Saturday, November 18, 2017
Sports

Isaiah Bolden on the flip from FSU to Oregon: 'They recruit family'

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WESLEY CHAPEL — The thought of leaving home was once merely a blip in the mind of Isaiah Bolden.

Despite possessing an offer sheet replete with nationwide possibilities to continue a blossoming football career, when the heralded Wesley Chapel recruit envisioned tomorrow, he saw a sun-splashed future lined with palm trees. After all, the consensus four-star defensive back had planned on becoming the next local talent to achieve success at Florida State. There wasn't anywhere else he wanted to go.

"I was so stuck on staying home," the 6-foot-2 rising senior said during a recent afternoon on the school's practice field.

"I didn't ever imagine myself going out West at all."

Or so he thought.

Ten months after verbally pledging to the Seminoles, Bolden flipped his commitment in late April. The new destination? Three thousand miles and nine states northwest via Interstate 80 to Willie Taggart's University of Oregon.

On the surface, Bolden's decision was somewhat of an oddity, locally. In addition to FSU, offers from Florida, Miami, USF and UCF dot the blue-chipper's list of 28 and counting, granting him ample opportunity to remain in Florida.

For Bolden, though, joining Taggart — the former USF coach who helped guide the once-floundering program to its first 11-win season in 2016 before bolting to the Ducks in December — is unique. Seven players in Taggart's inaugural class hailed from Florida, but Bolden, the nation's 16th-best cornerback prospect by Rivals, is rated higher than them all.

While the allure of multimillion-dollar facilities and endless Nike-backed wardrobe combinations might be more than enticing enough to draw any player, Bolden pointed to the relationship with his recruiter, Oregon special teams coordinator Raymond Woodie, as the primary reason for changing his mind. Woodie spent four seasons on Taggart's staff at USF and has a son, Raymond Woodie III, who is a rising dual-threat quarterback at neighboring Wiregrass Ranch.

"They recruit family. That's one thing that was big with me," Bolden said. "We talk on the phone almost every day. He talks to my parents almost every day. All the coaches, they just hit me up just to check on me and see how things are going, and I really appreciate that."

Second-year Wesley Chapel coach Tony Egan believes Taggart has been successful on the recruiting front, before even overseeing a game in Eugene, because of an ability to self-promote.

"I think right now, Willie Taggart and Oregon, they're doing a good job of the whole 'Do something' (mantra) and the movement," said Egan, who used the moniker "Change Chapel" while directing the Wildcats to their own turnaround from 2-8 to 7-2 last season.

"Sometimes hashtags and a slogan can get you a long way in today's football business. Kids like something that looks cool — something that's catchy and something they can be a part of."

For Bolden, it's about embracing something new. What was a onetime fear has become a rallying point — not just as an individual, but as a leader of what he hopes is a shift toward more recruits leaving here and considering the place Taggart has creatively dubbed, "Floregon."

"I want to make a huge difference with local guys and tell them it's okay to leave home," Bolden said. "That's the thing when you move on to the next level: You've got to be used to the changes, and I felt like this was the best opportunity for me to do so.

"I embrace that. And I feel like for other recruits, take a look at that and go out West."

 
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