There was an unfamiliar face wearing the jersey belonging to Virginia defensive line commit Vincent Croce during this week's practices for the Maryland Crab Bowl. Though his jersey says "Croce" on the back, Upper Marlboro (Md.) Wise defensive end Giovani Francois has made a name for himself already this week.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound defender has been one of the more impressive prospects on either squad so far. However, Francois' path to the game was a somewhat strange one. Not only was he a late addition to the Washington D.C. roster this week, he was a late addition to the Wise roster as well after transferring from Brandenton (Fla.) Southeast in the middle of the season.
"I moved up here with my dad towards the end of the season," Francois said. "I played the last game and I played in all the playoff games. Altogether I had six sacks and about 30 tackles. I did pretty well, I think.
"I think I've done well. This area, compared to Florida, the talent level is not that far of a drop off overall. They're strong in both areas. There's probably some more speed in Florida and that's really the only difference."
With temperatures in the low 20's for practices this week, Francois admits that the adjustment to the cold weather was a tough one.
"It's been a little different," he said. "I've never played in snow. I've never practiced in snow. Actually, I've never even seen [snow] until I got up here. The adjustment to the cold at first was a little tough but I'm used to it now. It's better for me because when I get to college I'm going to have to deal with it anyways."
Francois held offers from Louisville, Rutgers, FIU and Western Kentucky prior to moving from Florida. However, his name is just starting to emerge again among college coaches.
"At first they kind of lost track of me," Francois said on Tuesday evening. "They couldn't find me at first but I've been getting a lot of calls the past week or two. They've found me and they're really getting at me.
"Teams like Michigan State, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Louisville have all started to contact me. I'm supposed to call Cincinnati tonight. They're supposed to offer me. Maryland is supposed to too. My coach talked to them this morning and they're looking to offer me too."
With the new interest, Francois says one school currently sticks out above the rest in his mind.
"The school that's standing out right now, I'd probably say would be Cincinnati," he said. "They run a 3-4 (defensive front) and they want me to play the outside weakside linebacker. I'd love to play that position. I also like Tennessee and Maryland a lot. My dad went to Maryland."