Tampa, Fla.--Changing from the west coast offense to the spread offense has sent the Auburn coaching staff on a search for more playmakers at the wide receiver position for the Tigers. This weekend that search continues as one of the most productive high school receivers in the country is scheduled to take a visit to Auburn to check out the program.
H.B. Plant High's Derek Winter has been a standout since first seeing varsity action as a sophomore and the 6-2, 195-pounder has turned himself into a top prospect despite not having ideal speed for the position with a 40-yard dash time in the 4.5-4.6 range. Because of that things were slow on the recruiting trail for much of the year, but his play as a senior has schools from all over looking at him late in the process.
"It was kind of quiet, but this past week I had a bunch of guys in," Winter tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I've had some opportunities come up for me that I didn't know were available at this point."
Holding offers from South Florida, Iowa and on the verge of receiving an offer from Georgia Tech, Winter says that Auburn just recently came into the picture for him while coaches were down checking out standout junior quarterback Aaron Murray.
"It was kind of recent," Winter says. "Coach (Tommy) Tuberville and Coach (Greg) Knox came in and were looking at film of our junior quarterback. They noticed who was catching the balls so I sat down with them and he asked me what visits I had gone on and what I had set up. This was only Monday and I had nothing so he said ‘why not come up to Auburn this weekend?'. I definitely accepted it and I was kind of surprised."
Living in Tampa where the SEC gets plenty of exposure, Winter says he was excited to grab the attention of Auburn's coaches and is looking forward to his visit this coming weekend.
"The head coach at Auburn Tommy Tuberville, that's pretty big time," Winter says. "He was sitting across from me. That's good to hear."
Earning the Guy Toph award as the Hillsborough County Player of the Year as well as First-Team Class 4A All-State, Winter had the kind of season most players can only dream about. Playing in a spread offense, he caught 75 passes for 1,680 yards and 18 touchdowns. Those numbers don't even reach his junior totals playing with Miami freshman Robert Marve last year as he had 90 catches for 1,260 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2006. As a sophomore he added 24 catches for 450 yards and six touchdowns. He says that while he's not the fastest guy, he can just get the job done.
"I feel like when I know a system I'm able to look at a defense and kind of pick out where the weaknesses are and find the holes in the defense and take advantage of that," Winter says.
While still waiting on an offer from Auburn, Winter says that this weekend will give him a good chance to check out the program so he'll know what to expect should an offer come forth in the coming weeks leading up to signing day on Feb. 6.
"The coaches told me that in their bowl game they put in the spread offense and they liked it so they needed more receivers," Winter says. "That's why they were down here looking for them.
"Obviously to go up on a visit there is definitely some interest from their part in me," he adds. "I don't think they knew their numbers exactly and I'm not necessarily going in there expecting an offer. I think there is always a chance."