Orlando Christian Prep football coach Guerschom Demosthenes has always said that if a player deserved attention from college recruiters, they would find him, regardless of the size of the school. His belief is coming true for numerous small, private-school football players across the Orlando area.
“It doesn’t matter where a player is. If they’re committed to the program and they stick to it and they will develop into what they can be,” Demosthenes said. “I’m a firm believer that if you are good enough and are playing at a high level and creating value about yourself, they will find you. ... If you create good news about yourself on Friday nights, they will come find you.”
Class of 2019 OCP wide receiver/cornerback Xavier Weaver, who has been picking up Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers, is backing up Demosthenes’ philosophy.
Following a recent visit to Troy, Weaver added to his list with an offer from the Trojans, to give him four FBS offers. The other three are from Texas-San Antonio, Middle Tennessee State and East Carolina, so far, and he also has offers from Football Championship Subdivision schools.
It’s a big deal for a guy like Weaver, a talented athlete on both sides of the ball. The 6-foot-1, 165-pounder had a nice junior season with 43 catches as a receiver for 929 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also had 17 tackles and an interception on defense.
He said he’d prefer to play receiver in college, but he will play wherever a college wants him to play as long as it’s the right fit.
“I feel pretty good. It’s a blessing to get all these offers out of nowhere and it just shows that hard work pays off,” Weaver said.
OCP receiver/cornerback Xavier Weaver has four FBS offers. (Chris Hays / Orlando Sentinel)
He isn’t the only player at OCP gaining attention, with seniors-to-be running back Jalen Carr (5-9, 163) and cornerback Arnell Walker (5-11, 170), as well as 2020 WR B.J. Wagner (6-2, 185), also turning some heads. Wagner is the son of former Orlando Predators standout Barry Wagner and he picked up an early offer from Texas A&M last year.
“It’s pretty good because everybody looks down on OCP and they don’t think we have talent, but we actually have a lot of talent,” Weaver said. “For them to actually notice is a pretty good feeling.
“The college coaches usually go to the bigger schools and some college coaches say they’ve never heard of our school, so it can be a little difficult, but our coach does a really good job exposing us.”
It seems, too, that whenever OCP has had talented college prospects, those players have left the program as transfers, like most recently DE Kevince Brown signing in 2017 with NC State out of Winter Park High and DE Kingston Harris transferring to Bradenton IMG Academy before signing with Tennessee in February. The school also lost 2019 WR prospect Malik Tolbert, who started at OCP before leaving for Winter Park and ultimately ending up at Wekiva.
Staying at OCP is what Weaver said he will be most proud of once he’s done.
“I came in as an eighth-grader and as a 10th-grader, I witnessed all of them leaving and to see the hurt on my coaches. I’ll stick by all my four years of high school for them,” Weaver said. “It’s a good program here.”
Not everyone leaves, however. Talented quarterback Connor Marchionda stayed and signed with Union College in 2017.
“All of our guys who have been here four years now, I think they’ve made a pact to go on and graduate with each other and see this thing all the way through,” Demosthenes said. “They’re committed to the program and what we’re trying to do and to see them have success just speaks volumes.
“It feels really good. We’re in a good place right now with our program and our school. We’ve got some home-gown kids now and these are our kids.”
Mount Dora Christian linebacker Jesiah Pierre, a Miami commit, was at the Florida spring game Saturday. (Chris Hays / Orlando Sentinel)
OCP isn’t the only private schools with stars in the making. The Orlando-area small school player who stands out the most is Mount Dora Christian linebacker Jesiah Pierre, who is committed to Miami but also mulling offers from other schools like Georgia and Florida. FSU is also expected to offer the 6-foot-3, 220-pound star a scholarship.
Faith Christian also has athletes receiving attention in cornerback/running back Makai Burris (5-11, 180), defensive end Jason Terry (6-0, 185) and sophomore receiver Andre Cooper II (6-4, 170).
Winter Park Trinity Prep quarterback Spencer Fetter, a 6-foot-3, 170-pounder who is an extremely accurate passer and excellent decision-maker, has shined at a local private school and is getting the most attention this spring.
Fetter, however, has yet to receive an FBS offer. His high academic profile, however, has gained him offers from schools like Harvard, Brown and Cornell, among others. Trinity Prep could have a star in the making in the near future at UCF. Tight end Alec Holler (6-3, 220) was overlooked as a senior this past fall and decided to walk-on at UCF, so watch out for his name in the future. He’s a tough kid with great hands and decent speed for a big guy.
Winter Garden Foundation Academy also has a few prospects, with defensive end Warren Sapp Jr. (6-2, 235), yes that Warren Sapp, being the biggest one. He’ll likely be piling up offers as spring practice opens next Monday.
Over at Orlando First Academy, 2019 WR Alex Shields (6-0, 182), a standout track performer, could also start gaining some recruiting traction, but he is apparently leaning his concentration toward track and basketball. There is no lack of talent at TFA, however, and 2019 RB Rolous Frazier III (5-9, 165) stands out as the leader among the Royals top prospects. which also includes 2019 CB Nate Edwards (6-1, 175), and 2020 athletes CB Lake Ellis (5-10, 165) and OL Robert Smith (6-3, 315).
Orlando’s Bishop Moore always has college prospects and this year will be no different, with Timber Creek transfer athlete Caleb Blake, another track star, already picking up offers from schools like UCF, and 2019 classmates WR Dylan Brazil, RB Jake Kiefer and OL Andrew Butler also primed for attention.
Faith Christian ATH Makai Burris should be expecting to see some scholarship offers come spring football. (Chris Hays / Orlando Sentinel)
Faith Christian coach Andre Dobson said offers for some of his athletes are close and he’s expecting some offers to come in during spring practice.
“We’re still waiting. Guys have been visiting different schools, but nothing yet,” Dobson said of scholarship offers. “I definitely think we’re getting a ton of action. It’s just that nobody has pulled the trigger yet. I am excited about this spring and when we go over and play Trinity Prep, with the amount of noise their quarterback is creating, there will be quite a few coaches around checking everything out and that’s a good thing for them and a good thing for us, as well.
“It’s something [at a small school] we have to work at. Starting five years ago we were trying to get the word out about our program and get coaches to understand we have some players over here and they’re finding that out.”