It was only a few weeks ago that Orlando Lake Nona junior quarterback Tucker Israel, the kid with the pinpoint accuracy, the kid with the gaudy passing numbers and yes the kid with the shortage of height and smallish build, was pondering his future.
With his talent, his nearly 8,000 yards of passing and his 76 touchdowns over the past two seasons, surely this kid should have a college football scholarship offer. In December, he did not.
Little did he know early last month that he'd already have a destination picked out only a month later. At the Under Armour All-American Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Jan. 2, he talked about his lack of attention.
“If anyone is ever concerned, I'm more than happy to show them that I can make any throw anyone else can make,” Israel said.
Fast forward to Monday and he's still spinning the same yarn, but the color is different. It's Clemson orange and regalia purple. He'll still throw for anyone who asks, but he's a Clemson Tiger now.
"Like my dad and I have talked about, it's like it happened over night," Israel said.
After a junior-day visit to Clemson this past Saturday and a subsequent discussion with his family on Sunday and Monday, Israel decided to commit to Clemson late Monday night, picking the Tigers over offers from Akron, Cincinnati, Duke, Indiana, Memphis and USF.
He didn’t exactly plan on making a commitment prior to his visit to campus, but everything fell in place for the 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior, and Israel surprised the Clemson coaching staff.
“It wasn’t in the front of my mind … kind of in the back of my mind, like maybe making a decision while I was up there,” Israel said. “I don’t think [the coaches] knew how serious I was about it at first, but then they kind of realized, ‘Hey this kid is serious, and we ought to pursue this.’ "
Once the staff figured out Israel was all about business, they too started to get serious.
“They said, ‘If this is what you want, then we’re going to fully accept your commitment and we’re excited. You’re the No. 1 guy on our board and we’d be jumping for joy to have you.’ After that I realized that’s where I want to spend my next four or five years of college, right there.”
He committed on Monday after thinking it over, and called head coach Dabo Swinney to tell him the news. His other main recruiter at Clemson has been offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Chad Morris.
“They said they thought I was really polished and they said they like what I can do with my feet if a play breaks down, that I have great arm strength and a quick release and I that I can make all the throws,” Israel said, “and then they also like my mental aspect of the game, too.”
Israel is coming off one of the best seasons in state history and has put together back-to-back seasons of impressive numbers in head coach Anthony Paradiso's pass-happy offensive assault.
This past season he threw for 3,979 yards, breaking his own Orange County passing record, and 40 touchdowns while completing 66 percent of his passes (254-for-385) and he had just 10 interceptions. As a sophomore, Israel had 3,685 yards and 36 touchdowns, with just eight picks on 69-percent passing (249-of-360).
As a freshman he threw 10 TD passes in one game.
Israel is ranked No. 8 in the most recent 2015 Central Florida Super60, which will be updated again this weekend.
“I’m excited to be a part of the Clemson family and what they have going on up there,” Israel said.
Israel was selected as the Sentinel's 2013 All-Area First Team quarterback, was named the Orlando Touchdown Club's Offensive Player of the year, and he was also runner-up in the voting for the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 7A state Player of the Year.
He said he didn’t see any reason why it will be a problem to keep his commitment even though National Signing Day 2015 is 365 days away.
“This is where I want to be, it’s where I want to spend the next four or five years, it’s a place where I feel comfortable and I’m going to get a great education, the most important part,” Israel said. “I’m going to be playing at a high level and that’s where I want to be.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.