Correction: An earlier version of this story had the wrong Louisville player as Jarius Pace's brother. His half brother is Cardinals' RS-FR running back Jeremy Wright from Clermont East Ridge.
His smile was frequent at Thursday's practice at Lake Nona High.
Jarius Pace was back and has been for two weeks now as a member of a Lake Nona team that has quickly taken him in after he abruptly transferred from Orlando Olympia High just last month.
It's Pace's second transfer in two years. He left Clermont East Ridge, which went 11-2 in 2008, but Pace carried just 60 times for 547 yards and 3 touchdowns. At Olympia last year, he only got in three games due to issues with the transfer. He did score 6 TDs in those games and managed 261 yards on 40 carries.
Add together those two seasons worth of carries and it might be a bit closer to what you will see next fall at Lake Nona.
"I think it's a way better opportunity here than the other schools I've been to," Pace said. "The other schools, they're real good, but over here it's more of an academic process that I'm going through to try to get my grades up. I think it's the right place.
"Right now I'm worrying about my GPA. I can wait on football ... but right now I'm more focused on my grades."
He seemed plenty focused on the football field. The first ball he touched in the offense-vs.-defense portion of practice on Thursday he stepped through a line gap and then made a couple of nifty steps to avoid tackles and was gone.
"I feel good, it's good to get back on the field," he said.
At Lake Nona, Pace (6-2, 205) takes the field with one of the biggest conversation topics of the 2011 recruiting class in big, strong-armed quarterback Kevin Sousa. In Lake Nona's first season of existence last year, Sousa was the wrecking ball, carrying the ball for most of the load while also passing for more than 1,000 yards. Now, he has a complimentary running back.
"We've got a nice relationship ... it's kinda like a brotherhood and it's worked out real nice," Pace said.
On the recruiting level, Pace says he has offers from FIU, FAU, FAMU, Texas Tech and USF, so far. He also said he's considered joining his brother at Louisville, 5-foot-11, 199-pound running back Jeremy Wright, who redshirted as a freshman last year.
"Whatever comes my way, I just want to try to find the best school," Pace said. "It seems like there is more help at this school, as far as academics and there are a lot of nice people, it's a nice facility and nice coaches and everything."
As for his transfer saga, he's still listed as ineligible by the FHSAA and will not play in Lake Nona's spring game, or in the first two games of next season.
"So I'll come back Week 3," Pace said.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.