April 11, 2014

Linebackers taking their place in south Florida

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While many areas across the country seem to produce more linemen than others, the linebacker position is something that actually plays right into the hands of the athletes south Florida produces.

A position where many are placed after outgrowing the safety position – or perhaps moved after showing what they can do as a fullback on offense.

While we have always left our footprint on colleges across the country – with prospects like Marvin Jones and Nate Webster – to early stars such as Ralph Ortega and Glenn Cameron, who would pave the way at Coral Gables for stellar players Jon Vilma and Darryl Sharpton.

The linebacker position, for south Floridians who had been used to game-changers such as the great Derrick Thomas, Darrin Smith and Stephen Tulloch, had been turning the corner in recent years – with quality linebackers who have continued to move on to the next level.

As the classes before them, the rising seniors of 2015 have also made a statement to college coaches across the nation – with other under-the-radar prospects getting ready to show how much they have grown over the past year.

This senior class is a tremendous mix of raw football talent along with physical athletes who have made the most of their exposure.

Going into the off season, there were 10 linebackers who were ready tocontinue turning heads:

Marquis Couch, OLB, 6-2, 235, Miami Central: Has the chance to be very special – after two solid years for the state champions. Controls all the action up front – and that is not likely to change with additional help up front.

Bruce Davis, S/LB, 6-0, 195, Miami Killian: Here is a football talent that may be considered as a safety, but if you watch him play, drop into pass coverage and support the run, it’s really hard to ignore him as a linebacker. This young man has a nose for the ball.

Emilio Gibbs, LB, 6-2, 225, Coral Gables: The size and athletic ability alone gives this impressive playmaker a chance to make a huge impact this coming season for a unit that may be as good as you get in south Florida. Big time playmaker.

Chris Hart, LB, 6-2, 220, St. Thomas Aquinas: One of the true playmakers who continues to impress every time you watch him play. Quick and productive against the pass – as well as being a major run-stopper. Made huge plays for the Raiders this past season.

James King, LB, 6-2, 220, Miami Booker T. Washington: Of all the players to come over last year, this quality prospect perhaps received less fanfare than most expected after a tremendous and record-breaking sophomore year at Miami Beach. If he stays health, he is a nightmare!

Sh’mar Kilby-Lane, LB, 6-2, 220, Hallandale: Coming into the season, this is the player who garnered enough interest last year to really be a huge prospect. Before the spring gets going, he will have well over 30 offers from major colleges all ove the country.

Dominic Sheppard, LB, 6-1, 217, Miami Gulliver Prep: Has been on the radar and on every list since his night grade season. Truly a gifted playmaker who has to be on any list you produce.

Adrienne Talan, LB, 6-1, 195, Flanagan: Coming over from Western where many never had the opportunity to see how quick and athletic this young man is, but when he lines up next to the prospects the Falcons have you will see this quality football talent really make a difference.

Jontavious Testa, LB, 6-2, 220, Coral Gables: Another way under the radar prospect who is not getting anywhere near the publicity he deserves. This is a prospect we watched play four times and come away impressed. Came to the Cavaliers from Gulliver Prep last year.

Juwann Taylor, LB, 6-3, 210, Hallandale: When the Chargers received this transfer from Hollywood Hills, they got a player who is indeed a difference maker. Coming off two solid seasons – and now he will be surrounded by talent that will only enhance what he already can do.

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

April 02, 2014

Blair leaves Boyd Anderson for Island Coast

Wayne Blair, who starred as a linebacker at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and spent the last three years as the head coach at Boyd Anderson High School, has left to become the new football coach at Island Coast.

Blair, 38, went 18-16 in his three years as the Cobras head coach and led the program to back-to-back playoff appearances over the last two seasons. Boyd Anderson went 10-3 in 2012, losing to eventual state champion St. Thomas Aquinas in the regional finals. The Cobras were 2-9 last season, but still reached the playoffs despite heavy losses to graduation.

"The teaching opportunity and the ability to take care of my family was too much to pass up," Blair explained in a text to The Miami Herald as his reason for leaving Boyd Anderson.

