RECRUITING: Ahmad Black Has Three Favorites

The speech that Ahmad Black hears every single week from Coach Bill Castle is pretty much the same. About the only thing that ever changes is the name of the opponent and whoever that opponent is, Castle is going to talk about them as if they are the second coming of Southern Cal.

(See Ahmad Black profile)

"You listen to him talk during the week and it's always the same," said Black, a 5-11, 170-pounder corner for the Lakeland Dreadnaughts who have won 30 games in a row including the last two Class 5A state championships and the 2005 USAToday national title. "He's always saying 'this is the best team you're going to play all year and if you don't practice harder and quit horsing around out there you're going to get beat.' It's the same speech every week."

You might think that Black and his teammates get tired of hearing it but they understand that Lakeland High School football has become the 900-pound gorilla. They know all about high expectations. Since 1993, Lakeland is 150-18 with four state championships. Castle has been the head coach at Lakeland since 1976 and in his 30 years, Lakeland is 280-72 with five state titles.

"Every Friday night we know the other team is going to give us their best shot," said Black, who was in Gainesville for the Nike combine Saturday. "We've got a great big target on our back. Anyone that beats us, they make their whole season. That's why Coach Castle is always on us. He just won't let us let up even for a minute. He's always letting us know that if the other team outworks us they'll beat our butts."

On the LHS campus and around town, Black and his teammates never hear the question are you going to win Friday night?

"They don't ask that," he said. "They ask are you going to beat them by 40 or 50 this week? It's not if we're going to win, it's how much are we going to win by?"

It's been two years since Lakeland lost a football game and Black is doing whatever he has to do this summer to ensure that the Dreadnaughts extend that streak to at least three years. The dream is another 15-0 season, a third straight state championship and a second straight USAToday national championship.

Those are lofty goals, especially with a tougher than ever schedule that includes Tampa Hillsborough in the season opener, perennial Dade County power Miami Norland, a road trip to Cincinnati to face Ohio power St. Xavier and tough district foe Lake Gibson. Black will spend his summer getting his bench press over 300 and lowering his 40-yard dash time.

"I wanted to get my bench at least to 300 before the end of school but I had an arm injury that set me back there," he said. "I didn't get there so I have to work extra hard in the summer. I don't just want to get to 300. I want to get past it. I want to get faster, too. I think I can get my 40 down somewhere around a 4.4."

Like all the senior starters at Lakeland, Black has attracted his share of interest from college coaches. Florida, FSU, Alabama, LSU, Clemson, Ohio State and Nebraska are among the teams that are actively recruiting him. He's got three favorites --- Florida, Alabama and LSU --- that are recruiting him hard.

He took a moment to talk about his favorites:

LSU: "Coach Castle really speaks highly of them. They've got great coaches, great fans and great facilities."

ALABAMA: "Their DB coach went to school up there with one of my coaches so I know a lot about them. I like the way my coach tells me about how they take care of the football players. They do everything first class up there."

FLORIDA: "I like Coach Urban Meyer a lot. I like the way he sets up a game plan. They play tough, physical defense and I like that a lot, too. I feel like I'm probably a good fit for the way they like to play. I'm thinking already about coming on up to Gainesville with Chris (Rainey, Lakeland tailback and Florida commitment). This is a really good place to be."

He isn't ready to make a commitment quite yet. Right now, he's considering announcing his commitment either just before Lakeland's season begins or sometime early in the season.

Although he hasn't committed to the Gators, one advantage the University of Florida has is its proximity to Lakeland and that means this self-professed mama's boy wouldn't be too far from home.

"When I go to college, my mama's going to probably cry every night I'm gone," he said. "I'll probably cry a little, too, when I talk to her. She wants me to stay home as long as I can. I'm really a mama's boy so if I have to go away, being close by would be good for her."

He's already got qualifying test scores and he only has to pass two courses in the fall to graduate in December. He's already weighing the options of early enrollment in college.

"There are some advantages to it," he said. "I've got to really think about it because you only get one senior year in high school and it should be special. You miss out on a lot of stuff if you're not there the last semester of your senior year so there's a lot of pros and cons both ways."

Early graduation is not first and foremost on his mind, however. Maintaining the winning tradition at Lakeland High School, getting that three-peat state championship and a repeat national championship will keep him focused. Winning isn't an option. It's the only thing.

"It's been so long since we lost," he said. "Everybody on our team is focused in on keeping the streak alive. When I graduate from Lakeland High School I want my only regret to be that I can't stay around for a fourth year and a fourth championship."

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