1:04 AM EDT, May 16, 2012
There's a regular Hatfields-and-McCoys battle brewin' in the football state, and it's starting to stir things up like no other recruiting confrontation in recent memory between the state's college-football elite.
Florida State, Florida and Miami are in on it, pulling up fence posts and trying to establish new territories. Even UCF is in on this battle, as the poor stepchild of a neighbor from the other side of the tracks wants a piece of the action.
Worth fighting over is the prize recruit of the 2015 class, running back Jacques Patrick of Orlando Timber Creek, a 6-2, 210-pound stud of a specimen who has state recruiters knocking down doors so fast they are literally running into one another.
One of the first battles of this recruiting war took place recently in the hallways of Timber Creek High.
“They came around 10 o'clock in the morning,” Patrick said of FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett and UF defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson. “First coach Trickett came and talked for a while, and then about five minutes after he got there, coach TRob from Florida came.
“It wasn't like they hated each other, but you could see the tension between them. It was like a rivalry already in the recruiting world.”
Patrick, 15, should start getting used to these sort of confrontations. They'll be coming at him until he says to back off, and if he drags his decision all the way out to National Signing Day of 2015, this could be one recruiting war for the ages.
“They're both great guys. I know that what they tell me is the honest truth,” he said.
Oh, but Jacques, in these Hatfields-vs-McCoys showdowns, not all is as it seems. Not that either school would lie, but desperate times could lead to campaign-type promises — those that can't be kept but intrigue the young prospect nonetheless.
“Coach TRob told me a lot of things, like to just be the best Wolf I can be, and it will take me a lot of places,” Patrick said. I just take care of myself, and the school is going to come to me. I'll know it when I feel comfortable.”
As for Coach Trickett, “He just told me to keep my grades up … so I won't have to go to any junior college and stuff, just to get grades up and to stay grounded.”
In the state recruiting wars it doesn't seem as if there has been a good head-to-head battle in quite some time. And I'm talking about a good rivalry battle: Florida, Florida State and Miami in a head-to-head-to-head confrontation that doesn't end until National Signing Day.
Patrick is still just a freshman but already has offers from all three elite schools, as well as UCF and Auburn.
Early commitments have cut down on a lot of the down-to-the-wire, eleventh-hour recruiting alley fights these days, the kind that make or break an entire recruiting class on National Signing Day. Last year the only real tug of war between two of the state's major players was with Florida and Florida State both chasing St. Petersburg Lakewood defensive end Dante Fowler.
That wasn't much of a battle. Fowler's long-term commitment to FSU was somewhat of a joke. No one thought he was going to FSU. The Seminoles coaches probably didn't even think so. Fowler was seen at almost every UF event on the schedule. So the anticlimactic reaction to Fowler's finally signing with the Gators was actually more like, “Oh, OK ... next.”
Two years ago, there was Christian Jones of Lake Howell High in Seminole County and Matt Elam of Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer. Jones held his commitment close to the vest and revealed, to no one's surprise, an FSU cap on NSD, just like his father and older brother before him.
As for Elam, he committed to FSU … or was it UF first? He sent reporters scrambling at the Champion Gridiron Kings event in Orlando in 2010 after texting then-Treasure Coast linebacker and FSU commit Jeff Luc that he was going to join his friend in Tallahassee. A week later, he changed his mind. It would be UF.
Elam is still at UF. Luc is transferring, either to Cincinnati, Kansas State or possibly one of a few other schools he has in mind.
So UF got Elam that year, but FSU countered by snaring Timmy Jernigan that same NSD. Jernigan, however, was more likely to head out of state than down I-75 to Gainesville. So not much of a battle there either.
We can go back in the books and track several actual knock-down, drag-out recruiting battles the Gators, 'Canes and Seminoles have had with one another. But things aren't how they used to be — probably because all the recruits are looking to make headlines with the schools they pick, and waiting until the final day is just not in the cards for this Twitter-starved, Facebook-ready society.
“It's an honor to have all of these big schools wanting me,” Patrick said. “I've still got to play football and still keep my grades up, but it's an honor to get recruited at such an early age. In two or three years, I will make my decision, maybe sooner. … but it's all just a blessing.”
Patrick turned 15 in January, so he is right at the level of his classmates. He has a lot to take in at such a young age but he seems to be dealing with it just fine.
“I just want to take my time and do the right thing,” he said.
Time is all he's got … now, if he can just avoid any shrapnel from those Hatfields and McCoys — and Muschamps and Fishers and Goldens. Or those O'Learys, don't forget them. We hear that's a pretty feisty bunch. And that Holtz bunch? They’re probably sneaking up the back 40 right now.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.
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