In high school, Blair was named Southeast Region All-America selection by Blue Chip Illustrated as well as Preseason All-American by National Recruiting Advisor. He was also rated among top 30 outside linebackers in the south and came up with 134 tackles, six sacks, eight caused fumbles and 19 tackles for losses as a senior.

Blair then starred at Tulane and spent one year in the Canadian Football League before becoming an assistant under Roger Harriott at University School. Harriott is now at FAU.

-- MANNY NAVARRO

April 01, 2014

Local combine gives athletes added exposure

To fully understand the landscape of the these pre-season combines that have now become an event that you just need to be invited to, there are others - away from the spotlight of the sports apparel brands - that probably serve more of an all-around purpose.

If you are not an elite player who doesn't already have 4 or 5 stars next to your name, these higher profile events may not be the only avenue for exposure. The trip to Oregon is nice - and a chance to play in the Under Armour Game is really great, but when you break things down, events like the Elite Scouting Services combine, held recently at Cardinal Gibbons, may have really unlocked what the greater importance is.

"There is not one player who attends any of the events we have hosted for the past 10 years that we haven't promoted and gotten directly to colleges across the country," said Charles Fishbein, Founder and President of Elite Scouting Services. "When athletes leave one of our events, we want them to be upbeat. They realize that we are here to help and play only on the positives."

Fishbein learned the inner-workings of the camp and combine business while hosting a number of events while with MSL Sports. It was there he had the chance to visit over 35 key football cities across the country in over a year. He saw what the players, coaches and parents liked best about the event - and built from it.

"I saw that parents wanted to know more about what their kids do," Fishbein explained. "So, we let the parents watch all the action from the field. Nobody lets parents and fans on the field, but we feel that the experience is something that everyone should enjoy and learn."

Perhaps the one that that has blown away anyone who hosts a similar event is ESS sends video, and written evaluations on to colleges - from major schools to junior college and every prep school in between.

While he is headed to Lake Mary (Orlando area) for the next ESS event, and fully expects a large group of prospects, Fishbein, like so many, believe that south Florida is so stacked with athletes, missing out on Florida Keys performers like twins Henry and George Jacobsen would have been a shame.

The Tavernier Coral Shores Class of 2015 running back/defensive back combination have enjoyed success over the past year, but many have not had the chance to see them. Attending exposure events - like ESS - is essential for both if they expect to continue playing at the next level.

“The ESS event was great because we had the chance to get some quality work in,” George said. “It really is worth the sacrifice – on our first day of Spring Break – to attend this exposure combine.”
   For underexposed Dillard quarterback Jason Collins. Elite Scouting was the perfect event to thrust himself back into the spotlight. A spotlight that was bright a few months ago - when many were putting him on that Torrance Gibson, Maurice Alexander and Ryan Stanley Class of 2015 level.

“I have worked very hard in the off season with my accuracy,” said Collins, who finished among the top 8 in the Mastrole Elite Passing Academy Challenge back in December. “The only thing I can control is doing the best I can and hope that college coaches see the progress I continue to make.”

While watching prospects such as Jacobsen twins, Collins, and so many others, you have to look at ESS for being the launching pad for Alabama standout receiver Amari Cooper, who attended three years ago.

PROSPECTS TURNING  HEADS
There were so many football players that came from as far away as Homestead and the Palm Beaches, but very few tuned the heads that Archbishop McCarthy tight end J.J. Bost did – with a physical display that include 27 reps of 185 and showing that he has very good feet in drills.

“Great event for me to spotlight my strengths,” Bost said. “Great chance to compete against some quality athletes.”

Deerfield Beach heavily recruited standout Jason Strowbridge took part in the event as well.

