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Penn State impresses versatile Florida athlete with early offer
Nittany Lions safeties coach Tim Banks hit the talent-laden Sunshine State recruiting trail recently and made Wiregrass Ranch High in Pasco County (Fla.) a priority destination. It’s the home of 2018 247Sports 4-star CB Jordan Miner, who placed Penn State on his top-12 list in April, as well as a new 2019 target who emerged on fans’ radars last week.
Ray Woodie III, a sophomore athlete who transferred from Tampa Carrollwood Day School this offseason, made a strong impression during Banks’ visit. The coach observed him operate at safety during the practice session, and left him with simple, time-tested piece of advice.
“He just told me to keep working on getting bigger, stronger and faster,” Woodie said.
Ultimately, the Penn State staff didn’t feel a need to wait for further physical progression. The Nittany Lions extended an offer May 6, starting off strong with an athlete primed to see his recruitment escalate in the months ahead.
“It means a lot,” Woodie said. “I definitely could see myself playing at Penn State one day and I was really excited when I was told they decided to offer.”
— 1️⃣Way Ray (@Raymoney333) May 7, 2017
Woodie, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound prospect, added offers from Kentucky and North Carolina earlier this week. Now in double-digit territory with collegiate opportunities, his offer sheet also features schools such as Duke, Michigan State and USC.
Though he primarily played quarterback as an underclassman, Woodie’s focus now shifts to the defensive backfield, and that’s where most college programs project he’ll play. Almost every Power 5 staff involved envisions his future at safety, though he asserts USC left the door open for him to compete at receiver or even quarterback.
“Teams like my like length, range and ability to cover a lot of ground,” Woodie said. “I can play man-to-man or zone (coverage), and I’m not afraid to come up and tackle people.”
He also explained that his experience behind center sets him up for success while patrolling in pass coverage.
“My time at quarterback helps a lot because I know how to set [opposing quarterbacks] up by disguising coverages,” Woodie said. “When you can cause confusion, that creates opportunities for interceptions.”
His father, Raymond Woodie Jr., is a coaching veteran who established his reputation as a high school coach in Manatee County, Fla., before elevating into the college ranks. He served on Willie Taggart’s staff at Western Kentucky and South Florida, and followed him again to Oregon this offseason.
This background provides a definitive edge, according to the youngest Woodie.
“It is an advantage since I’ve been around football my entire life,” he said. “I understand the game a lot and most people don’t have that opportunity, so they’re kind of behind when they come to high school. I think that helps me stay ahead of the game. I understand what [opponents] want to do on either side of the ball.”
Woodie hopes to visit Happy Valley soon, and may join Miner when the 2018 cornerback travels north next month. However, he suggested his 7-on-7 football schedule may interfere with that plan.
“I’m trying to get up there whenever Jordan goes up but I’m not sure if it’s going to work out for me or not,” Woodie said. “I’m definitely going to get up to Penn State either way though.”
Along with Banks, he is working on building a bond with defensive recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Terry Smith.
Despite his father’s allegiance to other universities, Woodie said he grew up cheering for Florida. If the Gators join this chase it could be a game-changer, but wouldn’t completely halt the progress of programs such as Penn State.
“It would be a dream offer, but it wouldn’t be a done-deal-commit offer,” he said.
5-star QB commit Justin Fields set to learn from legends in Hawaii
Penn State pledge Justin Fields, the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings, will receive a significant dose of expert coaching before he arrives in State College. Already preparing for Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles — where rising high school seniors spend intensive days addressing QB fundamentals — he also accepted an invitation to the 2018 Polynesian Bowl.
The second-annual Polynesian Bowl takes place January 20 at Aloha Stadium in Oahu, Hawaii. Organizers also announced the game’s coaches on Wednesday: Terry Donahue and Dick Vermeil.
Donahue served as UCLA head coach from 1976-95, setting a school record with 151 victories. The 2000 College Football Hall of Fame inductee also served as San Francisco 49ers general manager from 2001-05.
Vermeil actually preceded Donahue in Westwood, coaching the Bruins for two seasons before building a revered NFL coaching career. He led both the Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl appearances, winning Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000 with the Rams and league MVP Kurt Warner at quarterback.
“I look forward to working with the NFL stars of tomorrow,” Vermeil stated in a news release.
Penn State fans certainly hope Fields fits that description. The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Kennesaw (Ga.) Harrison High standout committed to the Nittany Lions in December, and he now holds more than 40 offers.
Defensive end Micah Parsons, a fellow 5-star prospect who spent 14 months pledged to Penn State before his April de-commitment, is also on the bowl roster. Depending on how things shake out during the new early signing period, it may provide Fields with a final in-person opportunity to pitch Parsons on teaming up in State College.