Sheppard has favorites, visit plans

California athlete has three scholarship offers and interest from across the country

Craig Sheppard has one of the more eclectic college lists. The 6-foot, 195-pound halfback from Escondido, Calif. (San Pasqual High School), is receiving regular interest from Pac-10 schools UCLA, Washington, USC, Washington State, Arizona and Arizona State.

That is common enough for a prospect from southern California. But his scholarship offers—Wisconsin, Utah and Division I-AA Florida Atlantic—crisscross the nation, and he is also receiving interest from Notre Dame, Marshall and Ivy League schools Brown and Harvard.

Traveling certainly does not deter Sheppard.

"I'll choose a place based on the campus, on the academics and on the coaches rather than on location because I could really care less about location," Sheppard said. "California's weather is nice but it's not always perfect here and it's not always perfect everywhere. Change is good also."

Still, if there is a school he wishes would get into the mix, it is California.

"I don't know if they really recruit a lot down here," Sheppard said. "It's in California but there's not a lot of kids that I see online that have high interest in them because they get a lot of their kids from [Los Angeles] and Northern California. I want to see if I'm able to spark the interest in them but I don't know."

To that effect Sheppard plans to send tapes to Berkeley.

Sheppard is high on Wisconsin and also considers Utah, Florida Atlantic, UCLA and Washington among his favorites. He is planning to take official visits to Wisconsin, Utah and Florida Atlantic.

He has taken a number of unofficial visits, including one to Madison over the summer.

"A week, week-and-a-half before two-a-days I made a trip to Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois and Notre Dame," he said. "I was impressed with Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Northwestern. I didn't like Illinois.

"[Wisconsin's] the only school [of offers] I've visited and it's beautiful and I love it."

Sheppard said he picked a good day to visit Madison.

"It was probably one of the most ideal days I could have gone," he said. "It wasn't hot—because it's usually supposed to be hot there around summertime—it was like 70 degrees and it was sunny and it was windy. Everything kind of was set up perfectly I guess you could say. They treated me well and also just the facilities are top-notch too. The school's top-notch."

Wisconsin quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton is recruiting Sheppard for the Badgers but he also talks frequently with running backs coach and offensive coordinator Brian White, whom he said he was trying to reach in order to set up his official visit.

"I'm trying to set up stuff either when a football game is going on or when school is still in so I can see what campus life is like," Sheppard said.

Wisconsin, Utah and UCLA are all recruiting Sheppard as an athlete, while Florida Atlantic is looking at him as a tailback.

Sheppard, who has 28 carries for 330 yards this season, said that the athlete label means he could play tailback, defensive back or wide receiver if he chose any of those schools. In addition to halfback, he plays strong safety for San Pasqual.

"I guess they'll put me where they want to put me," he said.

Would Sheppard prefer to stick to tailback?

"I'm kind of struggling with that right now," he said. "I guess I'll decide that later on, I don't know. I'll just have to see where everything falls into place with the schools I go to."

As for his other scholarship offers, Sheppard likes the status of the football programs at Utah and Florida Atlantic, which like Wisconsin, are enjoying undefeated seasons.

"Utah is a good football team and Coach [Mike] Sanford, the offensive coordinator, really set up a good relationship with me in the beginning," Sheppard said. "That's one of the big things, you know, is the relationship because if someone doesn't seem interested in me, then I'm not going to show the same interest in them.

"They are also up and coming. I talked to them about Coach Urban Meyer, about him leaving and he said he's not going to leave so I'm not worried about that."

Florida Atlantic played its first intercollegiate football game in 2001. The team had hoped to move to Division I-A and join the Sun Belt Conference this year but those plans fell through. For the time being the team is still a I-AA Independent. But they are 5-0 this season, with wins over three Division I-A teams, including Hawaii and North Texas.

"Florida Atlantic, they are also up and coming…They beat North Texas, which is pretty good coming from not even being a football team to beating a pretty decent football team. They have Coach [Howard] Schnellenberger and he also turned Miami's program from nothing to something and also Louisville. That's also enticing."

Sheppard is well aware that Utah and Wisconsin could play each other in a BCS game, perhaps even the Orange Bowl.

"That actually would be really cool," he said. "That'd actually be awesome."

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