High School Sports

After Mississippi universities didn’t offer this Coast standout, he made an 8-hour drive

St. Stanislaus offensive lineman Brandon Tartavoulle committed to Central Arkansas on Saturday.
St. Stanislaus offensive lineman Brandon Tartavoulle committed to Central Arkansas on Saturday. jmitchell@sunherald.com file

St. Stanislaus coaches have been talking about Brandon Tartavoulle as the next great Rockachaw lineman for several years now.

Bill Conides did it before heading to Denham Springs, Louisiana, and Jeff Jordan picked up where his predecessor left off in the spring.

Tartavoulle had the size, strength and versatility to make some major college’s signing class, they said. All that was left was finding the right fit.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior answered the looming question Saturday when he verbally committed to Central Arkansas during his visit.

Tartavoulle made the eight-hour drive north for UCA’s Division I FCS playoff game against New Hampshire. Although the Bears lost the second round matchup 21-15, Tartavoulle was convinced Conway, Arkansas, is where he wants to spend his college years.

“When I first got there, driving through campus, I thought it was nice. It’s not too big and not too small,” Tartavoulle said Monday after announcing his commitment on Twitter. “I was just convinced.”

While appreciative of junior college offers from Gulf Coast, Pearl River, Jones County and East Mississippi, Tartavoulle became frustrated with his lack of interest from four-year schools. Southern Miss, UAB and South Alabama had all shown interest but had yet to take the next step. When he earned his UCA offer over the Thanksgiving break, it was a game changer.

“It’s been a lot of pressure on me. With no D1 schools offering me, where do I go? Do I go to Coast or PRCC or?” he said. “I know I’m a D-1 player. When they offered me, I was excited.”

Tartavoulle raved about UCA’s coaches and the bond he built with assistant Gunnar Boykin and head coach Steve Campbell, who previously built MGCCC into a powerhouse before doing the same at UCA.

“Their coaches are so cool. They understand,” he said. “I was really sold on their coaching.”

The possibility for early playing time was also a plus.

“With five offensive linemen graduating, I feel like if I can get up there in the summer, work hard and show them what I can do I could have a chance to get in the rotation,” he said, adding Campbell’s connection to the Coast and ability to recruit Mississippi were also pluses.

During his prep career, Tartavoulle has played all over the line at SSC, from the left side, guard and center to right tackle this year. He said UCA envisions him somewhere along the interior of its line long-term.

“It doesn’t matter to me where,” he said.

Although the new early signing period for college football opens Dec. 20, Tartavoulle said he expects to wait and officially sign with UCA in February.

Next up for Tartavoulle is the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game, where he was selected as one of eight offensive linemen to represent the Magnolia State in the annual contest.

The game will be played at noon on Dec. 16 at Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs