Growing up in the state of Florida, football players get a chance to play football year-round. With good weather and good conditions, there is a chance one will find a game of sandlot going on somewhere every day. For high school players the spring brings the excitement of beginning the preparation for the upcoming fall, and it allows the players to get back to being around the team playing the game they love. For many of Florida State's top recruits, this spring was used to continue the momentum and success they had last fall, while others used it to help prepare for expected early enrollment in 2009. And for one particular recruit, it was a chance to get back on the field after missing the majority of his junior season. Nole Digest was able to speak to Jacobbi McDaniel, JaJuan Harley, Lonnie Pryor, Willie Haulstead and Chris Thompson to talk about their experiences this spring, as well as to talk about their expectations as they begin the preparations for their last year of high school football.
While Lonnie isn't committed to FSU like McDaniel and Harley, he is a high priority player for the staff. His Okeechobee team is primed for a run next fall with several players coming back from a team that made the playoffs last year. This spring was used to tie up a few loose ends and get ready for the fall.
"I know the offense really well, but I wanted to come in and relearn everything and work with my offensive line again. All of our linemen are coming back from this past year so we should be ready to go."
While most of the teams in Florida participate in jamborees, Pryor's team participated in a team scrimmage. While they're all on the same team, Lonnie said they went hard at each other.
"I think I did pretty well. My team won so I was happy about that. Coming into the game we practiced hard all week, so the game was good and competitive. I ran for 2 touchdowns and I actually threw a touchdown pass. The pass was awesome because it was 50 yards and it was my first. I don't know how many yards I rushed for, but I know it was over 100."
"For my team we were just getting ready for the fall. We have everyone back on the line and we have defensive backs and receivers coming back. I think we will be as good as last year. Spring was fun, but now it is time that we get ready to go for the fall."
Lonnie says that now that spring is over it's time to hit the weights hard. He didn't lose too much weight from running track, and his coach told him he wants him at a certain weight when the fall comes around.
"I am focusing on getting bigger this summer. I didn't lose much from track so I am still in the 190-195 range. My coach told me he wants me to be 205 come fall, so I am going to be working hard. Spring was good but now it's time we look at the whole process."
Willie Haulstead's commitment to FSU was a pleasant surprise, and he showed during the spring why he is such a coveted recruit for the 2009 class. With size, speed and athleticism Haulstead is an impossible match-up for most high school defensive players. Haulstead's performance in his spring game may have been one of the best individual performances throughout the state this spring.
"I feel good coming off that game. The first 3 times I touched the ball I scored. My first touch was on a 58 yard jet sweep that I took to the house. My next one was a 55 yard catch, and my third was a 6 yard catch. I also played some corner which I love playing. I forced a fumble on a solid hit that I had. The guy came on a sweep and I came up and put a pop on him. Overall it was a good game and I had fun."
Haulstead comes from a smaller area in the state of Florida, thus some people may not be familiar with who he is as a player. After a solid combine season and now the spectacular spring game, Haulstead should be a recruit people become familiar with very quickly.
"I wanted to come out and prove who I am as a player. I feel that I am the best receiver in the state this year and one of the best in the country. I hope that my performance shows that I am a good player and that I am someone who can have fun with it. That was important too, that I have fun. It was a good time."
The Seminole commitment put on a live show for his future position coach as Lawrence Dawsey was in attendance to watch the standout playmaker. He says that while he didn't get a chance to speak to him, knowing Dawsey was there meant a lot. He told NoleDigest that he wanted to put on a show.
"I wanted to go out there and do my thing. I knew that Coach Dawsey was going to be there. I was excited when I saw him and I wanted to make sure I put on a show and let him see what I can do. Since I committed it's been crazy here with people around town. I've gotten a lot of positive reactions from people so that makes me feel good."
Willie is happy that spring is over, and he feels that he built a solid foundation for the fall. He showed in the spring that he will be a force in the fall, but he is not stopping the preparation for the fall. He plans on going to camps this summer in hopes that they'll help him achieve his goals for his senior season.
"The spring was fine and all, but I am trying to get better. I want to have 1,500 yards next year and I want to have 15 receiving scores. I am going to go to the FSU and Miami camps and show out. Hopefully I'll learn at those camps and I hope they help me get ready for the season."
Chris Thompson is the dynamic playmaker for Madison County High. The FSU commitment had a very solid spring overall, but like Jacobbi; he is not pleased with how it ended. Getting ready for another championship run is the primary focus for the Cowboys and Thompson, and the spring session showed them that they'll be contenders again this year. While it was fun, Chris feels like the loss means it is time to get to work.
"Spring was real fun. It could have ended better with the game not turning out like we wanted. But the spring was fun and I think we did pretty well as a team. We were surprised we lost. We were really shocked that the halftime score was 17-6. I don't know what was going on, but the feeling was terrible. Now we are a motivated team. I don't like to lose, so this loss makes me a lot more motivated heading into summer."
The fact that Chris is a high-level recruit and upperclassmen on his team means that he needs to be a leader for his team next year. He says he relishes that opportunity and feels that he is primed to be a guy the younger players can lean on in the fall.
"I feel like I proved myself as a player in the spring. The loss shows me that we need to work harder so that is what I plan on doing. I feel like I am a leader on this team. I want to be a leader and it's a role I like to play. Being a leader I have to go into the summer and work as hard as I can. I don't want any of the younger players to look at me and see that I am upset at the game or that I am not working hard. I want to be a guy that motivates them and sets the pace."
Chris's individual performance was a good one overall for the Cowboys. He rushed for almost 200 yards and scored three times, but it was 2 fumbles that left a sour taste in Thompson's mouth. After all of that, he came very close to scoring the game winning touchdown in the final minutes of the game.
"I had 10 carries for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns. That was good. I had 2 fumbles though that cost my team. Each time I was fighting for yards after breaking tackles, and after I tripped a guy came in and hit my arm popping the ball out. I was so mad but I wanted to keep my head up because I knew the game wasn't over. At the end we still had a chance to win. I had the game-winning score but it was called back for a holding call."
Thompson says that he doesn't have many plans for the summer but staying home and working with his team. He says a visit to FSU sometime in the summer will happen, but other than that he going to be on the grind.
"I am going to be working with my team over the summer doing some training stuff. I want to get bigger and faster. I've gained some weight since the last time I saw you; I am up to 181 pounds. I've felt like I have lost some speed but my coaches have told me that I have kept it. I want to add a little more weight on and I want to keep working on my speed. Besides that I plan on making a visit to Florida State for the Showtime."
Florida State's future is in good hands with the guys committed to them for 2009. With guys like Lonnie Pryor still on the board the coaches are looking to continue adding players that can take the team to another level. As each of these 5 recruits showed, the Seminoles are landing the playmakers on both sides of the ball that will bring them back among the nation's elite programs.