When Buffalo (NY.) Canisius traveled to Ohio last Friday it did so expecting to beat Walsh Jesuit, but it didn’t expect to utterly dominate its Buckeye State foe from start to finish.
“The team played great,” Wheatley Jr. said after his team’s 43-7 victory. “We’ve never beat this team like this, even before I got here and it was just good to finally let them have it. Everyone executed, we went through the game plan; we were prepared.”
“(On the) offensive side of the ball, I think I performed pretty well. I didn’t do much in the receiving aspect of the game, but in the run game I had some really key blocks with our tackle. We made it happen.”
Wheatley finished the contest with a five-yard reception and three tackles, including a sack on which he forced a fumble. At nearly 6-6, 260 lbs. (down from the 270-plus he checked in at over the summer), he is already a hulking figure on both sides of the ball. Now he working hard to become more of a consistent force on both sides of the ball.
“I’m a little bit bigger (than last year at this time),” said Wheatley. “I lost a lot of weight and put on muscle. I’m faster, I’m stronger.”
“I’ve made a lot of progress,” said Wheatley. “Just watching film of these D1 football players… you’ve got to do a lot of blocking at tight end. It’s not always going out and catching passes. This season, I’ve spent a lot of time working with our O-line coaches and the O-line during practice.”
Though rated a four-star tight end by Scout.com, one of the major questions he still faces is what position will he play collegiately?
“I still like offense, but defense just comes natural,” he said. “It’s a little bit easier so I’m still trying to figure that out, so we’ll see.”
The answer to that question will likely go a long way in determining which of his five finalists he’ll ultimately pick. Despite being busy with school and his season Wheatley has managed to stay in contact with all of them in some way, shape, or form.
“Alabama has been contacting me a lot, along with UCLA,” he stated. “Coach Mora is always hitting me up. Coach Tui from USC came to the school the other day after they lost to Boston College. He came all the way back out from California to come see me and hang out, so that was nice. Coach Chinander from Oregon, he’s been on it. They’re recruiting you hard.”
“I haven’t talked to (Michigan) a lot. Coach Mallory is hitting me up daily on Facebook and stuff like that. I haven’t really talked to Coach Hoke, Ferrigno or any of them that much lately.”
“I’m sure they’ll call me soon, send me a letter. I’ll call them. I’ve got to figure out when I’m going to get out there.”
Performance on the field will also factor into the talented youngster’s decision, but that doesn’t mean that some of the disappointing performances like those turned in by Michigan in losses to Notre Dame and Utah, or USC’s loss on the road to Boston College will automatically harpoon those school’s respective chances.
“Everyone’s going to have their good games and bad games,” said Wheatley. “I just watch them overall and see how the team responds to that next week.”
For now he insists he is holding all of his suitors in equally high regard.
“Alabama, Roll Tide,” he said. “Their explosive everywhere. They’ve got a lot of good players. They’ve been doing their things for years.
“Oregon, they’re real explosive. They’re recruiting me on the defensive side of the ball, kind of pass rusher. That’s where I’m good at, where I’ve been working at. That’s where I’ve been working at, so I like that.”
“UCLA is also that defensive end type pass rusher guy, so that’s exciting.”
“Michigan is tight end. My dad (went there) and all that kind of stuff.”
The elder Wheatley continues to shy away from pushing his son to his alma-mater. What pro-Michigan sentiment there is has become more subtle. That same subtlety is not been being exhibited by current Wolverine commitments Chris Clark and Alex Malzone.
“Chris is like I could come there, you go double tight and just eat. Just eat,” Wheatley said laughingly. “They’re all recruiting me. Alex (Malzone) is always hitting me up, like, ‘dude just commit!’ He hits me up the most. He has my number and he has texted me and stuff. I hear that he is hitting up everybody.”
Those efforts haven’t moved Wheatley closer to a decision, though. The next step on his recruiting itinerary is to set up his official visits.
“I normally play Saturday, so I play when (the colleges) are playing,” he said. “This is one of the rare times that is a Friday night game. We’re four and a half hours away from home. I probably won’t be able to take any officials until the beginning of December (or) January after the dead period. So that is probably when I’m going to take mine.”