Winter Garden West Orange defensive end Corey Vereen began to find out that things might start getting a little different for him this summer when the Miami Herald placed his name in their college prospect rankings for the Class of 2013. The Herald ranked him No 58 among all the prospects for his grade in the state of Florida.

A huge accomplishment for a junior. There are nearly 400 Florida players who sign National letters of Intent to play NCAA Division I-A football every year. Vereen was now in the upper 20 percent of those players.

“I was surprised by it, but after I saw that I still figured it’s just a rating and I still gotta earn my place on the team and all that,” Vereen said. “I am one of the best players on the team, but I get treated like everyone else. I still have to work hard.”

With that sort of ranking, Vereen started to catch the eye of regional recruiters. South Carolina came knocking, then Florida, Florida State and others. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder has already taken advantage. He was at the Florida rout of FAU last week and will be at the Florida State-Oklahoma matchup at Doak on Saturday. He also plans a visit to South Carolina, and has plans to attend the Florida-Florida State game, also in Tallahassee.

I really like Florida and Florida state … and the University of South Carolina,” Vereen said, lumping all three in his favorites category. I like the coaching staff at all of them. I like the intensity they bring to the table every time. I like the way they coach, the way they push their players … it’s never quit.”

He came into this season expected to be a leader on a squad full of junior talent like fellow defensive lineman Winston Chastang, LB Nate Ozdemir, DE Jock Petree (currently injured), and offensively there are guys like WR Vernon Marshall, RB Roderick Jernigan, OL Will Ficka, add in seniors like DB Lucas Thompson and DB Christian Google, DL Jeff Hudson, FB Jamarkus Black, LB Travis Condon and center Kalvin Rymer -- just to name a few -- and this squad has the makings to do something special this season.

It appeared that was the case in Game 1 at Boone, a 27-20 West Orange victory, but then the tussle that appeared was looming at Freedom High never came about as the Patriots rolled 35-7. So West Orange sits 1-1, but the players figure they’ll be OK, and it wasn’t a district loss.

“We will go to the playoffs. We have an opportunity. Nobody in our district is better than us,” Vereen said of Class 8A, District 4 (Apopka, Ocoee, Olympia and Wekiva). “We have a very good chance of winning district.”

And Vereen knows it’s going to take leadership from him. Leadership by example.

“I was a little unsure of myself at the start of the first game,” Vereen said. “But as soon as the first few minutes started rolling by, I was comfortable and confident. … I’m all with it now.”

He has to be. Teams send two guys at him nearly every play.

“Every time,” Vereen said. “They always double team me. When I blitz they double teamed me. I expect it now, so it’s really not that big of a deal. I know how to get out of it.

“And it just allows my boys on the other side like Winston Chastang and Jeff Hudson -- to get some sacks and tackles off what I’m doing on the edge. But we don’t believe in numbers. Yes, it’s nice to get sacks (he has three so far), but we believe in three-and-outs … and no long drives. Gotta get the offense back on the field.”

And so another accolade such as the Top 10 of the Sentinel’s 2013 Central Florida Super60 debut, doesn’t really sway Vereen’s attitude about himself.

“The other (opposing) players, they see me and they always knew I was good, but they didn’t know I was good enough to be ranked like that,” Vereen said. “I’m really happy about it, but nonetheless, I gotta stay focused and it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do anything with it.”

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@tribune.com.