Big Shoes to Fill

Every season, St. Thomas Aquinas reloads BCS talent with new talent, and the Raiders always seem to succeed. While his new head coach finds his niche, junior running back Dami Ayoola has started to fill the shoes of James White, and he has the offer list to show for it.

MADISON - Every year, there are big shoes to fill at St. Thomas Aquinas HS in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. With the amount of turnover of seniors heading to the BCS college level, new players consistently need to step into the void, and most of those players become stars in their own right.

With that thought process, running back Dami Ayoola knows how new head coach Rocco Casullo must feel stepping into the office of George Smith. Smith retired as coach in February after 34 years after winning 27 district titles, six state titles (three in the last four years) and two mythical national championships.

During the team's spring football season, however, consider it business as normal.

"We're always working hard and with the new coaching staff we have, it's a couple new tweaks but they are pushing us hard," Ayoola said. "We are working hard to try and repeat and our new coach and the other coaches are working real hard to get us there."

As one of the leaders on the Raiders, Ayoola is a big recruiting name in South Florida, especially after his junior season when he had 855 total yards. Stepping into the starting role after former Aquinas running back James White left to go to Wisconsin, Ayoola has been the big means of offense for a team that puts up a number of numbers.

"Different colleges have come in to talk to me about different things, especially me coming up to see their program in the fall," Ayoola said. "It's the basic thing, and I am really not into my recruiting right now. I really want to focus on working out with the guys and get better so by the end of the summer, I will have a top five schools and I'll set up some visits."

Although he has taken a break from his recruitment, college coaches haven't stopped offering him. Holding offers at first from Duke, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Rutgers, UCF, South Florida and Wisconsin, Ayoola has picked up offers from Auburn, Boston College, Cincinnati, Memphis, Wake Forest and West Virginia and is getting Alabama, Miami and Tennessee.

"I don't try to put my head in it too much because the recruiting will always be there," Ayoola said. "I am not going to rush it. I'll figure everything out in the fall."

Wisconsin is in an interesting spot with its recruitment of running backs. Telling Kenosha Bradford junior Vonte Jackson that he'd be the school's only running back commit for the 2012 recruiting class, the Badgers coaching staff has backed off on a number of backs, but had looked at some players at other positions.

Ayoola doesn't know where Wisconsin views him, but his interest in the Badgers is still very high.

"I've spoken to them in awhile, but I know it'll pick up when the coaches are allowed to call us again," Ayoola said. "I have a good relationship with Wisconsin, and they are going to be one of the top schools on my list."

Ayoola said his top five is fluid, and that he changes it a little bit every day. Having already been to Alabama's camp and some other local camps, Ayoola is simply doing what many high schoolers are doing this month: enjoying the summer.

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