Recruiting Insider

Royster Will Keep Them on Their Toes

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 19, 2005; 1:30 AM

Westfield running back Evan Royster might be the most heavily recruited player in Fairfax County, but don't expect him to choose a college anytime soon. Bulldogs Coach Tom Verbanic expects Royster, who was named All-Met after rushing for 2,179 yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior last season, to take all five of his allotted official visits before arriving at a decision.

"He's not one of the kids that wants to [commit] early," Verbanic said. "I think he wants to see some places and find out if it is a good fit for him."

Maryland's Ralph Friedgen, Virginia's Al Groh and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer all visited the Chantilly school during the spring recruiting period to meet with Verbanic, who said Royster still has done little to narrow his potential choices. One thing that Royster has set up, however, is an official visit to Oklahoma over Labor Day weekend.

The Sooners' running backs coach, Cale Gundy -- whose brother Mike once was a Maryland assistant coach and now is the head coach at Oklahoma State -- also visited Westfield in the spring, detailing Oklahoma's outlook at running back. Adrian Peterson was one of the nation's top rushers as a freshman last season, Verbanic said Gundy told him, which in turn made it hard to recruit running backs for this fall's freshman class because no one wanted to play behind Peterson.

"They said in his junior year they hope to have a freshman come in and back him up and then be ready to play, because [Peterson] won't be there more than three years," Verbanic said.

That apparently struck a note with Royster, who took an unofficial visit to Oklahoma and Nebraska this summer and plans to return to Norman in three weeks.

"He's interested in those schools, and Tennessee and quite a few others," Verbanic said. "He hasn't narrowed it down a whole lot yet."

While making a decision might allow Royster to escape the recruiting pitches and other attention he gets on a daily basis, Verbanic said Royster is handling the spotlight well -- perhaps because his older brother, Brandon, an All-Met running back in 1999 -- went through the recruiting process before choosing Stanford.

"We've talked and he knows what it is going to be like and we've talked to our other players about understanding it's not to take away from our team or anything, it's just the way life is," said Verbanic, who also coached Brandon Royster at Fairfax High. "I think most people at our school have been pretty prepared for it."

Seneca Valley's Smith Commits

Seneca Valley tight end Andre Smith became the latest Washington-area player to make a verbal commitment, on Wednesday night telling Virginia Tech that he will accept a scholarship. Smith, who is 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, also was being recruited by Virginia, Kansas, Purdue, Marshall and others but made up his mind after an unofficial visit to Blacksburg.

"He wanted to make an early, quick decision," Seneca Valley Coach Fred Kim said. "I'm sure he would have gotten a lot more offers."

Talkin' Hoops

Point guard Mike Lewis is transferring from Douglass to Suitland, where he will join former teammate Clifford Dixon, a 6-foot-9 center, according to Lewis's father, Michael. Also, in Prince George's County, keep an eye on basketball players taking a shot on the football field: Fairmont Heights center Nasir Austin and Parkdale's Larry McKinney will play defensive end for their respective schools this season.

Two of the latest top recruits from Prince George's were Eleanor Roosevelt linemen Derrick Harvey and Jared Gaither, whom Coach Rick Houchens coaxed into playing football after seeing them play basketball.

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