Prep football: South Fort Myers a popular stop on the recruiting trail

South Fort Myers High football players break from a huddle during the Wolfpack's first day of spring practice on May 1, 2012 at South Fort Myers High School. Kevin Johnson/Staff

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South Fort Myers High football players break from a huddle during the Wolfpack's first day of spring practice on May 1, 2012 at South Fort Myers High School. Kevin Johnson/Staff

— One day it’s USC.

The next day it’s Harvard.

Be it from coast-to-coast or simply from within the borders of Fort Myers, the South Fort Myers High football program continues to be a hot property in the grid iron world.

USC assistant coach Monte Kiffin visited South earlier this week before 86 Wolfpack players hit the field for their first day of spring practice.

“I love this job. I get to meet guys like him,” said South coach Grant Redhead.

Redhead said Kiffin is interested in Jayron Kearse, who transferred to South from nearby Cypress Lake.

“He really likes (Kearse),” Redhead said. “(Kearse) is thinking about going to their camp this summer and possibly working out.”

Kearse’s verbal commitment remains with Miami, according to Rehead.

“He hasn’t changed his mind,” Redhead said.

If Kearse becomes a Hurricane, he would follow in the footsteps of former Wolfpack standouts Dallas Crawford and Nate Dortch.

Redhead said he plans to use the 6-foot-4 Kearse as a wide receiver and safety. Kearse spent the past three seasons mostly as a rushing quarterback and in the secondary for Cypress Lake.

Redhead said Kiffin also inquired about sophomore linebacker D’Ronzjiah Mathews, who is about to enter his third varsity season.

“He saw his film and he liked him,” Redhead said.

In addition to Kearse, Redhead figures at least three other rising seniors — lineman Joe Fennell and cornerbacks Kenny Bishop and Fort Myers High transfer Eric Wester — could land at major college programs.

As for Harvard, which visited South last week, Redhead said the Ivy League school is interested in 6-foot-1 quarterback Andrew Dailidonis, who threw for 1,206 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011, his first season at South.

“He’s definitely an Ivy League kid, and he loves that,” Redhead said. “He’s improved. I think his decision making will get better. His strength is up. He’s 212 pounds.”

Redhead said Davidson College -- from the Division I Pioneer Football League -- is also interested in Dailidonis.

FENNELL UPDATE

Joe Fennell recently underwent surgery on his right knee, but the heavily recruited South Fort Myers lineman was on the field for the first day of spring practice on Tuesday.

“I had a slightly torn meniscus,” Fennell said. “I had loose cartilage floating around. They sucked all the bad stuff out. My knee should be 100 percent by the beginning of June.”

Fennell said he will play in the spring game against Golden Gate.

This summer figures to be a busy one for Fennell, who plans to attend a camp at the University of Florida. Fennell said the Gators, Clemson and South Carolina have been the most aggressive schools in the recruiting process. He said he would like to take official visits to all three.

As for making a commitment, the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder said he’s in no hurry.

“Maybe during the summer, most likely by the second or third week of the season,” he said.

For now, Fennell is focused on spring practice.

“We look good,” he said. “We’re fast like we always are. We’re strong and physical. The real test will come against Golden Gate.”

DORTCH TO DEPART

Former South Fort Myers cornerback Nate Dortch said he plans to enroll at the University of Miami later this month.

“They encouraged us to get as early a start as possible,” said Dortch, a senior who signed with the Hurricanes in February.

Even though his football days at South are over, Dortch attended the team’s first day of spring practice. He chatted with new Wolfpack Jayron Kearse, who has verbally committed to Miami.

Dortch and Kearse are practically neighbors in the Harlem Heights section of Fort Myers.

“We live two streets apart,” Dortch said.

They were teammates on the Cypress Lake Hornets Pop Warner team from 2004-06. Dortch said he’s looking forward to being teammates again with Kearse in Coral Gables.

“It’s good having someone I grew up with around,” Dortch said.

WINNING WAYS

It’s been seven years since South Fort Myers debuted with a rather unremarkable 1-9 season.

Since then, however, the Wolfpack have emerged as one of the elite programs in Southwest Florida, having produced six straight winning seasons while reaching the playoffs in four of the past five years.

Even though the upcoming season contains additional optimism than a year ago because of the amount of returning players and the quality of newcomers, coach Grant Redhead said maintaining a winning environment is expected every year.

“That’s the expectation,” Redhead said. “The kids know it. That’s the thing. It’s from top to bottom, from coaches to administration to teachers to teammates. We have high expectations for ourselves, so we keep pushing. The kids work hard. The coaches work hard. I’ve had a good staff. I’m not Merlin the Magician. We just put kids in the right spot to be successful.”

South’s key losses from last season include Nate Dortch, Sammy Joseph, Devon Brunson and Fabian Afanador. The impact might be minimal considering the strong core of returning players.

“We’ve got kids that played right with them so it’s not an issue. We’ll be fine. We’re still going to be solid,” Redhead said.

Maybe even more than solid.

“The skill players are phenomenal,” said veteran lineman Brandon Rothhammer.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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