Basketball player Jeremy Tylerdid it earlier this year. So did baseball player Bryce Harper. Now football player Stephen Alli is skipping his senior year of high school to move to the next level in his sport.
Alli, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound receiver from Toronto who attended Proctor Academy in Andover, N.H., was supposed to be the sleeper in Florida's class of 2010. Now, he's the sleeper of the class of 2009. Alli was scheduled to travel to Gainesville from Canada on Wednesday. If all goes well, he'll practice Thursday with Urban Meyer's squad.
Alli, 18, is an excellent student who considered Harvard, Boston College, Rutgers and Stanford before choosing Florida in June. "After I committed, I stayed in contact with the coaches," Alli said. "We decided that if I graduated early and enrolled in January, that would be the best thing for me." There was only one problem. Alli said Proctor officials told him they'd never had a midterm graduate, and they had no plans to start with him.
After discussing his options with Florida coaches, Alli checked with the NCAA's Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse to find out what courses he would need to take to enroll early. An examination of Alli's transcript revealed he had already passed the 16 core courses required for initial eligibility. He also had earned enough credits to graduate. After that, Alli needed only to be admitted to Florida for the fall 2009 semester. Two weeks ago, he got the good news.
The number of players who enroll in January seems to increase every year, but few have skipped an entire year of high school to play college football. Evangel Christian (Shreveport, La.) quarterback John David Booty skipped his senior season to enroll at USC in 2003, but few have followed in his footsteps. Former Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye started college at 16, but only because a through-the-roof score on a placement test had allowed him to skip grades five and six.
Alli is headed to Gainesville because he tested through the roof at several combines earlier this year. He didn't show up on many recruiting lists after catching only a handful of passes in Proctor's run-heavy offense. But after Alli registered a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot, seven-inch standing broad jump, college coaches from across the country took notice. He committed to Florida after receiving an offer at a Gators' camp. But when he committed, Alli had no idea he'd be a Gator so soon.
"I'm very excited," Alli said. "It's a lot to take in at first, but after I talked to my family and coaches, everyone was really supportive. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up."
Temple, Texas, tailback Lache Seastrunk knows exactly how many people want to be his friend. As of late last week, it was 110.
That's how many unfulfilled friend requests Seastrunk had on his Facebook account. He also had 161 unread messages. He said no matter how crazy the recruiting process gets, he'll try to return every message and examine every friend request to determine whether the requestor can join his friends list, which as of late Monday numbered 2,071.
"I'm dead serious," Seastrunk said last week at Football University's Top Gun Camp.
Seastrunk said some messages come from fans, but others come from high school players asking Rivals.com's No. 2 overall prospect for tips on improving their games. Of course, fans of the schools recruiting Seastrunk -- which include Auburn, LSU, Texas, USC and a host of others -- should be aware if they send him a message asking him to come to their favorite school, they are committing an NCAA rules violation on that school's behalf.
Seastrunk already has learned one harsh lesson about the power of the Internet. He was videotaped during Auburn's "Big Cat Weekend" in May suggesting that Alabama coach Nick Saban was out of luck when it came to the recruitment of another player. The video quickly went viral, and Seastrunk was amazed at the speed and ferocity of the response.
"It was so crazy. I didn't even think about it," Seastrunk said. "I was just having fun. I didn't mean to call out Nick Saban. People took it as a putdown. But it happened. So I called him and apologized."
Seastrunk said he hopes to make a college decision at some point this fall.
The Elite 11 quarterback camp, long held behind closed doors, is about to give fans a look inside the training ground for some of America's best quarterbacks. The camp, held late last month, was filmed by ESPN cameras for a series of webisodes that will air on ESPNRISE.com beginning this week. The first webisode will debut Thursday, and four more will follow on Aug. 10, 13, 17 and 20. Those who prefer to watch their sports on a television can watch the finale on ESPNU on Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. eastern.
This year's Elite 11 featured Oklahoma-bound Blake Bell, Washington-bound Nick Montana and nine other blue-chippers.