National Signing Day isn’t until Dec. 21. But on Tuesday, Buchholz High School held a celebration ceremony to recognize four of their football players who will sign with Division-I programs.
Quarterback Creed Whittemore (Mississippi State), wide receivers Jacarree Kelly (Delaware University) and Jaren Hamilton (Alabama), and defensive end Gavin Hill (Florida) will make it official next Wednesday to play college football.
The tradition continues at Buchholz High School, which advanced to its second straight state semifinal this year before falling at Venice, 42-35, on Dec. 2 in the Class 4S state semifinals.
“It says a lot about where the program is right now,” said former coach Mark Whittemore, who recently announced his retirement. “It says a lot about the quality of player we’re producing. These are special, special athletes, and they’re going to special programs.”
Perhaps the most electrifying player was quarterback Creed Whittemore, the son of the head coach.
“It was so much fun (to coach him), and it made the job just so rewarding and special,” his dad said. “Coming home and drawing up ball plays together, a lot of fun.”
Creed, who initially committed to Florida, became the all-time leader in Alachua County for touchdowns with 110 total touchdowns.
As a senior, he threw for 2,693 yards with 35 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He led the Bobcats (10-3) in carries (155) and yards (1,285) for an average of 8.29 yards per carry, along with a team-leading 17 touchdowns.
Despite the passing of Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach this week, Creed said it didn’t affect his decision to go to Starkville.
“Not at all,” he said. “I was set on Mississippi State. Obviously, a big part of that was Coach Leach, but we’ll carry on his legacy. I like the town. I like the people.”
It’s in his nature to be a scrambler, an escape artist, except in college he’ll be doing that as a wide receiver for the Bulldogs.
“They throw the ball a lot and that will stay the case with or without Coach Leach,” Creed said. “He left his legacy there and they’re going to try and carry that on. I’m going to enjoy that (wide receiver) and try to catch a lot of balls.”
One receiver who caught a lot of balls this season was Jacarree Kelly, who led the team with 66 catches.
“Creed, I believe, is second in Alachua County in passing yardage and Jacarree in the last three years has been a huge part of that,” Mark said. “Playing in the slot in our offense you’re going to catch a lot of footballs and for his skill set he has remarkable hands. Some of his catches were borderline outstanding. Not only is he fast, strong, quick, and can run, but he’s got elite hands.”
Kelly is going to a top 20 FCS program that recently lost in December for the first time in 12 years.
“It felt like home when I went up there,” he said. “I had FBS offers but when I went up to Delaware, they kind of sealed the deal with the visit. They needed that quick, twitch, fast ability, and they kind of emphasized that I really had it. So, once they pulled the trigger, I was all in.”
While Kelly was “doing some of the dirty work,” according to Mark, Hamilton was “taking the top off.”
Hamilton, who transferred from P.K. Yonge his senior season, complimented the Buchholz passing game with his deep threat capability. He was second on the team in receptions with 42 catches, but he led the team in yardage (985 yards).
“He was the octane we needed on the edge to deliver those body blows and knock out punches,” Mark said. “He averaged 24 yards per catch, which is phenomenal.”
The 4-star receiver led the team with 16 touchdown catches.
“This is a big milestone for me to get to be able to get accepted to a university, a program like this, under head coach Nick Saban,” Hamilton said. “It’s just one step closer to my dreams.”
Hill, who started as a freshman at tight end and started at defensive end and defensive tackle as a senior, is the No. 56 overall senior in Florida according to 247Sports.
“A force inside,” Mark said. “He’s such a multiple player. Great leader, team captain. He’s going to be tough to replace, that’s why he’s going to Florida.”
The soon-to-be Orange & Blue signee finished with 10 tackles for a loss during his senior season at Buchholz.
“It means a lot to be able to play for the Gators next year,” said Hill, who noted he wanted to work on his hands and technique, along with getting bigger and stronger, going into his freshman year at UF. “My family are big Gator fans. It’s always been a dream for me and I’m glad I get to play there.”
The foursome were a part of a very talented football team this season.
Almost assuredly, there will be more signings by February.