Here are 25 more football players who turned heads with a great day of football:
2015
Keyion Batten, OL, Fort Lauderdale Stranahan, Wade Collier, RB/WR, Homestead, Leon Brown, WR, Miami Northwestern, Steven Carter, FS, Pompano Beach Blanche Ely, Peter Delatour, LB, Miami Christopher Columbus, Bryton Diejuste, DL, Miramar, James Gardner, WR, Fort Lauderdale, Akeem Hutchinson, DE/TE, Fort Lauderdale Stranahan, Danzel King, LB, Miramar, Alejandro Levy, DL, Miami Christopher Columbus, Edwin Loveland, QB/WR, Miramar, Jawanza Evans-Morris, RB, Coral Springs Taravella, Rochelin Romain, OL, Pompano Beach Blanche Ely, Korron Rozier, WR, Coconut Creek, Darrell Swanson, DL, Miramar and Demetrius White, WR, Boyd Anderson.

2016
Dicaprio Bootle, DB, Miami Killian, Matthew Croyle, DL, Coconut Creek Monarch, Marcus Garvin, DB, Fort Lauderdale Stranahan, Dedric Luton, WR, Homestead, Deon McIntosh, RB, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, Emmitt Rice, LB, Miami Norland and Antwan Shipp, LB, Miramar.

2017
Waynmon Steed, LB, Miami Central.

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

March 17, 2014

USF gets 2015 commitments from Southwest's Deundre Pickett-White and Trevon Sands

Former Miami Central coach Telly Lockette has struck in and for South Florida again.

Two of Miami Southwest’s best playmakers, quarterback Deundre Pickett-White and athlete Trevon Sands, both announced their commitments to USF on Monday night.

Pickett-White, one of the most underrated quarterbacks in South Florida, said he and Sands made their decisions at school Monday after a month of talks with each other pondering the decision. Both players have been playing together since their Pop Warner days, and have been close to Lockette – currently USF’s running back coach – since they were in the 10th grade.

“We were just spoke about our chemistry and how much better we can make a team,” Pickett-White said of his conversation with Sands. “It would be best for us to stick together and keep the chemistry going.”

Pickett-White said Lockette made him work for the USF offer exclusively at the quarterback position, and took heed of the challenge at the end of his sophomore year. He sent midseason highlight film for Lockette to watch, and finally got his offer after accounting for more than 2,100 yards with 25 touchdowns last season.

“I worked much harder in the weight room and on the field,” Pickett-White said. “I studied hard on [watching film], and just to get a better mindset because I wanted to let people know I wanted to be labeled as a quarterback.”

Sands, a dynamic player who can play running back, receiver or defensive back, had 21 catches for 572 yards and 93 carries for 635 yards with 18 total touchdowns, and 65 total tackles last season. Pickett-White said USF wants Sands to play on both sides of the ball.

“All of us know what we want out of each other,” Pickett-White said of himself, Sands and Lockette. “I think it’s going to [continue to] be a good relationship between all three of us [going forward].”

Pickett-White and Sands become the third and fourth members of USF’s 2015 recruiting class under head coach Willie Taggart.

In the last recruiting cycle, Taggart and Lockette landed commitments from Miami Jackson quarterback Quinton Flowers, Central cornerback Deatrick Nichols and offensive lineman Michael Smith and North Miami wide receiver Stanley Clerveaux.

March 16, 2014

2014 Miami Nike Football Training Camp Recap

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A who’s who list of high school football players from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties participated at the Nike Football Training Camp at Plantation’s American Heritage High School on Sunday with eight players earning the distinct honor of being invited to Nike’s The Opening event.

From left in the photo above: Palm Beach Gardens linebacker Tevon Coney, Miramar cornerback Kendrell McFadden, Miami Central wide receiver Da’Vante Phillips, Heritage quarterback Torrance Gibson, Monarch wide receiver Calvin Ridley, Heritage cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, Miami Central safety Calvin Brewton and Miramar cornerback Tyrek Cole were all invited to the nation’s premier football camp held in July at Nike’s headquarters in Beavertown, Ore.

“I’ve been watching this event since a little kid and it means a lot,” Cole said. “I feel like I accomplished something big so that feels good.”

Said Coney: “I’ve been praying for a long time that I would get invited, and I just continued to work hard, stay humble, and waited for my chance to get it.”

Added Ridley: “I’m just happy I got it, but I’m going to be more happy when I get there.”

