It was the middle of winter and almost 3 feet of snow covered the Bauta family's back yard in Colt Neck, N.J., when
was informed by his parents this past February that they had decided they were moving to Florida. The news stunned Bauta, an all-state selection last season for Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"My heart hit the bottom of my stomach," Bauta said after playing in the Heath Evans Foundation 7-on-7 tournament in West Palm Beach, Fla., for his new team, Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.)
. "They kind of nonchalantly told me. I crossed my arms and said, ‘Really? Are you serious?' I was shocked."
Bauta, who will be a senior this fall for MaxPreps' No. 17 team in the preseason rankings
, said it was "definitely tough" leaving his friends and teammates at Poly Prep, where he played quarterback, running back and linebacker. Four months later, however, the 6-foot-3, 223-pound Bauta said he's adapted well to his new home in South Florida and is happy his parents made the decision to move and pursue a business opportunity in real estate.
"I tried to stay up there because it was my last season and I didn't want to leave," said Bauta, who has four brothers who have played Division I football. "(But) I'm glad I'm down here, and I couldn't be happier. It was a great move."
Bauta also has had to make an adjustment to playing in Dwyer's pro-style offense that emphasizes the passing game more than the scheme he played in at Poly Prep. According to Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels, Bauta has made the transition quite well.
"He did have a problem adjusting to the speed (of wide receivers) initially," said Daniels, who plans to use Bauta mostly at quarterback. "He was throwing balls behind receivers at times, but he's progressed as well as we could hope. He's really picked it up."
Bauta will have big shoes to fill as Dwyer's starting quarterback as he replaces University of Florida signee Jacoby Brissett, who was one of the nation's most sought-after quarterbacks last season. But Daniels believes Bauta, who has clocked 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash, is talented enough to direct Dwyer's offense with equal effectiveness after watching him during spring practices.
"I think in my lifetime, I'd be lucky to have another Jacoby Brissett as far as physically throwing the football and arm strength and accuracy," Daniels said. "But Faton's arm is not far behind at this point, and I think Faton's a better runner with the football right now. They're two different guys, though."
Daniels said he believes Bauta will excel in a spread offense and this spring he tweaked Dwyer's offense some to take advantage of Bauta's running ability. But Daniels said Bauta has progressed so much at passing the ball that he picked up a couple more D-I offers as a quarterback this spring. Some college recruiters see Bauta better suited to play defense or possibly tight end, but Daniels said he's impressed with what he's seen from Bauta at quarterback. Bauta's answer was quick and definitive when he considered signing with a college program that wants him at a different position.
"I'll just tell them, ‘Thank you for the opportunity, but I want to be a quarterback,'" said Bauta, who has a 3.5 grade point average but still is awaiting his SAT score.
Bauta so far has received about 20 D-I offers and has attended camps at Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State and Tennessee. He said he hopes to have a decision on where he will play in college by mid-season, or at least have narrowed his choices to a top five by then.
Bauta said he misses his friends and teammates up north, but he's now glad his parents made the move because it's given him more chances to prove himself as a quarterback to college recruiters.
"We didn't throw the ball that much at my old school. We were running all the time because we had a very good offensive line up north," Bauta said. "I'm throwing more down here. Plus, up in New York, you have six, maybe seven months (a year) where it's warm enough to run around and get better. (In Florida), they have all year-round to work out."
Mel Bauta said it's also benefited his son that Florida high schools have spring practices and a spring game.
"When I see the options he has here, it's so much better," Mel Bauta said. "We never had 7-on-7 tournaments and spring games like they do here. It's great. They throw the ball more, too. It's funny, because (Faton) told me a couple of weeks ago, ‘Pops, why didn't you move here a couple years ago?'"