Alan Dell

Commentary: Dowling still committed to WKU

New Florida head coach Will Muschamp has made a last-ditch effort to get Jon Dowling to remain with the Gators, but the defensive back appears committed to Western Kentucky and plans to enroll there for second semester classes.

The former Southeast High standout was reportedly dismissed from the team by former Gators head coach Urban Meyer, though one family member says he left on his own accord.

Either way, Muschamp, whose forte is defense, has tried to keep Dowling, who received his release from Florida but completed his first semester classes.

Apparently even a star studded coaching staff that includes current NFL assistant Dan Quinn (Seattle Seahawks), who will take over as the Gators defensive coordinator, couldn’t sway Dowling. The freshman hopes to receive a waiver from the NCAA that will allow him to play next season and not sit out a year.

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Manatee High receiver Quenton Bundrage visited Iowa State this weekend, but is leaning toward signing with WKU, which means the Hilltoppers could put an all Manatee County receiving corps on the field next season.

If Dowling goes through with his decision to enroll at WKU and the coaches allow him to play both sides of the ball as they promised, he could join a set of receivers that includes Willie McNeal (Braden River and Palmetto High’s Donald Campbell along with Bundrage. The quartet could even have Southeast High quarterback Dyron Speight throwing to them.

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Who would’ve thought back in September that when the season ended, UCF’s Jeff Godfrey would be the only quarterback in the state solidly entrenched in his position and that Florida would have the most unstable quarterback situation.

It should make for an interesting spring. The confidence of Florida quarterback John Brantley has been scattered into pieces all over the Swamp, and fans are already proclaiming incoming freshman Jeff Driskel the heir apparent who will make everyone finally forget Tim Tebow.

The Oviedo Haggerty standout was named the Maxwell Football Club’s National High School Player of the Year, but it’s a long way from quarterbacking high school to the SEC. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder has the size and arm strength to fit perfectly into the pro style offense Muschamp plans to install.

Brantley won’t make a decision about returning until he sits down with incoming Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. But he doesn’t have a lot of options as a redshirt junior. He can only play at a Division II or III school unless he graduates and gets an NCAA waiver.

Miami’s Jacory Harris didn’t help himself with three interceptions in the Canes’ Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame and figures to go into spring battling Stephen Morris for the starting job.

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B.J. Daniels re-affirmed his position as the man to beat at USF with his performance against Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but he is not a sure thing to go the distance at quarterback in 2011.

The supporting cast for Daniels should be better with receivers A.J. Love (Southeast) and Sterling Griffin returning after sitting out last season due to injuries.

Transfer Darrell Scott, who Rivals.Com rated the No. 1 high school running back in the country in 2008, should head a talented running back core that includes returnee Demetris Murray and Arcadia DeSoto product Marcus Shaw.

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Scott has the potential to be the best running back the Bulls ever produced, though the same thing was said about Sarasota High’s Mike Ford, who never came close to his potential in three years with the program.

Scott has a lot to prove, which might be all the motivation he needs. He was reportedly out of shape during his only season at Colorado, and one publication listed him as one of the 10 biggest five-star recruiting busts in the past five years.

“I think Darrell Scott has a chance to be a stud,” USF head coach Skip Holtz said. “We are going to have some offensive skill (with Scott, Love and Griffin), which is something we really lacked this year.”

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Willie Taggart has been mentioned as a possible successor to Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. In his first year as head coach at Western Kentucky, the Manatee High legend has turned heads with how he has changed the culture in a program that was winless before he arrived.

Taggart has been adopted by the Harbaugh family from his days as a player at WKU under Jack Harbaugh and later as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach there and then an assistant at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh.

His recruiting skills and offensive mind (he helped produce Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart) are highly regarded in the college coaching community. Jack Harbaugh likes to brag that in WKU’s 2002 undefeated I-AA national championship season, Taggart called all the plays.

Taggart’s relationship with the Harbaughs is special. Jim was the best man in his wedding, and both Jim and his father have said Taggart’s family, which includes his wife Taneshia and two children, are considered extensions of the Harbaugh family.

Taggart is most likely a long shot now to replace Jim Harbaugh with Stanford’s offensive and defensive coordinators probably the favorites along with some more experienced head coaches out there certain to become available. But it’s a feather in his cap that his name is being tossed into the ring.

Alan Dell, sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.