The recruiting process can change in an instant for a prep player hoping to go from simply just being noticed by colleges to having real offers to play at the next level.
Generally that first offer comes from a lower-level school or perhaps from an FBS program not in one of the traditional power conferences. More and bigger schools often follow suit if the prospect shows promise.
But Baylor quarterback Nick Tiano skipped the first step. His recruitment changed early in February when he got a call, and an offer, from the University of Miami.
“It was the most surreal moment – the thing you’ve been working for your whole life,” said Tiano, a rising senior for the Red Raiders. “You finally have it and it’s kind of like a weight off my shoulders a little bit. It just makes me want to work even harder to get to where I want to be and play big-time college football.
“It all happened really fast and it was really exciting and it’s just really cool for my first one to be a program like Miami.”
“Fast,” “exciting,” and perhaps most of all, “unexpected” were words Tiano used in describing the offer. The Hurricanes hadn’t even seen him in person yet, but saw enough on film to want to know more. With ideal QB measurements – 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, a timed 4.8 40-yard dash and a bench press of nearly 300 pounds – Tiano clearly appealed to Miami coach Al Golden and the ‘Canes.
“They’d seen my film,” said Tiano. “Then they asked me to send them a film of me going through a workout, just kind of throwing some routes on the field with some receivers – no pads or anything – just to see my release and my footwork and I sent that down and was able to talk to them later that night and they let me know that they were offering me a full scholarship.”
And while Tiano, a three-star prospect and the 38th best QB in the nation according to 247Sports, is thrilled to get that first offer, he says there’s more work to do before pulling the trigger on a decision. There are no true leaders at this point in a process that he hopes to have wrapped up by the summer.
Part of that work is seeing more schools and trying to earn additional offers. He visited West Virginia last weekend for its Junior Day. He’s been to Vanderbilt and Auburn in the past as well. He has a visit to Miami and an Elite 11 event coming up in March.
But perhaps the road that Tiano has travelled and will travel the most in the recruiting process is I-75 North to Knoxville. He’s already been on multiple unofficial visits to Tennessee and he’s about to make the trek on back-to-back upcoming weekends for UT’s Junior Day this weekend and then again for spring practice the following one.
“I’ve been talking with [offensive coordinator/QBs coach] Mike Bajakian since about June of last summer,” said Tiano. “I talk with him once a week. I went to the Austin Peay game and the Georgia game for visits. I’m just excited to get up there and see what they have to say, to see how interested they are in me. That’s obviously a place I’m interested in, so we’ll see what they say and I’m hoping for good news.”
The Vols will likely be looking for at least one quarterback, if not more, in this class after passing on the position in the 2014 recruiting class. Justin Worley is entering his final season of eligibility and the Vols will have, at most, three returning scholarship QBs on the roster in 2015.
Coach Butch Jones has leaned heavily on in-state talent in recruiting thus far in his tenure at UT, and Tiano has similar measurables to former Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour, who played under Jones before going on to a professional career.
Tiano knows there are no guarantees in recruiting and is willing to work on specific parts of his game if that helps land the offer.
“[Bajakian] has always sounded very interested in me,” he said. “On this visit I’m going to just take some time to sit down with him and probably ask him where they stand with me and what I need to do to earn an offer if they aren’t ready to do that.”
And as he tries to rack up offers from the likes of UT, West Virginia and others, Tiano is also focusing on helping to improve a Baylor squad coming off a 7-5 campaign and a trip to the DII-AA quarterfinals in 2013.
“We’re all just working really hard,” he said. “We have a really good group of guys and a good group of seniors and our young guys are stepping up and working hard. We’re all really excited and we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’re excited to see how it comes together this season.”
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga