They had already seen the film.
So witnessing what receiver Ryan Sousa could do on the football field was more of just satisfying curiosity for most of the 20-plus college football recruiters on hand at Lake Nona’s spring game against Orlando First Academy Thursday.
But in true Sousa form, he showed them that the best of his film is yet to be recorded. He stole the show, scoring three touchdowns on little 5-yard screen plays that went far beyond what they probably should have on the field.
Sousa is the best at bobbing and weaving his way around a defense after he catches the ball. He has added a stronger upper body to his arsenal this season that allows him to break more tackles, giving you what Lake Nona head coach Anthony Paradiso says is the “best receiver around.”
It’s hard to argue. What Sousa does with the football is unmatched. You’ve heard of Yards After the Catch (YAC), well this is Sousa After the Catch (SAC).
Last season, Sousa caught 92 passes for 1,601 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Thursday night, he turned two short screen passes into 17-yard touchdowns, one of which was more like a 60-yard touchdown because he nearly used the width of the field to zigzag around TFA defenders en route to the end zone.
Then he hit the big one. He caught a 5-yard slant from quarterback Tucker Israel, after which he cut back and headed up the sidelines, breaking a few tackles and then, using key blocks from fellow receivers Deondre Farrier and Marc Aristide, weaved his way to a 68-yard score.
“I had great blocking from the offensive line and my receivers coming back down field blocking for me helped me out a lot,” Sousa said. “Thanks to my team and my coach for calling the plays for me. ... It was fun. We just go out there and execute.”
Those runs were impressive enough, but his most impressive effort might have been on a touchdown that was called back. Sousa broke several tackles on the way to a 60-plus gain, appearing as if he was down on several occasions before breaking free again and again. A penalty nullified the score, but the play still drew oohs and ahhs.
“He’s the total package at receiver,” Paradiso said. “Look at his blocking, how physical and strong he is. He’s got strong hands, he’s fast, he’s quick, he’s physical . . . He might be the best one I’ve seen in a while.
“He doesn’t surprise me. He did that all last year. Now he’s got more confidence.”
But he remains humble. For a kid who has almost 30 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers, you’d think he might get a little caught up in some of the hype. Not Sousa.
“It feels pretty good, but I really don’t focus on all of that. I let Coach ’Diso handle all of that,” says Sousa, whose brother, Kevin, also starred at Lake Nona before moving on to Wake Forest where he'll be battling for the starting quarterback position this upcoming season. “I try to focus on my playing and focus on what I’m doing so I won’t get off topic.”
Ryan Sousa and his coach attribute his strength to a tough workout regimen. He hits the weights hard and he says he can tell the difference when he’s on the field.
“It all comes from the offseason. When you work hard in the offseason, you see the results,” Sousa said. “I saw the results, breaking the tackles. I felt them bounce off me.”
One of his more aggressive suitors has been hometown UCF. Sousa also has scholarship offers from Wisconsin, Purdue, Kentucky, UCLA, Rutgers, FAU and FIU just to name a few. Still nothing from the state’s big three, but that might change down the road.
They better hurry up, however. Sousa says he has no favorites now, but he’s planning to make his decision at the end of the summer.
“I want to make it before my senior year so I don’t have to worry about anything else,” he said. “Just get it out of the way and focus on football.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun