Thursday August 12th, 2010

When we left Clinton, La., quarterback Stevie Douglas in January, the nation's top homeschooled signal-caller had a lot on his mind.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association was two weeks away from voting to ban homeschoolers from playing on public school teams. Douglas -- who had played his first three years for an independent team made up of homeschoolers called the Christian Home Educators Fellowship Patriots -- had hoped to play at a public school as a senior to give himself a better chance at a scholarship offer from an FBS school. Douglas and his parents weren't sure if they'd have to sell the home they've lived in more than 10 years and move so he could enroll at a school that needed a quarterback. Without film of Douglas playing for a more established 11-man team, would any FBS program take a chance on him?

"I was a little worried," Douglas said. "Camps hadn't started yet, so I thought there was still a chance. I was just getting sick of waiting."

A phone conversation in May with Memphis assistant Galen Scott alleviated those fears. Scott told Douglas that first-year Memphis coach Larry Porter remembered Douglas well from camps at LSU, where Porter coached running backs under Les Miles. Then Scott delivered the big news: Porter wanted to offer the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Douglas a scholarship.

"I hung up the phone and just hollered, 'Yes!' " Douglas said.

Douglas, who also had an offer from FCS school Stephen F. Austin, didn't immediately accept. He and his parents made the five-hour drive up Interstate 55 to Memphis to check out the school and the rest of the coaching staff. In early June, Douglas accepted the verbal offer. He has since received a written offer, and he already has begun helping recruit other players for the Tigers' 2011 signing class.

It should be interesting to see how Douglas develops. He has a strong arm and he quarterbacked a seven-on-seven team of top-shelf Louisiana prospects to the semifinals of an elite national tournament in July, but Douglas hasn't faced top competition in pads. Of course, most quarterback prospects didn't play behind a 5-3 center and a line exhausted from playing both ways against much larger opponents. Fortunately, Douglas should have some time to develop. The Tigers have five quarterbacks on scholarship who are sophomores or younger, so there is little chance Douglas would be thrown into a game before he has a chance to prove himself capable of playing at the FBS level.

Douglas will follow in the footsteps of former Tulsa basketball player Kevin Johnson. Johnson, a 6-8 power forward from Missouri City, Texas, played for the Homeschool Christian Youth Association Warriors before starting for the Golden Hurricane as a sophomore, junior and senior.

Douglas is believed to be the first football player from a team of homeschoolers to be offered an FBS scholarship. Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and New York Jets defensive end Jason Taylor were homeschooled before enrolling at Florida and Akron, respectively, but both were allowed by their home states (Tebow is from Florida, Taylor is from Pennsylvania) to play for nearby public schools.

That wasn't an option for Douglas, and the questions about where he would play as a senior caused considerable stress for the entire Douglas family. "We were all very distressed about how dark things had gotten," Douglas' mother, Tirzah, said.

The scholarship offer simplified matters. The family would stay put. Douglas would play his senior year for the Patriots.

And though Douglas didn't need it, the Louisiana legislature passed a law -- House Bill 303, better known as the "Tim Tebow Bill" -- allowing homeschoolers to play at public schools, essentially erasing the LHSAA decision. Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the bill into law last month. When he did, he joked that he had just signed the "Timmy Teepell Bill." The reference wasn't a malapropism. Teepell, Jindal's chief of staff, was homeschooled.

James Wilder Jr., the tailback/linebacker from Plant High in Tampa, Fla., who set every coach in America to drooling when this run from the Class 5A state title game hit YouTube, will announce his college choice Wednesday.

Wilder's finalists are Florida, Florida State and Georgia.

Wilder would prefer to play running back in college, and he is only considering schools whose coaches have told him he would play in the backfield. Wilder's position shouldn't even be in question. Watch this run, which came last year against perennial power Seffner (Fla.) Armwood. A coach would be crazy not to at least give Wilder a chance to carry the ball.

Wilder will be the last of Plant's major prospects to announce his decision. This past Wednesday, quarterback Phillip Ely committed to Alabama, and offensive tackle Tony Posada committed to Michigan.

Ely's commitment to Alabama means that Rivals.com's top 15 pro-style quarterbacks have chosen schools. While commitments are non-binding, that's bad news for schools still in the hunt for a passer.

The options aren't plentiful for dual-threat quarterbacks, either. The top seven in the Rivals rankings have committed, led by Braxton Miller, the Huber Heights, Ohio, quarterback who committed to Ohio State in June. The highest ranked dual-threat quarterback still on the market is Brett Hundley, a 6-4, 210-pounder from Chandler, Ariz. Hundley has narrowed his choices to UCLA and Washington.

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