Greetings from Orlando. I’m finally here at the Coronado Springs Resort on Disney property in what’s actually Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Thanks to the service I got at the car rental counter at Tampa International Airport — remember that lady from the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, she was positively urgent compared to the one dude at this place — it took me more than a half hour to get out of the airport and then I had to make the 80-mile drive here.
But I’m here now and it’s a beautiful place the Under Armour All-America folks have provided for these elite prospects. At this writing I’m deep inside the lair, you might say. I’m in the players lounge. Not sure if I’m actually supposed to be but I walked in and set up my computer at the back of the large ballroom and nobody said anything.
I’m sitting next to 10, 15-box-high stacks of Under Armour shoes in the back corner (I counted). That’s a lot of shoes. They also have shoes and clothes displayed as you would see in a department store, three deep rows of black leather couches in front of six wide-screen televisions, video games and computers set up next to two walls and two pool tables in the expansive room. You can tell it’s a first-class setup for these guys.
I arrived too late to catch any of the live practices and skill challenges today over at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex but I caught several of the players as they arrived back here at the resort and I did talk to some friends at ESPN, who are taping it and showing some of it right now on ESPNU. The most interesting thing I’ve seen so far is watching these guys watch themselves on the tape delay. Every once in a while you’ll hear them laugh and point when they see themselves in action.
The word was that wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers of Calhoun was probably the biggest standout today. I talked to the Georgia commitment shortly after he got back to the hotel and he did not disagree.
“Yeah, I kind of felt that way, too,” said Rogers, who established the state receiving record with more than 1,600 yards for Calhoun this past season. “Once the balls started coming my way I started making a couple of plays. But it’s tough competition out here and you really have to work hard to get the balls you want.”
Rogers said he was able to catch some balls with 5-star defensive backs Lamarcus Joyner and Damarcus Millner defending him in one-on-ones, pass skeletons and seven-on-seven drills. Later he felt like he excelled in the skills competition for wideouts.
“I went against all those guys and I pretty much showed them all up,” Rogers said, laughing. “My future teammate [Alec Ogletree] got some, too. I just went out there and worked hard and ran good routes and it paid off for me.”
Gainesville wide receiver Tai-ler Jones was not quite as fortunate. He tangled up with cornerback Cody Riggs going for a ball early in the day in one-on-ones and aggravated the left ankle sprain he suffered during the state championship game at the Georgia Dome. As a result the Notre Dame commitment was unable to continue the rest of the day. But he received treatment there and was getting some more tonight and was hopeful he’ll be able to continue.
I also talked North Gwinnett offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James, who reported he had a good first day. James assured me he remains solidly committed to Tennessee and in fact will enroll there on Jan. 8. He also told me about the interview he had with NCAA investigators a few weeks ago regarding Tennessee’s recruitment and use of hostesses and social media. He informed me that the now infamous Lacey Earps was indeed his hostess on his official visit to Knoxville. “She’s a nice girl, just like any other host I had at any other school,” James said. I’ll have a full report on my conversation with big Ja’Wuan a little later.
I’ve got to go for now. I need to do some more reporting and file a story for the printed newspaper. But check back soon for more updates. They’ll be coming fast and furious for the next few days.
I’ll leave this with you: It was 72 degrees here today.