As Dequan Williams racked up the most sacks in Manatee County and positioned himself as a clear-cut first-team All-Area selection by the Herald, Rashad West repeatedly touted his star pass rusher as a Division I prospect. But with only a few weeks until National Signing Day, Williams was stuck looking at Division II and junior college programs. As recently as Monday, West wasn’t sure if Williams would take part in Southeast’s signing day ceremony.
He took the stage in Southeast High School’s auditorium with four of his teammates Wednesday with a D-I hat fastened atop his head. In a matter of weeks, Williams went from off the radar to a Football Championship Subdivision signee with Central Connecticut State.
“I’m happy for that kid because he produced,” said West, the Seminoles’ head coach. “He was a kid that was very productive and it’s great for him to get an opportunity. It came down to the wire in the sense of where he was going and if it was going to come all together this week, but it all started to come together for him. I’m just happy he’s going to get an opportunity to keep playing.”
Williams only began talking to Blue Devil coaches two weeks ago and took his visit to New Britain, Conn., last week. CCSU finally offered him last Thursday with the hope that the 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior will have his production translate as a linebacker at the next level once he signed his National Letter of Intent.
During his final season in Bradenton, Williams recorded 99 tackles, 32 tackles for a loss, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a county-leading 11 1/2 sacks. Williams was both a first-team All-Area and first-team All-State selection by the Associated Press.
“They’re rebuilding and they find me to be a good part,” Williams said.
The rest of the Noles’ signing day ceremony went off as expected. Darrien Grant stood by his commitment to South Florida even through USF’s massive coaching changes. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end is considered a three-star recruit by 247sports.com’s composite rankings, which also pegged the senior as the No. 290 player in Florida and No. 95 weak-side defensive end in the country.
Grant, who recorded six sacks as a senior, was a first-team All-Area selection and second-team All-State choice by the AP. He chose the Bulls over Duke, North Carolina State and Navy. He said USF plans to move him to linebacker and the chance to play for new head coach Charlie Strong, a defense-minded coach, was an appeal.
“After Coach (Willie) Taggart left I was a little bit nervous, just with the coaching staff change and you don’t know how the program is going to be,” Grant said. “After meeting Coach Strong I was pretty set.”
Three other Seminoles are going on to play at the JUCO level. Defensive backs Quay Harvey and Bradley Tresalus both signed to play at Dakota College at Bottineau in North Dakota, and athlete Terrance Pryor Jr. committed to Mesa Community College in Phoenix.
Serving in the military is something of a tradition in Christian Kalish’s family and by signing a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday he moved one step closer to joining the legacy. The Palmetto offensive lineman made his commitment to Air Force official as part of a National Signing Day ceremony at Palmetto High School.
“Almost everyone has been in the military in my family, so it’s kind of something I have to do,” Kalish said. “Lead on the tradition.”
Kalish was joined by two of his fellow linemen, who signed to play at lower-level programs. Corey Brady, a guard and defensive tackle, signed with Division II Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn. The senior had previously been offered by Davidson, a Football Championship Subdivision program.
Defensive tackle Rodshon Williams plans to continue his career in junior college with Dodge City Community College in Kansas. The senior had been offered by Massachusetts, as well as FCS programs Eastern Kentucky and Liberty.
Saint Stephen’s honored three players with a National Signing Day ceremony at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School on Wednesday. Alex Virgilio led the trio with a commitment to Division II Wingate University in North Carolina. Virgilio was a three-way starter at points during his career for in Bradenton, contributing as a fullback, linebacker and kicker. As a senior, Virgilio was a first-team All-Sunshine State Athletic Conference choice for his kicking and he will continue in that role with Wingate.
Two other seniors plan to continue their careers at the Division III level. Peyton Vining, a two-way starter at wide receiver and linebacker, has committed to play at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. Defensive back Lethario Jones Jr., a second-team All-Area selection by the Herald and second-team All-SSAC pick, plans to play at Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee.
Twenty-five IMG Academy players plan on playing Division I football next year, but only one was actually in Bradenton to sign their National Letter of Intent during National Signing Day. Jordan Anthony, a four-star outside linebacker in 247sports.com’s composite rankings, signed with Michigan at IMG Academy after spending two seasons as a running back and linebacker at IMG.
The Ascenders’ other 24 D-I-bound athletes have early enrolled at their schools with 21 leaving Florida. Kellen Mond, Jhamon Ausbon and Robert Congel are at Texas A&M, Broc Bando is at Nebraska, Jack Camper is at Michigan State, John-Marcus Carruthers is at Baylor, Grant Delpit is at Louisiana State, Robert Hainsey is at Notre Dame, KJ Hamler is at Penn State, Isaiah Pryor and Marcus Williamson are at Ohio State, Cesar Ruiz is already with the Wolverines, Dante Sparaco is at Colorado, Elvis Hines Jr. is at Kent State, Elijah Watson is at Miami (Ohio), and Thomas Fletcher and Dylan Moses are at Alabama. Josh Kaindoh and Tre McKitty are both staying in state at Florida State, and Emmanuel Greene is at Central Florida.