Class of 2011 ESPNU 150 Watch List cornerback Nick Waisome (Groveland, Fla./South Lake) was a road warrior this spring and summer, attending camp after camp and competing with some of the best talent in the country.
For his performances, he gained written offers from all the big three Florida programs (Florida, Florida State and Miami) within the first week juniors could receive such offers and is considered one of the top prospects in the country at his position for the next recruiting cycle. Duke, Ole Miss, North Carolina State and others also have offered.
This all started for the talented youngster, who attends the same high school Florida running back Jeff Demps did, at Under Armour combines in Jacksonville, Fla., and Atlanta, where he caught the attention of the coaching staff at both events.
"You just have to go out there and have faith in yourself," Waisome said. "I played my heart out [at those events] against whatever receiver I went up against. That kept me going against some of the biggest and best receivers."
As for recruiting, Waisome has interest in all the schools that have offered him. Florida, because of connections with Demps and offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison, obviously will be a major factor. Waisome attended Friday Night Lights, the Gators' summer prospect camp, and performed well.
Waisome said Demps is a "little older" and he does not talk with the speedy back about recruiting all that much, but Harrison has given him some good advice.
"He just tells me to take my time and make the right decision," Waisome said. "He says to make sure that I take it one step at a time and make sure that I take all of my official visits because that's something he did not get the chance to do. He said even if I know where I want to go, it never hurts to see what else is out there because you may find that somewhere else is a better fit for you once you go and see it."
Waisome will go see Florida State unofficially this weekend when the Seminoles play host to South Florida. He has no other unofficial visits set up at this time.
There are several factors Waisome will weigh when evaluating a school.
"Definitely, playing time will be a big factor," he said. "My parents are very high on the education aspect. I also am looking for a program that has a history of putting defensive backs in the NFL."
On the field this season, Waisome has played both ways and been impressive. He has an interception on defense and four touchdowns on offense in three games. Teams are not throwing to his side very often.
Here are five non-BCS programs with impressive recruiting classes to date.
BYU: The Cougars have two ESPNU 150 prospects committed, including quarterback Jake Heaps (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline), who could have gone anywhere in the country, and Under Armour All-American defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (Provo, Utah/Timpview). The Cougars also were able to turn four-star wide receiver Ross Apo (Arlington, Texas/The Oakridge School) from the University of Texas. He is one of the top receivers in the Lone Star State.
Houston: Speaking of Texas, Kevin Sumlin and his staff have done a fantastic job of getting out and evaluating the state. Throw in a huge upset win on the road against a then-top-five Oklahoma State team earlier this season, and the Cougars definitely are a program on the rise in all aspects. Receiver DeAndre Perry (Austin, Texas/Bowie) and receiver Jordon Jolly (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) are the two highest-rated in-state commits. Houston also ventured into Louisiana to gain a pledge from Terrance Broadway (Baton Rouge, La./Capitol).
TCU: Under coach Gary Patterson and staff, the Horned Frogs have built a tremendously successful program plugging Texas talent into their system and winning games. This year's recruiting class thus far appears to be another excellent group with big potential. Of the nine commitments to date, all are from the state of Texas. Athlete Sam Carter (Alief, Texas/Hastings) and defensive tackle David Johnson (Argyle, Texas/Argyle) are the two highest-rated prospects currently committed, but Texas recruiting insiders say Patterson & Co. do the best job of thoroughly evaluating prospects in the state on an annual basis.
Utah: Last season's Sugar Bowl victory has created an excellent buzz about the Utes among prospects in the West, but the reality is that like TCU, this program has evaluated quite well this decade. Like most programs in the West, Utah hits California hard, but the Utes also dipped into Texas. In this year's class, tackle Archie Muniz (Houston/Cypress Creek) and safety Damian Payne (Houston/Klein Forest) are two of the highest-rated commitments the Utes have, along with Golden State quarterback Brian Blechen (Moorpark, Calif./Moorpark).
Florida International: The Golden Panthers are fortunate they are located in an area (South Florida) that produces some of the best talent in the nation. Still, credit must be given to Mario Cristobal and staff for landing their share of that talent. Of the 10 current commits, all are from Florida, with six coming from the Miami (Dade/Broward/Palm Beach) area. Quarterback Jake Medlock (Neptune Beach, Fla./Fletcher) and cornerback Khambrel McGee (Miami, Fla./Northwestern) are two under-the-radar players who will be known throughout the Sun Belt Conference in a few seasons. Defensive back Mac Brown (Saint Petersburg, Fla./Gibbs) was a steal. FIU beat a couple of Big Ten programs on him.
Hot sell: Washington
The Huskies definitely are on their way back. After a stunning 16-13 win against Southern California on Saturday in Seattle, look for a big reaction from recruits about Steve Sarkisian's program, particularly in the always-important state of California. Cornerback Demetrius Wright (Corona, Calif./Corona), for example, has Washington high on his list, along with the Trojans. Should the on-field success continue this season, it also will have a tremendous impact in the Class of 2011; in-state standout tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Gig Harbor, Wash./Gig Harbor) and wide receiver Kasen Williams (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) both are national-level recruits.
Two-team battle shaping up for Reed
Four-star wide receiver Trovon Reed (Thibodeaux, La./Thibodeaux) is down to Auburn, LSU and Florida, but it's expected to be a battle of Tigers. Reed had a lot of good things to say about his latest trip to Auburn, and that's the team to beat at this point. Most will caution, however, that LSU is not completely out of the mix.
Hurd enjoys Notre Dame
Under Armour All-American cornerback Toney Hurd Jr. (Missouri City, Texas/Marshall) visited Notre Dame over the weekend and came back impressed with South Bend and the program. He stressed the importance academics will play in his final decision and said he would like to visit Florida State, Ohio State, California and possibly Auburn before making a decision, but he has not scheduled any further visits to date.
Trojans commit sees Tempe
Four-star athlete and Southern California commit D.J. Morgan (Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft) took an unofficial visit to Arizona State recently. The Sun Devils also are recruiting his brother, Josh Morgan, who is a running back at Pasadena (Calif.) City College. Morgan maintained after his visit, though, that he is still "99 percent" solid on USC. He had 235 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns recently in a game against fellow Southern California power Notre Dame.
Speedy Byrd getting looks
Class of 2011 ESPNU 150 Watch List athlete Damiere Byrd (Sicklerville, N.J./Timber Creek) is a speedy playmaker who already is on the radar of a number of programs. One Southeastern Conference assistant coach believes Byrd is a big-time playmaker who definitely has a future in that league, and there are other programs giving him a strong, early look as well.
Syracuse was the first program to come through with a verbal offer for the 5-foot-9, 160-pounder, who has been timed as fast as 10.6 seconds in the 100-meter dash on the track.
"I have been getting a lot of interest," Byrd said. "I am going to be looking at academics and if the school has my major [sports medicine]. Football-wise, I would like to play in a spread offense, because that's what my high school runs."
So far this season, Byrd has put up good numbers. He had six catches for 133 yards and a touchdown last week in a 47-0 win against Morristown. The first week of the season, he had three catches for 57 yards, an average of 21.1 yards per reception.
Oregon, Iowa, Virginia, Rutgers, Alabama, Florida, Purdue, UCLA, Georgia, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan State, Cincinnati and Penn State are among the programs showing early interest.
Two early offers for Connecticut OL/DL
Two-way lineman Tom Jordan (Ridgefield, Conn./Ridgefield) claims two early offers, from Boston College and Florida, and is getting plenty of additional attention.
The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Jordan starts on both sides of the ball for his high school team. He started both ways as a sophomore and on offense his freshman season. Last season, he had 55 total tackles on defense, and he had two sacks in his team's first game this year.
"I play pretty physical," Jordan said. "I like to hit."
Jordan, who has a bench press max of 320 pounds and a squat max of 425, also has played basketball his entire high school career to date, something that has helped him develop good footwork and balance, important for any lineman.
"I play a lot of basketball," he said. "I play for my school and I play AAU in the spring. I travel with my AAU team."
Boston College has had great success developing talented linemen in recent years, and the Eagles are major factors early.
"[BC] is definitely a good school," Jordan said. "They got a new coach, and he's doing a really great job. I enjoyed it when I went down there."
Jordan camped in Gainesville during the summer and picked up the offer from the defending national champion Gators after a strong showing there.
"It was huge to get that offer," he said. "It was really unbelievable to get an offer from a program like that."
Penn State also is showing interest.
"That's another huge school right there," he said. "If they were to offer, they would be a school that had a chance to be one of my top schools."
Jordan is a long way from making a decision but did break down some of the things he is looking for in a program.
"Academics are a big thing for me, but most of the schools I am going to be looking at have strong academics," he said. "I would like to play as early as I can, so depth at my position will be something I am going to look at later on when I start to break down the different schools."
Under Armour All-American tight end Xavier Grimble (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman), a Southern California commit, has 15 catches for 318 yards this season, surpassing last season's total of 13 for 308. ESPNU 150 defensive end David Perry (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School) says Arkansas and South Carolina could be two of his official visits. He has not scheduled any to date and does not have any favorites. ESPNU 150 defensive lineman J.R. Ferguson (Chatham, Va./Hargrave Military) definitely will visit Notre Dame, Oklahoma and LSU officially, according to his father. Watch out for Miami here when all is said and done.