Pair of GHS rising seniors beginning recruiting journey
Published: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 21, 2011 at 5:41 p.m.
The day Chris Bivins got the news, he nearly dropped to his knees and cried.
Bivins momentarily went into a state of shock when his father delivered a piece of mail informing him he'd been invited to the 2011 Under Armour National Combine.
The rising senior cornerback at Gainesville High made the 100-plus-mile drive to the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista in early January with the goal of creating some buzz. After taking a few reps with some of the top junior prospects from around the country, Bivins quickly started garnering attention from coaches and media.
Equipped with a pterodactyl-like wingspan and startling quickness, Bivins continually frustrated wide receivers during one-on-one drills.
"It's a pretty big thing to be invited to such a big combine and then to come out here and perform as well as I did," Bivins said.
"It's a camp. I have to look good. I have to do something."
Half a field away, Bivins' GHS teammate, linebacker Tashon Whitehurst, was generating his own excitement. Standing a slender 6-foot-2, 174 pounds, Whitehurst used his speed to hinder running backs during drills.
Whitehurst's time at the combine also opened his eyes to new football drills for speed and agility, including the 40-yard dash. Lacking true 40 technique, Whitehurst willed his way to a time of 4.6.
"It feels like you're a superstar," Whitehurst said of competing at the combine. "You're building to be a superstar for your senior year. It's an awesome experience."
Together, Bivins and Whitehurst are going through the thrill of the early stages of recruiting as they begin hearing more and more from schools and start planning to go to different events in order to get their names out to potential college suitors.
Bivins took another step toward getting noticed when he visited Florida's first Junior Day. Lacking much interest from Florida's previous staff, Bivins said new coach Will Muschamp and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson have taken interest.
After getting time with Florida's staff, he can already see the difference from last year's group.
"It's a lot younger and more experienced than last year," said Bivins, who was asked to camp at Florida this summer. "The coaches seem more active and Coach Muschamp hired a hell of a coaching staff. Things look like they're going to turn around for them this year."
Bivins received his first big recruiting news last Friday when South Florida delievered his first verbal offer. He then visited Georgia Tech for its Junior Day and is gaining interest in the Yellow Jackets, but he's not ready to make a list or name favorites.
"Honestly, I am still taking it all in," he said. "This is truly a blessing and it is a decision that I must consider carefully."
Whitehurst took in Florida's second Junior Day this past Saturday. He's never had much interest in Florida because the former staff didn't contact him. Whitehurst said he wasn't surprised he didn't hear from them because he didn't feel they showed much respect to local prospects. He's hoping that changes with the new staff.
Former GHS coach Ryan Smith has been impressed with the attention Muschamp has shown local schools. He recently saw his longtime quarterback, Ryan McGriff, commit to be a preferred walk-on at Florida and hopes to see more affection for hometown talent.
"Will Muschamp has done a great job of trying to take care of Gainesville," Smith said.
As for other schools, Bivins and Whitehurst are starting to be bombarded with letters.
Bivins has gotten mail from Rutgers, Miami, Tennessee, Florida State and Arkansas. Whitehurst is hearing from LSU, Arkansas, USF, FSU and Michigan State and likes USF and LSU the most right now.
"I really love LSU," Whitehurst said. "I love the defense and the work ethic and how they prepare themselves for every game and prepare to go to a national championship every year."
Bivins isn't talking leaders, but he does have one preference. He'd like to take his game to the SEC. More than just the intoxicating traditions throughout the conference, Bivins said he loves its competitive atmosphere. Battling for playing time is more of an incentive than a turn-off.
"The SEC has so much competition. I love competition. It makes you better," he said. "Without competition, you're going to be an average kid."