Coming out of Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg, Pa., Jameel Poteat had the recruiting world by the tail. He was the No. 6 running back in the country, fielding scholarship offers from coast to coast while scoring 31 touchdowns as a senior and running his career rushing yards to 4,832 to surpass the career total of LeSean McCoy, who by then was in the Philadelphia Eagles' backfield.
But unlike his close friend McCoy, Poteat got caught up in the major college football meat grinder, running into what he called a "brick wall" at Cincinnati before transferring this season to Stony Brook.
Despite dropping from the FBS level to FCS football, Poteat is just now beginning to recognize himself as the 1-3 Seawolves try to snap a three-game losing streak in their homecoming game against Bryant (3-1) Saturday night at LaValle Stadium.
After a painfully slow start, Poteat carried 18 times for 72 yards and a touchdown in SBU's 35-21 loss to No. 2 Towson last Saturday. With Marcus Coker out for the season with an abdominal injury, Poteat has a chance to help the Seawolves turn their season around while pointing his own career in the right direction.
"Last week got away from us," Poteat said of a game that Stony Brook led 21-10 at halftime. "I feel like we should have won, but it's already in the books. But we had a good week of practice. I feel we're going to come out strong Saturday, but the thing is that we have to finish strong."
Landing Poteat when he decided to leave Cincinnati last spring was a coup for coach Chuck Priore and recruiting coordinator Carlton Goff. In his two years at Cincinnati playing for Butch Jones, Poteat was derailed by a concussion his freshman year and an ankle injury his sophomore year, when he was expected to be the featured running back.
After Jones left for Tennessee, new coach Tommy Tuberville asked Poteat to stay, but he'd had enough.
"Guys tell me [Tuberville] is a great guy, but I was miserable out there," Poteat said. "I wanted to get somewhere close to home where my family could come see me play. I'm happy, and I just love playing football again. That Cincinnati atmosphere, I just hated it."
At first, Poteat considered transferring to Pitt, where he would have had to sit out a season. "One day, coach Goff called me," Poteat said. "He said, 'One thing I'm going to tell you is we play Cincinnati next year.' So I said, 'That's it. I'll be there Saturday.' I signed Sunday at breakfast. I'm looking forward to that one."
Poteat admittedly fell far short of the expectations he had for himself coming out of Bishop McDevitt. "It was very tough," he said. "When I was breaking records at high school, LeSean was breaking records at Pitt. So he goes to the NFL, and I go to Cincinnati thinking we're going to have the same success.
"But I got to Cincinnati and hit a brick wall. I'm thinking that I'm going to come out here and be Big East rookie of the year. That didn't happen. It really humbled me. It made me a better person today. If I do get a lot of success here, I really appreciate everything that happens."
As Coker discovered before him, it's not easy to pick up the intricacies of Priore's offense, and a concussion during the preseason set Poteat back. It was a matter of patience and learning how the plays are designed to work.
The first sign of progress came in a 35-6 loss to Villanova in which Poteat rushed for 21 yards and caught a pass for 13 yards in Stony Brook's only scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
"It helped me tremendously," Poteat said. "It got me back to feeling like I was in high school again. I came out last week with that same feeling, just confident.
"When I first got here, my feet were moving so fast, and running into the back of people. Coker told me, 'Man, you're going to get it.' The first two games, I didn't really play. I was like, 'I hope I don't go through what I did in Cincinnati.' Then in practice, I got the ball five times and I scored four. Lyle came up to me and said, 'You look comfortable now.' "
Poteat gives thanks to McCoy for helping him to stay positive throughout his trials. Although he won't get to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to see McCoy against the Giants, Poteat said he hopes McCoy will be able to make it to a Stony Brook game during the Eagles' bye week.
In the meantime, Poteat looks forward to Saturday's game against Bryant. "Every play, I feel like I've got to set an example," Poteat said. "I feel like we're going to get back on a winning streak to make the playoff run."