Several players also earned most valuable players honors for their respective positions. Phillips, Coney and Cole won MVP honors for the receivers, linebackers and cornerbacks, respectively. Miami Booker T. Washington quarterback Maurice Alexander, Lake Worth Park Vista running back Zander Bernard, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna offensive lineman Christian Strachan, and Coral Gables defensive lineman Jarred McGahee also won MVP honors.

“I’m speechless,” Strachan said. “I thought some other guys would’ve got it, but I guess I showed out.”

Honorable mentions from the event:

--Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas 2016 wide receiver Sam Bruce was one of the best performers during the event, but did not receive an invite. Westminster Christian running back Jordan Cronkrite was also a snub. But check out these videos of Bruce, in white, outdueling Killian's Jaquan Johnson (in the first video) and Wesminster defensive back Tim Irvin during 1-on-1 drills. 

 

--Miami Gulliver Prep wide receiver Dionte Mullens was also a standout. Check out this sick catch he had captured by ESPN.

 

Recruiting notes

--As much as Da’Vante Phillips tries to sidestep the topic, it’s close to inevitable he’s going to commit to Florida State to reunite with running back teammate Dalvin Cook.

HvjYw.St.56Phillips, right, visited FSU on Feb. 22 with Cook showing him around Tallahassee, and said “It feels good knowing that’s a good environment.”

Phillips left Sunday’s event to hang out with Cook, who was in town for spring break. On playing together at the next level, Phillips said “We’re going to be dominant. We do good when we’re with each other.”

Phillips also isn’t concerned with having to compete with Seminoles receivers Ermon Lane (Homestead), Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman) and Javon Harrison (Lakeland Kathleen) if he does end up at FSU.

“I’m not going to say I’m better than those guys,” Phillips said, “but I’m just going to have to work to get that spot.”

Phillips, a former Florida commit, said he’s not been having as much communication with the Gators coaching staff as of late. UM is also in the picture for Phillips, who wants to take visits to Auburn, Louisville, Ohio State and Alabama sometime this summer.

 

Photo 2

 --Tevon Coney, right, has seen his recruitment skyrocket once the 2014 signing period came to a close.

Coney holds offers from more than 15 schools in the country and has interest from at least 10 more schools. Coney said he doesn’t have any favorites and is wide open at the moment with visits to UM this coming week, and visiting UF on Friday and Saturday.

Coney said both schools are recruiting hard, with Florida “recruiting him the hardest.” Ohio State, Tennessee and Clemson are also showing him the most love.

 

 

Photo 4--UM commit Charles Perry, a 2015 linebacker from Royal Palm Beach, said he’s “100 percent committed to Miami, but I’m also open because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Perry, who committed to UM in June 2013, said he talks to UM’s coaches about “once a week.” He’s also hearing from Tennessee, West Virginia, Auburn, Illinois, Minnesota and Central Florida.

Perry said he’s not really trying to recruit other players to UM, but is trying to get in Coney’s ear.

“I’d love to play next to him,” Perry said of Coney.

 

RVVhc.St.56--Miami Killian safety Jaquan Johnson said Florida, Miami, Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State have been keeping in touch with him, but said he doesn’t have a school that stands out on top for him at this point.

He plans to visit UM before the end of March and Alabama for its spring game on April 19.

As you see from the photo on the right, UM is the favorite to land Johnson.

 

 

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--Calvin Ridley said Alabama and Miami are still stand on top for him and close friend Shawn Burgess-Becker, but he is not in any rush to commit to a school.

“I just want to take my time, get my work done, and then I’ll focus on [recruiting],” Ridley said.

 

March 14, 2014

7-on-7 Events Open The Way For More Exposure

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It’s official, there is no longer a word in the football vocabulary that has anything to do with the off season. There is simply no off days, weeks or months like in the past. Too much at stake.

So, from the time that the 2013 season ended in Orlando – with South Dade beating Apopka in the 8A title game, there have been combines, clinics, 7-on-7 all-star team tryouts and 7-on-7 tournaments.

That leaves the question – at least for old timers like myself and others – where are the baseball players, track athletes and soccer standouts? Do they no longer play multiple sports?

