When Florida State, Miami and Florida recruiters visited Pensacola’s Pine Forest High this past season, coach Jerry Pollard was waiting.
“I asked them: ‘What do you think of Alfred Morris now?’ ” Pollard said of the former Pine Forest and Florida Atlantic running back who recently finished a breakout rookie season with the Washington Redskins. “They said they made a mistake not recruiting him, but it’s hard to imagine they could make an error of that magnitude.”
The irony is that the state’s Big 3 might be about to make more mistakes when it comes to Pine Forest talent. Three current Pine Forest seniors have committed to FAU: defensive linemen DeMarcus Glover and JonDarius Gardner and 5-5, 170-pound running back Rashaad Lee.
ESPN recruiting expert Corey Long has seen the trio and came away impressed, especially with Glover, who is the son of former Florida safety Marquette Oliver. But Long also likes Lee.
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“I think Lee will produce right away,” Long said. “The only thing holding Lee back is his size. If he were 5-8 or 5-9, he’d be a mid-level BCS recruit.”
Lee received just two stars out of five on Rivals.com’s scouting report. But it must be noted that Morris got just two stars when he signed with FAU in 2007 as a 5-11, 212-pounder.
At the time, Morris was coming off a senior prep season in which he ran for 1,049 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also recorded 149 tackles and five interceptions on defense.
As an NFL rookie, Morris ran for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“With the season [Morris] just had,” said Carl Pelini, FAU’s second-year coach, “he’s brought our name into the spotlight.”
Lee was limited to three games last season because of a knee injury but still gained 374 yards and four touchdowns while being used as a running quarterback. His average was an astonishing 11 yards per rush.
‘Rashaad is not as big as Alfred, but he’s probably stronger and faster,” Pollard said. “Rashaad can bench press 375 pounds. Alfred hated the weight room. We had to hold him down and make sure he did his work.
“FAU is going to be very happy with Rashaad. He was a team captain for two years. He stays out of trouble and is a good student.”
Lee compares himself to Jacquizz Rodgers, a 5-6, 190-pounder who was a three-time, first-team All-Pac-12 star at Oregon State and is now a kickoff returner and a backup running back for the Atlanta Falcons.
The Owls (3-9, 2-6) finished next to last in the Sun Belt Conference last season, so an infusion of talent is needed.
Pelini, a former defensive coordinator at Nebraska, needs help on both sides of the ball after his Owls finished ninth in the 10-team league in scoring (20.5) and points allowed (30.8). FAU was last in rushing offense, rushing defense and sacks by its defense.
According to ESPN and Rivals.com, FAU’s top-ranked recruits are three-star linemen Austin Bland of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas on offense and Lance Burlingame on defense.
“We are having a great class,” said Pelini, who can’t comment on specific players until they sign as per NCAA rules. “We needed to get guys on both sides of the ball, and we’ve done that.”