While scrolling through my numerous news feeds a few days ago, I stumbled upon an article claiming USF added a late preferred walk-on to the class of 2015. Turns out the newest 2015 commit is Tyler Pippens, an electric wide receiver out of Ola High School (McDonough, GA).
Now, it’s very rare I spend the time to look into a preferred walk-on. So, I did what any cynical recruiting analyst in my position would do, ran the highlight reel. Twice to be certain. Verdict? It blew my mind. Pippens is dynamic and possesses elite home-run type speed, yet doesn’t have a single recruiting service profile excluding MaxPreps?
With the plethora of college recruiting coverage available these days, I found it hard to fathom a player could go seemingly unnoticed after posting 1,597 all-purpose yards and becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher in school history. After learning Pippens was named the co-offensive Player of the Year for Georgia Region 4-AAAAA and not a single article was published about the accomplishment, I decided I needed clarification from an inside source. Not to mention, how did USF get in the mix?
I called Ola Mustang head coach Jared Zito and explained my dilemma. During our conversation I gained some background and insightful details. Zito played college ball at Newbury in South Carolina, and then returned to his former high school as the head coach of Lake Brantley football. Coincidentally, Zito's next stop landed him at Spruce Creek (Port Orange, FL) while Stu Holt was the Head Coach at New Smyrna Beach. You catching my drift?
Zito called Stu Holt, then emailed the head of preferred walk-ons for the Bulls with Pippens' highlights and noted Pippens had already been accepted by USF academically. Academics are a sticking point in the Pippens household and Tyler’s brother, Ra'Chard Pippens, is currently a fifth-year senior defensive back at Stanford.
Zito had this to say about Tyler’s recruitment, "He was being recruited in the beginning by Ivy League schools, Brown specifically. Also, Wofford and several Division II programs showed a lot of interest as well. The scholarships just seemed to fizzle after he [Pippens] tore his MCL in the second quarter of his final game as a Mustang. Tyler had his MCL surgically repaired last winter and was back on his feet fast enough to participate on the track team last spring. I believe seeing Tyler on crutches scared off a lot of coaches."
When I asked Zito what Pippens could bring to the Bulls, he added, "Tyler could be a great slot receiver. He has very good hands and is extremely fast. Tyler is a great athlete and an exceptional kick returner because he is so explosive. This year I believe he had eight touchdown runs over 60-yards."
"Listen, every kid thinks they can play Division I football. But Tyler is the fastest player, in high school, I have ever coached. This is my 18th year coaching, I’ve been a head coach four different times, over the years I've sent several players to Division I programs. Actually, I had one [player] taken in this years NFL draft, wide receiver Tre McBride by the Tennessee Titans. I’m saying all of this to point out that, I don’t just do that for any kid. There’s a lot of credibility on the line for the next kid when I try to make something happen."
With the recent academic admission issue with incumbent slot receiver Jarvis Baxter, the timing could not be better for Pippens. The preferred walk-on will join Chris Barr (Jacksonville-Trinity Christian Academy), Malik Vaccaro-Dixon (Port Charlotte) and Deangelo Antoine (Orlando-Oak Ridge) as a part of the class of 2015 arriving this fall.