In an exclusive interview with the Charlotte Observer Tuesday morning, Sun Valley High quarterback Sam Howell said he’s still committed to Florida State, but news that the Seminoles’ offensive coordinator is leaving will have what he called “a major impact” on whether he signs with the school.
Florida State offensive coordinator Walt Bell is leaving Tallahassee to become head coach at the University of Massachusetts. Bell was the chief recruiter for Howell, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior. 247 Sports, a national recruiting site, ranks Howell as a top 100 national recruit and the nation’s No. 3 pro-style quarterback.
Before he was fired, former North Carolina coach Larry Fedora worked hard to get Howell to “flip” on his commitment to Florida State and choose the Tar Heels. Fedora flew in on a helicopter to watch Howell play at Charlotte Catholic and had Howell up for an official visit in Chapel Hill last month.
The Tar Heels’ new coaching staff has continued recruiting Howell.
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“North Carolina just hired coach Mack Brown,” Howell said. “I think everybody knows that, and he has been pushing really hard to try to get me to come to North Carolina. I love Florida State, but the coach that recruited me just left and took a head coaching job at UMass, so that’s a major impact on my decision.”
Despite the Tar Heels developing a new coaching staff, Howell said he had some familiarity with them.
“I did take my official visit there and now I can take another official visit there if I want to because they have a new coach,” he said. “They just hired Dre’ Bly (a former UNC All-American) and I’ve known Dre’ for a long time and I know one of their other coaches there, (co-defensive coordinator Tommy Thigpen, who will remain from Fedora’s staff). I have a good relationship with him, so I have a good relationship with the coaches.”
Howell said he wasn’t sure when he would sign. The early college football signing period starts Dec. 19.
Howell, who has more than 17,000 career yards, is the state’s all-time leader in total yards. With more than 15,000 career passing yards, he ranks second all-time to former Independence High All-American Chris Leak. Leak went on to win a college football national championship at Florida.
This season, Howell threw for 3,256 yards and 37 touchdowns for Sun Valley, which made the second round of the N.C. 3AA playoffs and finished 10-3. Howell ran for 1,392 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Howell said North Carolina and Miami are definitely in the mix for his services, but said he has a strong relationship with Florida State coach Willie Taggart.
“We talked (Monday) night,” Howell said of the Seminoles’ first-year coach, “so I’m going to see what he does as far as hiring a new offensive coordinator, and also North Carolina hasn’t hired an OC/quarterback coach, and that’s a big thing for me when it comes to my decision because I want to know who’s going to be coaching me, who’s going to be developing me, and who’s going to get me ready for the next level (NFL).”
Howell also said he was impressed with a visit from Hurricanes coach Mark Richt.
“Mark Richt has done a really good job recruiting me,” he said. “And he’s a really, really good coach. He’s really smart and he came and talked about what he does offensively, and it was really impressive.”
Ultimately, Howell said he’s looking for the perfect “fit” for college.
“There’s different things that go into your decision,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to be comfortable and be in an offensive system that fits me and in a school that fits me. I want to be surrounded by good people.”
Note: Later this week, watch a full video interview with Howell and The Observer’s Langston Wertz Jr. in a new edition of “Riding With Recruits.”