Things have gotten a little more complicated for Ryan Sousa.
The standout Orlando Lake Nona wide receiver, who will join an elite list of players Friday night when — not if — he catches career touchdown pass No. 50, is committed to play his college football at Florida State.
He should be a lock for the Seminoles. Right?
They’re in the national title hunt. They have Jameis Winston at quarterback. A Heisman-Trophy contending Jameis Winston.
Enter Joker Phillips … and this is no joke.
The Florida Gators and their affable receivers-coach-turned-social-media-recruiter-extraordinaire have thrown a wrench into the mix.
Phillips and UF head coach Will Muschamp, in the middle of a season possibly worse than any Ron Zook hater could have ever imagined — remember, Zook’s players won a national title two years after he got fired — got in touch with Lake Nona head coach Anthony Paradiso last week to let it be known they were coming after Mr. Super Slot … and they are coming hard.
“It’s another offer on the table .. another place where I can go,” said Sousa, whom I caught up with during his lunch break Monday.
Sousa has a low-key approach to most everything. He’s not easily excitable and he’s also never over-the-top exuberant. His reaction to this UF vs. FSU situation is pretty much the same as anything else that crosses his path.
He knows he has a very tough decision to make as FSU parades its rose-covered float toward Pasadena and the BCS National Championship Game, and UF continues its paddle-less descent up the proverbial river with Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease feverishly bailing water.
But the two situations, as easy as it seems to discern one from the other, isn’t exactly how it appears to Sousa.
It’s a quandary for the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder who is ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Sentinel’s 2014 Central Florida Super60. Muschamp and Phillips made their pitch Friday and he’s had a lot to think about following the Lions clinching of a playoff berth, the first in the school’s seven-year existence.
“FSU’s doing really good right now and they have a great coaching staff and great players,” Sousa said, “but the NCAA is very complicated and you never know what’s going to happen. One day FSU is on top, one day they could be like 22nd . . . you never know, so I don’t think that really triggers my mindset.
“But it does intrigue me because they are on their way to doing something special.”
Then there are the Gators. UF is struggling, but there are two ways a recruit can look at the situation.
One way is to dismiss UF from consideration wanting no part of what appears to be a situation that will only worsen before it gets better. The other way, however, is for a recruit to consider himself somewhat of a savior. There could be quick playing time in Gainesville and the new guys will be counted on to help right the ship.
“I feel like they do need playmakers and I feel like I can make a difference,” Sousa said. “That also intrigues me a little bit. There’s the national championship stuff at Florida State, or going somewhere where you can make a difference and be that kind of help.”
He’s weighing his options and he’s in no hurry. He wants to have his choice figured out by January.
“I haven’t changed my [FSU] commitment but I’m kinda still looking around,” Sousa said. “That’s somewhere I’m going to be for four years and I don’t want to be at a place where it didn’t fit for me.”
He’s still trying to plan his official visit to FSU. He might be in Gainesville this weekend for the Gators’ must-win game against Vanderbilt. Yes, it’s come down to that. UF likely has to beat Vandy to be bowl eligible.
Fortunately for the Gators, a win over Georgia Southern, in its last sesaon as an FCS member, will not count toward that number. So, the four-win Gators have to win two more games, the likely suspects being GSU and Vandy.* The other two games are against FSU and at South Carolina. Vandy is a must win.
Sousa is also considering making an official visit to UF for FSU weekend Nov. 30.
What UF might have working more in its favor than anything else is the feeling Sousa has of the receiving corps at FSU becoming a little claustrophobic.
The Seminoles have four receivers pledged to the 2014 class. They also have only two senior receivers on the roster – Kenny Shaw and Scooter Haggins. So, assuming there will be no early NFL declarations, Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene, Christian Green, Bobo Wilson, Kermit Whitfield and Isaiah Jones will all be back and all have seen playing time. Benjamin and Greene are, obviously, already go-to players.
“At times I think about it. ... I don’t want to be part of that so much. I feel crowded,” Sousa said of the receiver numbers.
But then he thinks about that impressive redshirt freshman quarterback Winston, who could be throwing the ball his a way in the future.
“Oh yes … you see that and it excites you and you are ready to go there,” he said of FSU.
It’s a predicament for sure, and one that Sousa welcomes. One any kid would welcome. But it doesn’t make it any easier.
“It’s going to be really tough. I’ve been blessed with a lot of options,” Sousa said.
For now he’s focused on Friday night and Orlando East River, the regular-season finale. His next touchdown catch will make him only the fourth player in Florida high school history to catch 50 career TD passes.
The state record is 57 by former Mayo Lafayette standout Jamal Reid (2006-09). He signed with UM out of high school, but did not pan out. The other two 50-plus receivers were Kevin Beard of Plantation (1996-98), another Miami signee who tore his ACL as a junior and did not play for the Canes again, and former Gators all-American Darrell Jackson from Tampa Catholic (1994-96). Jackson left UF early for the NFL, where he played nine seasons, mostly with the Seahawks.
“Two years ago, I just started playing football .. I didn’t even know how to play the game. I was just out there trying to do something,” Sousa said. “But I look at myself now and I’m like, ‘Wow. Look where I’ve come from … how it’s changed my life, changed my whole family’s life.’… It’s crazy. You never know what is going to happen.”
Sousa, junior quarterback Tucker Israel, who is two TD passes shy of 100 for his career, and Lake Nona (7-2) open state postseason play Nov. 15, at Lakleand Kathleen as the Class 7A, District 6 runner-up (Kissimmee Osceola is district champion).
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, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.