In a little more than two weeks, the college football recruiting season will reach its crescendo with national signing day on Feb. 6.
That doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of hustling still going on in the recruiting world, as teams look to fill out their classes and players search for a place to call home.
Several Pensacola area players already have cast their lots — one of which is already on his college’s campus.
Others, though, are still playing the waiting game, hoping for some offers to pull through in the next two weeks.
One of the players at the top of that list is Navarre tailback and News Journal Most Valuable Player Jay Warren.
Despite rushing for an area-best 1,832 yards and 19 touchdowns and leading the Raiders into the Class 6A state semifinals, Warren’s recruiting trail has gone frigid.
Navarre coach Jay Walls is hoping it heats up before signing day.
“I’m calling everywhere in the world right now,” Walls said. “It’s surprising that he hasn’t gotten anything yet. His physical ability, his production, the film we have on him, he’s just a great player.
“He’s a good student. He’s got good grades. There’s no reason he shouldn’t have an offer. We’ve been sending film on our guys since January (2012). I’m sure something will shake out for him.”
Raiders teammate Jordan Leggett doesn’t have any of those concerns. Leggett committed to Clemson last fall, then honored that commitment by enrolling early at Clemson this month.
“He went up there the Sunday before we went back to school (after the holiday break),” Walls said. “I think that will be a big help for him. He’ll get a chance to work out with the team, go through spring drills and really get a leg up in the system.”
Leggett won’t be the only local player headed to a BCS program.
Milton wide receiver Isaiah Jones is planning to sign with Florida State in February, Pace kicker Ryan Santoso is expected to sign with Minnesota, Northview defensive back Neiko Robinson intends to sign with Penn State and West Florida defensive end Nate Crawford has expressed his desire to sign with Missouri.
“Isaiah signing with Florida State is a pretty big deal at our school,” Milton coach Chafan Marsh said. “That’s the biggest signing we’ve had here in a long time.
“Dejon Funderburk is also going to sign that day. He’s (verbally) committed to South Alabama right now, but he’s going to visit Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend. (Linebacker) DeMichael McQueen is also getting some looks right now. He’s got several Division II offers, but he may go the juco route and come back out in two years.”
Pine Forest could have as many as five players sign on national signing day and have two already committed in quarterback Rashaad Lee and defensive end DeMarcus Glover. Both are committed to Florida Atlantic University, but Glover may still be fielding other offers.
Lee, who missed most of his senior year with a knee injury, is expected to play tailback at FAU, hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Pine Forest standout and current Washington Redskins rookie Alfred Morris.
“(Rashaad) is a tremendous player, and hopefully all of this will work out for him,” Pine Forest coach Jerry Pollard said. “You hope for the best for guys like him.”
Right next door to Pine Forest, West Florida will definitely have one big signing with Crawford going to Missouri. Jaguars coach Harry Lees said he’s also expecting Demetrius Smith to sign, and kicker Luke Jackson and defensive back Frank Herbert are also fielding offers.
“Nate’s still solid with Missouri,” Lees said. “Demetrius may end up going the juco route. He committed to UAB, but I think he’s considering going juco to get his grades up. He’s got options, and that’s good.
“We’re still looking at places for Luke. Memphis came by today, and they’re interested. It’s hard finding a place for a kicker.”
Jackson was the area’s leading scorer this past season, beating out Santoso for that title. Despite having a 50-yarder to his credit, Jackson is finding the recruiting trail to be tough.
“This is my first time with a kicker,” Lees said. “It’s a weird thing because very few get offered early and end up having to wait for something. Luke is ranked among the top in the nation. It’s surprising to me that he doesn’t have a ton of offers.
“You look and see how many schools struggle with kickers, and Luke is way better than those guys. The good thing is people are talking to him, and he’ll end up kicking somewhere.”
Perhaps the biggest name in the area still undecided is Gulf Breeze offensive guard Austin Droogsma.
The 6-5, 300-pounder is carefully weighing his options, especially given the fact that Droogsma also happens to be one of the top discus throwers in the country.
“Austin is looking at a handful of schools for both track and football,” Nemith said. “I know that Clemson is still in the mix. Louisville is there and Missouri was for a while, but I’m not really sure what’s going on there.
“I think his decision is going to be whether he goes with track, because then he’ll have to sit out of football for a year and walk-on. If he goes football, he has to go somewhere that is comfortable with him doing track.
“He’s a kid that has a bright future in football, but it’s a real possibility that he has an opportunity to compete in the Olympic trials as a track athlete. He’s on the path to that threshold. It’s critical to weigh all the options, and I know he’s doing that.”
As far as options go, Nemith is happy that Droogsma’s line mate Alex Pagonis is starting to rake in offers. Pagonis has flown under the radar throughout his career, but came on strong this season and routinely was praised by opposing coaches and players as the strength of that Gulf Breeze offense.
Pagonis has an offer from West Alabama, and is also gaining interest from University of Nebraska-Kearney and Old Dominion.
“He’s got an official (visit) with West Alabama coming up,” Nemith said. “Old Dominion came in and got on him late.
“He’s the kind of guy that wherever he goes, that staff will thank the good Lord he came in. He’s an all-in guy, he’s a great leader, a hard worker, a team guy. Wherever he’s at, he will do everything he can to make you proud.”