Apopka DE-LB Isaiah Buehler received his first college football scholarship offer from FIU this week. (CHRIS HAYS/ORLANDO SENTINEL)
While FIU assistant coach Kort Shankweiler was explaining to Apopka’s Isaiah Buehler that the Panthers wanted to make a scholarship offer, all he could do was smile.
He probably wasn’t even hearing or retaining anything once he heard the word offer.
It’s the first of what he hopes will be many college football offers, and it gives the injury-rehabbing junior defensive lineman a reason to snap out of the doldrums of his football-less spring.
“It’s nice ... humbling. It shows me that I can play with guys at the D-1 level and it helped open my eyes and stop being all mopey,” Buehler said. “I was smiling the whole time I was on the phone.”
Like many other seniors-to-be, Buehler heard the echoes of numerous players around Florida receiving scholarship offers. Players with whom he considered himself to be on an equal level.
“It sucked. Your mindset is that you can compete with any guy out there,” he said, “and when you see these guys getting the offers, you’re thinking, ‘All right, what am I doing wrong or what are they doing right?’ … you try to figure out any advantage you can take with recruiting.”
He’s also been unable to do much in the way of showing college scouts visiting Apopka practices what he can do. He’s sidelined while recovering from procedures to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
“Every day I see coach Anderson and I’m like, ‘Coach, are you going to let me back in,’ and they just look at me, smile, shake their heads,” Buehler said. “I just want to jump out there and get into the mix. I can help on the sidelines, and lead and help pick guys up, but not being able to be out there, that hurts.”
He says he feels fine, feels ready, but he’ll be shelved until sometime next month. In the meantime he’s talking to schools, hoping for more offers.
UCF appears to be close to offering the 6-foot-3, 229-pounder, and the Knights like him as a linebacker. He may even move back to a linebacker spot this year for the Blue Darters to help fill one of few voids the Class 8A defending state champions will have on defense.
He’s also been talking to Rutgers, Marshall, Miami and a few others. Buehler said he has no issues in the academic department, so qualifying will be no problem.
Where some colleges might see a problem is with his speed, or lack thereof. He laughs when the subject is mentioned, but he’s been working with personal trainer Hunter Wood, who trains numerous Apopka players, as well as players from other Central Florida schools.
“I’m not the fastest … run a 4.9,” Buehler said of his 40-yard-dash time. “I have the 10-yard burst, but after that … just stay in my 10-yard radius and I’ll get you.”
His speed, or lack thereof, however, is somewhat deceiving. Despite his admitted flaw, he’s still quite rangy up and down the line of scrimmage. He had 77 tackles last season and 5 sacks.
He’s adept at being on the ball regardless of whether the play is on his side of the field, and his quick awareness of offensive gaps enables him stealth-like penetration of the offensive backfield.
Now he’d just like to finish the plays once he gets there.
“That’s one thing I’ve been working on is my footwork,” he said. “Last year I could have had like 20 sacks. There are just little things I need to work on to fix that.”
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 and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.