Tyler Castillo, a sleeper coaches do not want to snooze on

Chris Hays, The Prospector: Snooze you lose on East River's Tyler Castillo

There are tons of talented football players in Central Florida, especially in the 2015 recruiting class.

One could start a pretty darn-good team if it were composed of players in this particular graduating class, which we here at the Orlando Sentinel have often touted as the best group of senior college-football prospects in the history of Central Florida.

There could be plenty of arguments about which players would provide the groundwork for a team, but the first two are no-brainers. One heckuva foundation could be built with Orlando Timber Creek running back Jacques Patrick and Apopka offensive tackle Martez Ivey.

This class is loaded with talent at just about every position and it would be an easy squad to assemble, but the keys would be figuring out guys who will bust their tail for you as a coach. The integral parts of football teams are not always the stars who get all the yardage and the headlines.

Superlatives are one thing, but players who will do anything, players who have the right attitude, players who make those around them better … those are the types of guys who will make teams successful and the types of players I want around if I’m starting a football team.

That’s why of the top 100 players in Central Florida in the Class of 2015, the one guy who I would make sure I recruited as hard as Ivey and Patrick would be a little-known baller with the biggest heart, least amount of fear and most definitely the largest will to win — Tyler Castillo of Orlando East River.

Castillo does things no one thinks he should be doing. Like two weeks ago, at the Knights Shootout 7-on-7 tournament at UCF, when he zipped, dived and dodged his way around a talent-laden Miami Booker T. Washington defense to score three touchdowns on passes from East River quarterback Tanner Hearn.

Part of the beauty of covering college-football recruiting is being able to watch youngsters develop from skinny little eighth- and ninth-graders to stout stars of their teams when they finally get to be seniors. I’ve had the privilege of watching Castillo from the time he was a freshman at East River, back when he was all of about 5-foot-8, 145 pounds dripping wet. Back when he thought he was a quarterback, and darn it if he didn’t almost become one despite his size.

I first saw him at National Underclassmen Combine in 2011, an eighth-grader competing with other QBs his age. The only better quarterback that day was another rising freshman named De’Andre Johnson from Jacksonville. Johnson is committed to Florida State and has had a very successful high school career at First Coast High.

Castillo has played some quarterback and lots of safety for East River coach Marc Rankin and will play an even larger role this season as one of Hearn’s go-to receivers. His routes are tight, he gets open and he catches footballs.

East River offensive coordinator Doug Gabriel, the former UCF wide receiver who spent a few seasons in the NFL, calls Castillo his “Wes Welker.”

That’s the kind of player he is. Welker, who is 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, was never the player who was supposed to do any of the things he has done, either. Welker enters his 10th season in the NFL this year. He will likely surpass 10,000 career receiving yards and 50 career touchdowns this year.

Castillo, now generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, will likely catch close to 60 balls this year for more than 1,000 yards. This is the guy I want on my team. Fourth-and-goal and the game on the line, I want him either catching the ball, throwing a downfield block or manning up with the opponent’s top receiver. He’ll do it all, no questions asked.

He has just two scholarship offers in hand from FAU and Air Force, but he should have more.

If I were a college coach, I’d get the kid on my team to make sure he’s not kicking my butt on someone else’s team in the future. Because that’s what he will be doing. Many coaches will be asking who he is and where did he come from.

He’s Tyler Castillo and he’s at East River and you better sign him, or you’ll regret it when he’s taunting your players by running circles around them in the future. He might be a sleeper prospect, but this is your wake-up call. Hit snooze, and you lose.

 

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@tribune.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, and on Instagram at os_recruiting.

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