July 30, 2008

Pooh Bear hunting SEC offers, not heffalumps

Larvez Marz is anything but a soft, cuddly, teddy bear.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound linebacker from Apopka, Fla., is known by opposing running backs as one of the hardest hitters in Florida, a crusher with a nose for the football instead of a nose for a pot of honey.

Still, sometimes nicknames stick, and that's the case for Mars, who picked up the affectionate moniker of "Pooh Bear" as a little boy.

"My mom called me that," Mars said, laughing. "I like it. Girls like it."

In other words, the nickname helps the four-star linebacker prospect off the field. On the field, however, no one's making jokes about Tigger, Eeyore or Christopher Robin.

"My play speaks for itself," said Mars, who recorded 163 tackles as a junior. "I play fast. I love to hit. I play downhill. I read and react. I don't really think about (the nickname). Football players call me Larvez. Everyone else calls me Pooh Bear. I answer to both."

Mars, who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, makes no secret about his desire to play close to home for the Florida Gators. However, Urban Meyer and Co. haven't offered, and Mars admits that Florida might pass over him due to his lack of traditional linebacker size. SEC East rival Kentucky has already offered Mars, and Ole Miss appears poised to do the same. Those two schools interest Mars quite a bit.

"I know the SEC is a good conference," Mars said. "I've been talking with (Ole Miss recruiting coordinator/cornerbacks) Coach (Chris) Vaughn and I like him a lot. He said he doesn't care about size and I can play. He said he's coming after me. They're already in my top five, so I'd consider them."

Mars, listed as the No. 7 inside linebacker nationally and the No. 23 overall prospect in Florida by Rivals.com, said South Florida, Florida, Kentucky and Cincinnati join the Rebels in his top five. None of the schools that have offered or appear on the cusp of offering lead, Mars said.

Mars has camped this summer at the Top Gun Showcase and performed at the Gainesville (Fla.) NIKE camp. His Apopka team begins practice Aug. 11, and Mars said he'll likely wait until closer to signing day to begin taking official visits to some of his favorites. If, in the meantime, Florida offers, that could change. Otherwise, Mars is willing to leave the comforts of home to further his football career.

"It's probably going to be close to signing day," Mars said. "I'm going to take some official visits. I'm looking for great academics and I'd like to stay closer to home. It doesn't matter if I play out of state. I'd rather play close to home. I'd like to play in the SEC. They have great athletes and I'd like to play against the best."

That could spell good news for Ole Miss, who is liking what he's hearing from Vaughn and is interested in seeing what Oxford has to offer.

"Coach Vaughn thinks I'd fit in well," Mars said. "I have a good personality and I don't make much trouble."

Mars has a 2.5 core grade-point average. He said he hasn't gotten his ACT test results back.

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