By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — He isn’t rated by any major recruiting sites and he doesn’t have any “stars” just yet, but Lemon Bay quarterback Hayden Wolff has started to receive some national attention from a few big-time colleges.
Wolff, a junior for the Manta Rays, recently visited Ohio State and Vanderbilt where he participated in football camps at each school. The goal for Wolff has been to gain collegiate attention as early as possible considering he comes from a small school with limited exposure.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound gunslinger did just that at Lemon Bay’s spring game against Berkeley Prep on May 18. Wolff caught the eye of Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who was there watching multiple college prospects on the other sideline. Wolff completed 6 of 13 attempts that night and led the Manta Rays down the field for a touchdown on their opening drive.
That was enough to grab the attention of Schiano, who spoke with Lemon Bay coach Don Southwell after the game.
“I threw the ball well and they were impressed with my ability,” Wolff said. “He liked me and talked to coach Southwell, and a few days later he had Ohio State quarterback coach Ryan Day fly down to talk to me on the last day of school for a good hour or so. He told me he wanted me up for camp so we planned that.”
Wolff flew up to Columbus, Ohio, on June 16 and threw at Ohio State’s camp the next day. The camp was set to start at 11 a.m. but Day asked Wolff to come out early and throw alongside four-star quarterback and Ohio State commit Emory Jones.
The duo of quarterbacks threw passes to some of Ohio State’s top recruited receivers and Wolff impressed Day.
“I thought it was awesome,” Wolff said of the experience. “The facilities are top-notch and probably the best I’ve seen. All the coaches loved me and they all knew who I was. For example, I’d be walking down the hall and some coach I never met before would come up and start talking to me. I was comfortable with the coaches, the facilities and I just liked it. It was a good visit.”
Wolff also visited Vanderbilt on Friday and toured the Commodores’ facilities, which he noted, along with the technology, also were “top-notch.”
“It was awesome,” Wolff said. “The coaches had a lot of positive feedback and I plan to be in touch with the offensive coordinator (Andy Ludwig) (this week). They told me they were going to watch my film again and be in touch with Coach Southwell sometime this summer.”
Ohio State and Vanderbilt aren’t the only schools already showing interest in Lemon Bay’s pro-style quarterback. Coaches from Kentucky and South Florida have been in touch with Southwell, and Wisconsin has also spoken with Wolff.
In 10 games as a sophomore, Wolff threw for 883 yards and four touchdowns. Southwell expects those numbers to jump immensely in his junior season, likely leading to more college interest.
He said Wolff has put in a lot of work on and off the field this offseason to improve his game, evident in his 70-pound increase in his clean and jerk and 7-inch improvement in his vertical jump.
“He really hit the weight room hard this offseason and he just looks like a different kid physically,” Southwell said. “His arm has gotten stronger. He’s always been a smart kid. He’s always understood football so that’s nothing new. He’s ratcheted up his leadership a notch. All the kids look up to him.
“He’s just a great kid. He practices late. He’s the first one there and the last one to leave, all those cliche things but he embodies all that.”
Wolff also has found other avenues to gain exposure. For the past two summers, he has been part of Gain Sports’ bus tour, which takes 25 prospective athletes from around the country to over 20 schools. The tour took Wolff to 23 different schools earlier this month, including Ohio State, and Wolff was the headline quarterback on the tour.
Of those 23 schools, eight of them held 7-on-7 camps, allowing Wolff to leave an impression on a lot more coaches. By the time he’s a senior, Southwell expects his list of offers to be lengthy.
“I think it’ll be the who’s who of Division I schools to be honest with you, especially those who use a pro-style (offense),” Southwell said. “That’s hard to predict, but if Ohio State thought it was worth their time to fly their quarterback coach down, I think that validates his skill a little bit.”
Although no official offers have come yet, Wolff knows it’s still very early in the process. He said he’s just focused on working hard this summer and putting together a good junior season at Lemon Bay.
From there, he has faith the offers will roll in.
“It doesn’t bug me,” Wolff said. “I know I’m going to work with my teammates and help them help us have a winning season next year, and I know that’s really all I can do. I’m doing my best to get exposure this summer and we’re going to work hard this offseason to win games next year and get more exposure. I know (offers) will come once stuff starts happening. I’ve just got to keep working and getting out there.”