Willie Taggart has pledged to control the Tampa Bay area recruiting scene since being hired as South Florida’s head coach, and part of that goal for the former Manatee High quarterback is dipping into his home county. This weekend was one of his biggest outreach efforts yet.
The bleachers at Raymond James Stadium for USF’s 48-17 win against Northern Illinois on Saturday were filled with athletes from Manatee County, ranging from those with major-conference interest to those without an offer yet.
“It was pretty fun, man. The atmosphere was amazing up there,” said Saint Stephen’s quarterback Fred Billy, one of the top area talents without a scholarship offer. “They’re really about the kids from around here. That’s what they want — they want all the kids from the bay area to come over.”
Billy was one of at least five players from the county to make the trip to Tampa to see the Bulls improve to 2-0. Southeast defensive end Darrien Grant, who verbally committed to USF last month, made the trip, as did Hurricanes wide receiver Tarique Milton and a pair of Braden River defensive stars. Junior end Taylor Upshaw, who picked up his first offer from the Bulls last week, made his first visit to Raymond James, and defensive back Tyrone Collins traveled north to make USF the first unofficial visit of his junior year.
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All four of those have officially been extended a scholarship offer by the Bulls. Billy is still waiting on his.
The junior, who has started at quarterback for the Falcons since his freshman year, has continued to struggle with his accuracy this year, completing just 16 of 34 passes for 338 yards, but is once again wreaking havoc as a runner. He’s carried the ball 33 times for 296 yards and six touchdowns. Billy’s athleticism is what makes him an intriguing prospect as an overall athlete rather than as a quarterback.
“If I keep doing what I’m doing on the field, it’ll come sooner or later,” Billy said.
And USF has consistently been in touch with the quarterback. Billy went to a camp in Tampa during the summer and has a good relationship with Bulls defensive coordinator Raymond Woodie, a Palmetto native who coached at both Bayshore and Palmetto.
The local pull is hard to ignore, even for players like Grant, Milton and Collins. Grant is verbally committed to USF despite offers from ACC programs North Carolina State and Boston College, and Milton and Collins both made Tampa a destination early this fall despite Big Ten and SEC offers.
“It’s pretty cool knowing that they’re from this area,” Billy said of the Bulls’ coaching staff, which also includes former Canes head coach Joe Kinnan. “They know the streets like how we know the streets. They know this area, so they know what home is. It’s pretty cool that they want to get kids from this area and know how good kids are from this area.
“Right now it’s a place where kids want to go.”
News and nuggets:
▪ Tyrone Collins is now at double-digit offers after Cincinnati offered a scholarship to the Braden River defensive back Thursday.
▪ After the best game of his career, Deshaun Fenwick departed to Gainesville for an unofficial visit to see Florida open its SEC slate against Kentucky. The junior running back scored three touchdowns in a 42-14 win against Cape Coral Ida Baker on Friday while topping 200 total yards from scrimmage.
▪ Taylor Upshaw is the area’s fastest rising prospect and has set up a second visit with a major-conference program. After visiting Miami last weekend, the end is slated to take a visit to Georgia for the No. 16 Bulldogs’ Oct. 1 game against No. 15 Tennessee in Athens, Ga.
▪ Rodshon Williams has a pair of visits set up, including one to a major-conference program. The Palmetto defensive tackle is slated to visit Kansas State for its Sept. 24 game against Missouri State in Manhattan, Kan., and then travel to Eastern Kentucky for its Oct. 8 game against Southeast Missouri State in Richmond, Ky. EKU, a Football Championship Series subdivision program, is one of three schools to already extend a scholarship offer to the senior.