Before Joshua Booker even arrived at Manatee, he was a coveted running back prospect.
Booker burst on to the scene as a sophomore at Sarasota before injuries derailed him and he joined the Hurricanes before his junior season. By then, the old regime at South Florida had already extended him a scholarship offer.
But as injuries have piled up for Booker, the sort of interest which typically follows an early offer from a potential Top 25 team never came. Booker has pulled in a handful of smaller offers and is now stressing patience with the recruiting process as he prepares for his senior season.
“I’m just going to take my time,” Booker said last week.
Booker’s current list of offers currently stands at five with USF, Western Kentucky, Marshall, and Football Championships Subdivision programs Austin Peay and Bethune-Cookman, although Booker said he hasn’t talked with anyone from the Bulls since former head coach Willie Taggart, a Manatee alumnus, departed for Oregon.
Booker, who was a second-team All-Area selection by the Herald last season, hopes he’s already started to open eyes as he gears up for his final season in Bradenton. The Canes won a 7-on-7 tournament at a Florida camp earlier this month, which gave the 5-foot-11, 215-pound back a chance to showcase himself as more than just a bruiser in front of Southeastern Conference evaluators.
“A couple coaches at Florida said they’re looking at me,” Booker said.
Despite his strong junior campaign, Booker was still somewhat overshadowed in the Hurricanes’ prolific passing offense. Wide receiver Tarique Milton was the All-Area Offensive Player of the Year and committed to Iowa State. Quarterback A.J. Colagiovanni is at FCS Stetson after another second straight second-team All-Area campaign. Booker finished the year with 598 yards on 76 carries, fewer rushing attempts than even Colagiovanni had.
A couple coaches at Florida said they’re looking at me.
Joshua Booker, Manatee running back
As the Canes try to break in a new quarterback and a new offensive system under first-year head coach Yusuf Shakir, Booker will shoulder the offensive load alongside slot back Keyon Fordham, who also topped 500 yards on the ground in 2016.
“I don’t see too many teams,” Booker said, “being able to stop our backfield.”
News and notes
▪ Saint Stephen’s running back Chase Brown’s offer list has expanded into double digits after the rising senior picked up two more last week. Tulane and Liberty, an FCS program transitioning to the Football Bowl Subdivision, both expressed their interest to the Canadian back by making offers Thursday. Brown has shown most interest in Indiana and Western Michigan so far, taking unofficial visits to both campuses during the summer.