BRADENTON -- This time last year, Demarcus Christmas was about to break into Manatee's starting lineup.
Monday, he was making a verbal commitment to one of the country's most prestigious programs.
A junior defensive lineman, Christmas has committed to Florida State, currently ranked third in the nation by The Associated Press following Saturday's win over USF.
Christmas became a fixture on Manatee's stacked line midway through last year after D'Angelo Dawes had to sit out because of age restrictions. As a sophomore, Christmas tallied 42 tackles, two sacks and 10 quarterback hurries in 12 games to help Manatee win a state championship.
Listed at 6-foot-4, 284 pounds, Christmas became on the most hotly-recruited players on the team, earning offers from a dozen schools including Auburn, Alabama and South Carolina.
He chose the Seminoles after visiting the campus last summer.
"I love the coaching staff and the defense they play," Christmas said. "It's a great school.
"I felt the timing was right (to commit)."
A tackle, Christmas has 14 tackles and a sack this year for Manatee, ranked No.1 in the nation by MaxPreps and USA Today.
"Ninth grade he was on the JV team," coach Joe Kinnan said, "because he was so young and he wasn't quite ready. We just needed time to bring him along and not bring him along too quickly. He's got a year and a half of high school to play yet, but when I spoke to Coach (Jimbo) Fisher, I told him when (Christmas) comes in, he'll be getting someone who could be able to contribute right away as a freshman."
Christmas is the second member of the Canes' line, ranked the best in the country by Rivals, to make a verbal commitment after defensive end Blake Keller chose UCF during the summer.
He won't be the last, especially since senior Derrick Calloway has over two dozen Division I offers and classmate Marquis Dawsey is the unit's lone four-year starter.
Quarterback Cord Sandberg (Mississippi State) and defensive back Willie Smith (FIU) have also made commitments this season.
"Not only is our defensive line talented, but they are four really fine people," Kinnan said. "The schools who get them are getting a kid who knows how to work, knows how to win and will represent Manatee High School and Bradenton in a stellar way. It's great when you have kids who have that work ethic and commitment."