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It could be a banner year

The county has plenty of star power to attract Division I schools.

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 3, 2002

After sending a record six teams to the state football playoffs, Pasco County could be looking at one of its strongest recruiting classes ever.

"Every team we played had talent," Ridgewood coach Troy Cornwell said.

The NCAA-mandated "quiet period" ended Sunday, and the signing period begins Feb. 5, so let the recruiting begin.

The Rams' Adamm Oliver headlines the list of top recruits. The senior running back and defensive lineman orally committed to Division I-A Georgia Tech before the season started.

At Land O'Lakes, which wrapped up a record 12-1 season Friday, several schools have shown interest in four Gators: wide receiver Logan Payne and linemen Josh Harvey, Bobby O'Dell and Joey Tuttle.

Payne has received interest from South Florida, South Carolina and Florida International. He is scheduled to make an official visit to USF along with Harvey, O'Dell and Tuttle. Army is also interested in Payne and O'Dell.

Central Florida has shown interest in Tuttle and his ability to longsnap. O'Dell may be the most intriguing prospect. Cornell is interested in the 6-4, 300-pound center, but he would have to meet stringent requirements to play for the Ivy League school.

"Bobby has an outside chance if he qualifies," coach John Benedetto said. "But the academic requirements are pretty high."

Some of the county's top players are still waiting to qualify for a scholarship. Wesley Chapel running back Tyrone Tomlin, the school's all-time leading rusher, defensive tackle Derrick Gentles and linebackers Maurice Standifer and Chris Roberts need to quality, coach John Castelamare said.

"We feel they can all go into a higher level of football," Castelamare said. "But they're not all there yet. They've got to pass their tests."

A lot of schools have inquired about Tomlin, the coach said, and Iowa State is interested in both Tomlin and Gentles. But Castelamare said Tomlin may take the junior college route to Division I-A. Standifer and Roberts are both taking the SAT this week.

Two of the county's top quarterbacks are also being recruited: Pasco's Ben Alford and Zephyrhills' James Adamo. Alford is academically qualified, Pirates coach Ricky Thomas said, and is already receiving interest from Middle Tennessee State, UCF, Tennessee Tech and Bethune-Cookman. He could also play safety.

"(UCF) told me they need an athletic quarterback who can run and throw," Thomas said, "and I told them Ben can play in the secondary, too. They seemed real excited in him at quarterback, though."

Adamo will be looking at schools searching for a drop-back, pocket passer, according to Bulldogs coach Tom Fisher.

"I'm sending film out every day," Fisher said. "To Louisville, to Eastern Kentucky, to Cincinnati, to Iowa State."

Fisher will also be looking for a place to send offensive linemen Shane Hand and Jamen Monbarren, though Hand could wrestle in college, too. Fisher also said that linebacker Derek Wallace has the size (6-3, 240 pounds) to play at the next level.

Division I isn't the only option for many county players, and each coach has a list of seniors he hopes to send to smaller schools. But Fisher cautioned that recruiting is an uncertain process.

"Recruiting and signing are two different things," he said. "I've had a lot of kids recruited in the past, but just because they get letters and visitors from colleges doesn't mean they're getting scholarships.

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