RECRUITING: Sapp Taking Offseason Workouts Serious

He has good size for a safety but he hits like a linebacker and because of that, Maurice Sapp of Sunrise Piper is going to have the opportunity to pick and choose where he will be playing football in Division I in 2006. A5 5-11.5 and 198 pounds, he's a combination of speed, size and aggressiveness that college coaches love to put in their defensive backfields.

Sapp is one of Broward County's best football players but last year he played on one of the county's most disappointing teams. He is determined to help the Bengals improve this year, knowing fully well that the better the team does, the more he will be noticed by college recruiters. Although the high school football season doesn't begin until August, he's already itching to get on the field.

"I want to play," he said, "because I know I am going to show out on the next level."

Proof that he's taken his offseason workouts seriously came at a combine in Boca Raton Friday afternoon. Last year Sapp ran a 4.6 40, but Friday he turned in a 4.46 and 4.48 when he ran the 40. He also had a 4.27 in the shuttle and benched 185 pounds 15 times. The outstanding 40 times were good news for Sapp who has been nursing a bad ankle.

He's already getting a lot of attention from last year's top two teams in the Southeastern Conference. He regularly hears from Tennessee, which signed his teammate, Vlad Richard, back in February, and Auburn, which just completed an unbeaten season.

"I talk to coaches at Tennessee and Auburn," he said. "The (list of) schools are coming along, that is why I am starting to go to some camps, especially since my ankle got better.

Tennessee is telling him everything he wants to hear: they will let him play his position and should have a spot for him for early playing time.

"The coaches at Tennessee tell me they need me at strong safety," he said. "When the year goes on and they see me play both positions, they may want me to play linebacker."

He has two A's and two B's this semester in his core classes so he is on track to qualify academically for a Division I schoplarship. As the final semester of his junior year winds down, he plans to use spring practice to get himself prepared for his senior year of high school football. Not only does he expect to be an improved player, he expects Piper to be an improved team.

"We expect to do big things this year," he said. "We are coming off a bad season last year, but we are trying to do this thing right. We are starting this thing early and it is looking good right now. As long as we can find a quarterback, we will be pretty good."

Piper's defense allows Sapp to use his many talents. He's a versatile player who can be moved around to wherever he will best help the team.

"My main position is strong safety, but we run a 4-4, so I play outside linebacker. I play both of those now," he said.

He wouldn't mind playing a little offense. "In the short yardage (last year) I would line up on offense and go in motion sometimes," he said. "I ran the ball twice and I got 20 yards on the two carries. [smiling] I don't know if they will give me the ball."

He is a playmaker and for Piper to post a winning season in 2005, he will have to play up to his potential. The coaches know that he has a nose for the ball so they basically turn him loose on defense.

"Most of the time the coaches tell me to do what I (want to do)," he said. "He lets me read the play. I had a pretty good season. I led the team in solo and assisted tackles. I am the biggest hitter on the team. I have the speed and I love the contact. I love football because it is a contact sport."

Sapp understands that because he performs so well on the playing field, that he is expected to be a leader both on and off the field for the Bengals.

"I like to help out my players," he said of his fellow teammates. "If I know what they are doing wrong or messing up I am going to help them out. As well, if I mess up, I am looking for someone to help me. When the coach tells me something, it is locked in my head and it is going to happen."

Sapp learned a lot about the recruiting process from his Vlad Richard who has taken the time to share some of the do's and don'ts of the recruiting process.

"He taught me a lot, to not rush into anything," said Sapp. "You have to see who gives you the best offer. What you need is more playing time, see where you can play."

He added a few more ideas of just what it is going to take to get his signature on the dotted line for a scholarship in February.

"I have to know if the school is going to grant me my scholarship even if I am hurt," he said. "There is nothing promised to you, and I could easily get hurt and they try and take it away from me. My education comes first. If I get an opportunity to play early, I am going to gauge that. I am going to look at the depth chart and how soon I will play."

Growing up so close to the Miami campus, it only figures that he followed the Hurricanes as a youngster, but just because he's always followed UM doesn't mean they have a competitive edge in the recruiting process.

"I grew up watching Miami, but Miami recruits so much every year," he said. "I don't have time to be sitting on the bench until my junior year just to get some playing time. After I get some exposure, I know I will play somewhere early because I know I have the talent to do it."

Maurice Sapp is a hard hitting playmaker with excellent speed. He's already high on a lot of recruiting lists, and if he has the kind of season he expects to have in 2005, he can expect to pick and choose on national signing day.

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