Taylor Upshaw didn’t even need to play an official game to become Manatee County’s latest coveted football prospect. One 50-second Hudl clip titled “First Game Highlights” featuring three official plays, two quarterback hurries and a tackle for a loss during Braden River’s preseason win against New Port Richey River Ridge was enough for the defensive end to go from unknown to intriguing.
Upshaw, a junior who had never played football before this August, caught the eye of Miami. Assistant director of player personnel Jorge Baez and director of player personnel Matt Doherty followed him on Twitter. Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz followed soon after. His size and pedigree made up for the scarce film. The Hurricanes invited him down to Coral Gables to watch their first game of the season against Florida A&M.
“They contacted me through Twitter and said, ‘We are very interested in you. Our defensive line coach is watching you carefully and we really like what we see,’” Upshaw said.
Upshaw, who is home schooled and began playing football for the Pirates this summer, is the son of former Buccaneers first-round pick Regan Upshaw and has a brother, Regan Upshaw Jr., who is a preferred walk-on at Clemson. Like Taylor, Regan Jr. burst on to the Atlantic Coast Conference radar quickly. The linebacker earned a spot with the Tigers after playing just one season at Tampa Alonso last year.
The family ties are intriguing, but so is Upshaw’s raw physical ability. At 6 feet, 5 inches and 245 pounds, Upshaw is Braden River’s tallest player and its seventh heaviest. He also should contribute as a tight end for the Pirates this season. An admittedly-failed basketball player, Upshaw has shown off the burst to wreak havoc on opposing backfields early this season.
The whirlwind start to his career culminated with the first of what should be many offers for first-year defensive lineman. With a second set of highlights and an unofficial visit to Miami now in his collection, he picked up his first offer from South Florida on Monday. In his lone regular-season game against Bayshore — Friday’s game against Southeast was canceled because of Hurricane Hermine — Upshaw recorded two tackles, a half sack, and forced and recovered a fumble.
Head coach Curt Bradley gave him the news after Braden River’s first post-storm practice. When Bradley started to tell him, Upshaw thought it may have been Miami, which entered the AP Top 25 at No. 25 on Tuesday, pulling the trigger. Interest from USF thrilled him all the same.
“I was about to leave and then Coach Bradley said, ‘Oh, you know you got an offer?’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’” Upshaw said. “That was just a great feeling.”
News and nuggets:
- This is the first edition of what will hopefully become a weekly recruiting round-up during football season. This space (which may have a catchier name sometime soon) will be used to catalog any smaller tidbits of information to keep you informed about where area standouts could be headed to play college football.
- With that said, the opening week of the college football season is always quiet. Upshaw was the only local to pick up a Division I offer this week and not many more took unofficial visits during Labor Day weekend.
- The one exception is a foursome of Lakewood Ranch seniors, who went up to Orlando to watch Central Florida. Tackle Sam Jackson, a three-star prospect in 247sports.com’s composite rankings, verbal committed to UCF during the summer and took his first trip to a game as a pledge with linebackers Dylan Townson and Zack Misiura, and wide receiver Kalebe Johnson. The foursome watched the Knights end their season-long losing streak with a shutout win against South Carolina State and toured UCF’s facilities during their unofficial visit.
- For up-to-the-minute recruiting updates, keep up on Twitter. You can follow me at @DBWilson2.