Fort Lauderdale University School wide receiver Dionte “D.J.” Taylor admits that when he was first approached by the UCF coaching staff, his reaction wasn’t unlike a lot of other high school football prospects.
UCF can sometimes be an afterthought to high-profile, in-state recruits, but after Taylor (6-foot, 165-pounds) met UCF special teams/tight ends coach Allen Mogridge, that perception started to take a different turn.
“They rank pretty high … shockingly,” said Taylor of UCF. “When I heard about them earlier in the process, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to stay so close to home, but after talking to Coach Mo for so long, I really like what they’ve been saying and it’s a good opportunity for me.
“It’s in a big city, like I want, there’s a wide field of degrees I can choose from, which I’m also interested in, so that’s pushed them pretty high up on the list.”
Taylor, who has 21 offers and is also looking at schools like Boston College, Missouri, Louisville, Nebraska and Oklahoma State, took an official visit to Boston College on Sept. 29, and he said he currently has no favorites.
“Everything is really up in the air right now,” Taylor said.
He also knows that UCF head coach George O’Leary would like to change that this weekend.
“I know Coach Mo said Coach O’Leary is going to try to put me on the spot,” Taylor said. “So I gotta be ready for that. I don’t want to make an emotional decision based on how much fun I’m having or how much I like the place at the time. I want to be able to come back home and sit down and let it marinate.”
His relationship with Mogridge has made UCF a big player in his recruiting process.
“I love coach Mo. He came by the school during track season, that’s when I first met him and we’ve built a very special bond,” Taylor said. “He’s been very supportive of me through the whole recruiting process, not just pitching UCF to me. He’s been breaking down other schools with me and giving me the dos and don’ts of the recruiting process, and I really appreciate that.
“That kind of bond just attracted me to the school and made me want to take an official visit, that and the promising future I realize they have.”
Taylor is fresh off an seven-catch, 112-yard, one-touchdown receiving performance against Leesburg Friday night during which the Suns rolled to a 6-0 mark with a 42-3 win over the Yellow Jackets. He then hopped in the car with his mother and aunt and headed to Orlando. He is on his second official visit this weekend at UCF, as the Knights host Southern Mississippi tonight. Game time is 8 p.m.
Several other high-profile recruits are expected in town this weekend on unofficial visits. Bright House Networks Stadium is becoming a second, weekend home for St. Petersburg’s Lakewood High twins Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin, who have already committed to the Knights 2013 recruiting class, and teammate wide receiver Rodney Adams, the other priority receiver, with Taylor, on the UCF recruiting board.
Adams seems to be quite high on the Knights. The former Florida commit is in town for his third straight game after having also attended games against Missouri and FIU with the Griffins. Adams is also looking at West Virginia, Vanderbilt and Houston. He has said he currently has no clear-cut leader, but the Griffin twins are making a huge push with their friend.
A couple of other visitors the Knights are very high on are a pair of 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker teammates out of Butler County Community College in former UCF commitment Tommy Sanders (2010, Cordele, Ga., Crisp County) and former Kent State pledge Rahman Swain (2010, Lithonia, Ga., Martin Luther King). Butler, known for producing top-notch juco players, is ranked No. 2 in the latest NJCAA Top 20. Sanders had 69 tackles and 8 sacks last season in 12 games, while Swain had 56 tackles and three sacks in just nine games.
Other usuals expected to be on hand will be 2013 UCF pledges QB Pete Dinovo (6-3, 205) and his teammates WR Artavis Scott (2014, 5-11, 180) and ATH George Campbell (2015, 6-2, 180), as well as Fort Myers center Tate Hernly (6-3, 270), another 2013 UCF commit.
Several local players will be on hand, with Timber Creek safety Chris Board perhaps being the one of most interest currently for UCF. Board is averaging nine tackles a game and has four interceptions, including a pair Friday night in the 6-0 Wolves’ 20-6 win over Winter Springs.
Board (6-2, 205) has yet to receive a UCF offer, but could be close. He has also received recent interest from FIU but with Board living only about six miles from the UCF campus, the Knights may hold an advantage in proximity. As usual, Timber Creek will also be represented by 2015 RB Jacques Patrick (6-2, 217) and his brother 2014 ATH Javonte Seabury (5-9, 160). Patrick was offered by Southern Cal this week to give the sophomore 12 offers already.
Another underclassmen who has picked up several offers is Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas WR Corey Holmes (6-1, 172). He’ll be visiting UCF for the second straight game. The Knights have yet to offer Holmes, but he does have offers from Florida, Florida State, USF, Michigan, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Wisconsin.
The Knights don’t have a large number of scholarships to give out in the next two cycles after NCAA sanctions against the program last summer limited the numbers, so they are a bit more selective in their current processes.
Unlike a lot of schools, which will offer scholarships at a raffle-ticket pace, Coach O’Leary has a philosophy that if he offers a player, he will always honor the offer, unless there are circumstances that dictate otherwise.
One player who does have an offer in hand, however, is Taylor, and this weekend will weigh heavily toward his decision, for which he will be in a little more of a hurry than most with his target of graduating in December.
“When I went up last time it was during the summer so it was pretty slow,” Taylor said of UCF. “I want to go up for an official just to get a feel for how the campus works during the school year ... how busy it is, how life is and to see what kind of chemistry they have in their program, the philosophy in their program and how the coaches run things, and just to see how I fit in.”
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 and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.