By VINNIE PORTELL

Sports Editor

There was a new face at Venice High football practice on Thursday evening — one that had everyone buzzing on social media all afternoon.

“I think it’s gonna be a good fit academically and athletically for me this football season,” Wideman said. “I’m gonna get to show people I’m a high caliber athlete and show them I can be the receiver I know I am. They have some of the best competition, and that’s a reason I came here, too. It’s a real schedule, no funny stuff.”

Wideman, a four-star football and basketball player according to 247Sports, is committed to play both sports for the Florida State Seminoles next year.

Venice head coach John Peacock said he was excited at the news of the talented receiver transferring in from Riverview, but it will take some time for him to get acclimated to the playbook.

“Obviously he’s extremely talented or he wouldn’t have offers from Florida State and be a four-star recruit,” Peacock said. “But he has a lot to learn in a short period of time. I’m not sure when we’ll be able to get him ready. It’s all about how fast he can learn the system, and then we’ll go from there.”

The addition of the 6-foot-5, 194-pound receiver turns what was a deep Indians receiving corps into potentially one of the best position groups in the state as he joins junior Weston Wolff (70 catches, 796 yards in 2018) and speedy up-and-coming sophomores Jayshon Platt and Myles Weston.

While the senior receiver has earned offers from Auburn, Florida and Georgia to go along with his FSU commitment, he may be even more well known for his ferocious dunks on the basketball court — wowing the likes of Dwayne Wade and LeBron James in a tournament last summer.

However, Wideman has yet to decide if he will play basketball at Venice.

Fellow receivers such as Platt and Weston are poised to be impact players for the Indians basketball team this winter, and there will be pitches made for Wideman to join them on the court, Weston said.

“That’s gonna be fun,” Weston said of playing alongside Wideman. “I’m definitely gonna try to get him to play basketball with us. I know if he plays basketball here, the gym is gonna be packed every night. He makes a big difference.”

Though basketball at Venice is up in the air for Wideman (21 catches for 342 yards and 9 TDs in 2018), the future became a lot brighter on Thursday for a football team that is scheduled to play the likes of IMG (22nd in the nation according to MaxPreps) and St. Frances Academy of Maryland (3rd in the nation) this fall.

With just three teams — Manatee, Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch — standing in Venice’s way of another district title, the Indians became heavy favorites to return to the playoffs and beyond with his arrival.

“This team is definitely going to states, no doubt,” Wideman said. “That’s the bare minimum. We’re trying to win the whole thing.”

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