For JeVahn Cruz, the decision to attend Stony Brook University was all about being on familiar ground.
The Half Hollow Hills West quarterback, who capped a spectacular senior year by leading the Colts to the Long Island Championship at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium, was one of five L.I. high school players who signed with the Seawolves Wednesday on national signing day.
The others were Floyd defensive end Kevin Hauter, Sachem North running back Davon Lawrence, Roosevelt linebacker Jawara Dudley and Harborfields offensive lineman Cody Precht.
Not only will Cruz be playing on the fast turf he so enjoyed last November, he will be playing in the familiar spread offense and will be in a comfortable position. And it's not quarterback. "I won't miss it. I only played it last year," Cruz said at a signing ceremony at Hills West. "I was a running back all my life until last year."
Cruz said he was told he would be used as a slot receiver, running back and kick returner. "Anything to get me the ball," Cruz said.
Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore concurred. "He's not coming here as a quarterback," Priore said. "But we recruited him as a kid who's exciting with the ball in his hands. We want to get him the ball in space - screens, reverses, speed sweeps. And we want him to make an impact on special teams. The Wildcat could be another potential role. The important thing is to create situations where he makes us tougher to handle as an offense."
Lawrence fits into that category as well. "He may be the sleeper of our class," Priore said. "He's got something about him when he runs with the football that really excites me. He doesn't look like he's running fast, but he runs past people. He's an effortless type of runner - not flashy like Cruz, but a consistent kid."
Precht, a 280-pound lineman who likely will redshirt, could be opening holes someday for Cruz and Lawrence. "He impressed us last summer with his toughness," Priore said. "He may have been a little under-recruited. Offensive linemen are often the biggest secrets out there. I think he'll be a better college player than he was in high school."
Stony Brook also grabbed a couple of local kids to fortify its defense. Hauter, an All-Long Island player, has already gained 17 pounds to about 220 since the fall. The weight isn't over. "He'll have to be at 235 or 240 and play defensive end on the open side, away from the tight end," Priore said. "He's got some intangibles, too. He comes from a winning program. He's got the intensity level of a defensive player. And he'll outwork everybody on the field."
Dudley, originally signed by Hofstra, brings versatility to Stony Brook. "He'll play outside linebacker for us," Priore said. "In the 4-3 defense, you need athleticism at the position. And whether it was a fullback or as a linebacker, his acceleration allowed him to play in space."
Priore said the windfall of L.I. players this year was partly because of Hofstra's demise and partly because his own program is on the rise. "This isn't the same Stony Brook of three or four years ago," Priore said. "We won [shared] a conference championship. We have a full complement of scholarships. We're playing South Florida next year, Buffalo and Army the year after.
"We're a much, much better option as a football program to these kids," Priore added. "We always wanted the best kids on Long Island. Now, the interest is mutual. You have to get yourself to a winning cycle to get the local people to stay home. If you're not winning, they'll drive right by you."
Instead, they're exiting at LIE Exit 62 North.