Dwyer High School (FL) has a strong football tradition, and 2011 was another notch in the Panthers' belt. The team nearly advanced to the state title game, largely because of the defensive play.
Ring-leader of the defense and senior safety Julian Whigham did his part, intercepting 10 passes on the year. His stellar campaign, which included 60 tackles and three punt returns for a score, helped the Syracuse commit earn Defensive Player of the Year for Class 6A-8A in Florida. Whigham was also on the Sun-Sentinel all-area team for 2011.
Even with all of the new attention, the 6-foot-1 athlete remains on track to play his college ball in Central New York.
"I may take other visits, but right now I'm pretty solid (to Syracuse)," he said. "I don't know what a school can tell me in a month's time to make me all of a sudden want to change (my commitment)."
Whigham, who has bulked up to 180 pounds since the season ended, does have ties to nearby Miami – family ties.
"My mom went to Miami, so I was a little open to them at first but I haven't really talked to them much since the (Christmas) break," Whigham said.
The three-star prospect added that the Hurricanes, Eagles and Hoosiers all want him to visit on January 13.
While not sure if he will visit any of the three new schools in the mix, Whigham knows he will trip to SU on the 20th.
"For right now, going to Syracuse is all I'm really focused on," he said.
Staying in Shape
Whigham's prep football career may be over, but he is still planning on running track in the spring to stay in shape and be more ready for college football .
"I'm doing the 100, 200, 400-meter (dash) and a couple of jumps – vertical stuff," Whigham said of the upcoming track campaign.
The early practices have already paid dividends with his speed in addition to the five pounds he put on.
"I clocked a 4.55 40 (yard dash) at track the other day," he happily added.
The timing for the improved size and speed is good as well, as Orange defensive coordinator Scott Shafer is set to visit with Whigham over the weekend. Whigham will let coach Shafer know his plan for running track while maintaining a heavier frame.
"I'm going to make sure I add weight during track season, I seen a lot of kids that get skinny all of a sudden – I don't want to do that," he said. "My track coach is my football coach; he's always helping me lift after I run to make sure my muscles are getting bigger."
The increased attention Whigham has received from other schools has also been true of Syracuse – as the coaching staff noticed his improved play and body.
It may have changed the staff's plan for the rangy cover-guy in the 2012 season.
"At first they were saying they wanted to red-shirt me when I first got the offer in camp (over the summer) and then they came to see me in school during practice and everything, and they said 'given the right opportunity we think you can come in and play right away for us as a third or fourth corner,'" Whigham said.
The chance to play early is a challenge he welcomes, especially given how long Syracuse has been on the radar. It made him wonder why the other schools entered the mix so late in the recruiting process.
"They didn't want me when I was a little guy, how come they're coming now?" Whigham thought though he appreciated the attention.
"I'll give it (other schools) a look," he admitted. "But nothing too strong."