even listed nationally as a top 10 recruiter by ESPN.

Much of that talent was local, something Scott plans to focus on with even more ferocity now that he is in charge of the Bulls.

Several former area stars now in college could be coming home via the transfer portal. But the attention also has been placed on landing area high school recruits in the late signing period.

Two players are starting to pick up interest from USF: Armwood defensive back Jalil Core and Chamberlain offensive lineman Cesar Reyes.

Core, named the Tampa Bay TimesHillsborough County Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons, would prefer to stay in the state. He is academically qualified and already has offers from Florida Atlantic and Florida International, among others. Core had 75 tackles as a senior and was tied for second on the team in interceptions with four.

Related: HomeTeam 100 top football players: Armwood's Jalil Core in top 10

Last month, Core said FAU was among his top choices, in part because of the hybrid role he could eventually fit into with defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. That was before Spencer was lured away to take over the Bulls’ defense.

Armwood coach Evan Davis said USF’s staff is planning to stop by the campus next week and anticipates a push to be made for Core.

Reyes was a coveted prospect who had at one point had offers from LSU, Nebraska and North Carolina, among others. But interest cooled after he injured his knee as a junior. Still, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound guard is listed as a three-star recruit by 247Sports and holds committable offers from FIU, Massachusetts and the Bulls.

Related: HomeTeam 100 top football players: Chamberlain's Cesar Reyes in top 40

“With the knee injury, Cesar didn’t get a lot of film as a junior and that hurt,” Chamberlain coach Jason Lane said. “But he worked hard to get back to where he was and will continue to progress once he gets to college and in their weight training program.”

Bulls offensive line coach Allen Mogridge, who was hired in late December, has been in contact with Lane.

“I’ll know more once Cesar starts to schedule his official visits, but USF certainly is a possibility,” Lane said.

Checking in with other area recruits

A.J. Mathis once was a Miami commit but is now looking at Florida Atlantic and Florida International, among other schools. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]

Largo linebacker A.J. Mathis was committed to Miami for much of his senior season. But in late November, Mathis re-opened his recruitment. The three-star recruit, who dealt with a shoulder injury near the end of the season, has plans to visit several schools before the traditional signing day on Feb. 5.

His next visit will be to Florida International. He also said that Toledo, Florida Atlantic and Arizona are in the mix for visits.

“Things were a little rough because of the shoulder problems,” Mathis said. “But I’m keeping faith in God. The next level is definitely going to be a show no matter where I’m at.”

Related: HomeTeam 100 top football players: Largo's A.J. Mathis in the top 20

Mathis, who had 104 total tackles and four sacks as a senior, said he knows FAU coach Willie Taggart from his short-lived stint as Florida State’s head coach. Fellow Largo teammate Jayion McCluster signed with FSU during the early signing period, as did former Pinellas Park teammate Lawrance Toafili, a four-star running back. While Mathis said it would be nice to join his high school teammates in college, the Seminoles are not a school he is looking at.

Arizona was not originally on his list, but the Wildcats got in touch with him out of the blue (though they haven’t officially offered yet). Arizona signed 15 players in December, but no linebackers.

“Things could change,” he said.

• Calvary Christian linebacker/receiver Shelton Quarles, Jr. is also unsure where he will sign in February. The senior, who transferred from Carrollwood Day prior to the school year, said he will visit Samford in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 24-25. Kent State in Ohio is also trying to set up an official visit.

Related: HomeTeam 100 top football players: Calvary Christian's Shelton Quarles Jr. in top 40

Quarles caught 52 passes and scored 10 touchdowns in his final season. He also had 55 total tackles.

“I will be so relieved when I sign,” Quarles said. “This process has been a total roller-coaster.”

• And then there is Zephyrhills Christian offensive lineman Malik Jones. Jones (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) committed to Florida Atlantic when Lane Kiffin was the head coach. Kiffin has since moved on to Mississippi.

Jones said he is still solidly committed to Taggart and the Owls. He plans to make an official visit before the month is out.

Related: HomeTeam 100 top football players: Zephyrhills Christian's Malik Jones in top 50


  1. Carrollwood Day sophomore Milahnie Perry controls the tempo in a 74-36 victory over Tampa Prep in a Class 3A region quarterfinal. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
  2. BJ Graham and Jesuit are already off to a strong start, as was expected of the nation's top high school program. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
  3. Newsome Wolves catcher Lydia Castro is dynamic behind the plate and with a bat in her hand. She is also committed to USF. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  4. Elli Black, 11, crosses the finish line in first place in the women's division at the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 8K. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
  5. There were many standout players for Tampa Catholic on Saturday, including goalkeeper Charlie Gembarowski, who set school records in shutouts (16) and wins (22) with the state semifinal victory. [JOSEPH WEISER  |  Icon SMI via ZUMA Press]
  6. Jesuit, ranked No. 6 in the state and 15th nationally by MaxPreps, will play for their seventh school title next Saturday in DeLand against Pembroke Pines Charter. [JOSEPH WEISER  |  Icon SMI via ZUMA Press]
  7. Shorecrest coach Jason Montoya, seen here in a previous playoff match, was happy with how his team played in Saturday's state semifinal. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  8. Elaine Jeffers, left, and mom Jennifer are all smiles in their pirate and parrot costumes after finishing the 15K and 5K races Saturday morning. Today, both Elaine, 33, and Jennifer, 60, will run their 61st half-marathon. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
  9. Joe Conrad, at the mere age of 90 in the orange hat, crosses the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K finish line with 30 of his relatives: kids, grandkids and so on. Conrad, who has set several age-group records at races the past few decades, finished in 59 minutes, 28 seconds, but he did, of course, benefit from all the pacers around him. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
  10. Cambridge Christian runner Reed Legg finishes first (15:29) during Saturday's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  11. Tampa Bay Tech, still missing star sophomore Janiah Barker, falters in the region final Friday, but if healthy should make another deep playoff run next season. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  12. After its 3-1 victory over Westminster Academy of Fort Lauderdale on Friday, the Shorecrest girls soccer team  will be playing in the program's first state final next week in Deland. [CHUCK FRYE  |  Special to the Times]