Well, they actually do. Many football players have been able to do well in track and explode during a 7-on-7 event – and baseball prospects like North Miami’s Victor Sam, who does pretty well on the football as a top receiver prospect for the Pioneers.

It has reached a point – as we saw during last weekend’s 16-team B2G Sports event at Carter Park in Fort Lauderdale – where some will actually split time like many did in the tournament last weekend, opting for track on Saturday and football on Sunday.

Many of the top 7-on-7 teams from across the state find it tough to survive a south Florida tournament that now is home to some 10 different teams and the competition to attract players is as well expected – competitive.

The South Florida Express Elite – the first team to field an off season program nearly 10 years ago – won the event and the trip to Los Angeles to compete in the national tournament.

Brett Goetz, who has helped to build and fund this impressive program that has high profile coaches and players, by taking them to every event and showcasing many colleges to them during the summer months.

While many teams have been added, it’s still Goetz and his loyal coaches that have maintained this program – and many quality teams have followed.

Even Goetz realized that once the popularity of the off season events gained steam, more teams would pop up and the battle to attract players would be tough.

“From the beginning, our intention was to give players such as Ryan Shazier, Geno Smith, Teddy Bridgewater, Ivan McCartney and so many others a place to stay in football mode year round,” Goetz recalled. “To this day, they all reflect on what the experience of playing with us was all about.”

While the 7-on-7 teams do go after a lot of the same players – even after high profile tryouts are held – the real winners in all this are the dozens of young prospects who never get the chance to participate in the off season.

More teams have added to the local competition as well – with Team Strong Arm coming up with a number of prospects that can really play – and that added up to second place finish and a trip with the Express – to California.

Teams such as the Fire North – where coach Dennis Marroquin and his talented Kato Nelson to high school teammate Darnell Salomon combination that paved the way for the 2A state crown this last season at Champagnat Catholic, have become a real force.

The Fire South, GVP All-Stars, Team Red Zone, Team Hard Knocks and Miami Showcase also have given additional players a chance they may not have had in the past.

“The more teams we get to play, the better competition it is for all our kids I south Florida,” said Marroquin, who has coordinated the Hialeah offense the past few seasons. “The thing about all the teams that we have down here is all have so much talent, you never know what will happen from game to game.”

The 7-on-7 tournaments, like many of the camps and combines that are hosted down here, are loaded with prospects. You can just go all day and watch major football talent like Jaquan Johnson (Killian), Dionte Mullins and Cedric Wright (Gulliver Prep), Miramar defensive back Tyrek Cole and South Dade running back Johnnie Hankins.

You could sit there with a top 150 checklist and watch elite football talent such as Torrance Gibson, QB, Plantation American Heritage, Calvin Ridley, Monarch, Da’Vante Phillips, Tarvarus McFadden, Plantation American Heritage, Tim Irvin, Miami Westminster Christian, Kendrell McFadden, Miramar, Calvin Brewton, Central and Jordan Cronkite, Miami Westminster Christian to name a few.

Booker T. Washington coming attractions such as quarterback Maurice Alexander and receiver Antonio Calloway, defensive back Devante Davis - along with 2016 standout Dontye Carriere-Williams and receiver Darrius Scott along with a familiar name, (receiver) Clevan Thomas, who is the freshman son of former Miami High standout “Cookie” Thomas.

Speaking of coming attractions, Flanagan 2017 quarterback Stanford Samuels, Jr., is not only the son of one-time Carol City standout, this is one of the emerging quarterback prospects. Also, Coconut Creek difference-making receiver Emmanuel Green has proven that he can mix it up with anyone.

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

March 11, 2014

Talented Class of 2016 Already In The Spotlight

On the heels of what many have called two of the most impressive and talented classes that south Florida has developed, 2016 has already proven that it will be loaded with quality football.

With the Classes of 2014 and 2015 already showcasing the many elite prospects that this region always have to offer, this upcoming junior class has been turning heads since many arrived on the high school level.

When this class began, there were a corps of five players that you viewed - earlier on - as prospects who were on that "fast track to the NFL". 

In that mix of players - you had receiver Sam Bruce and defensive lineman Nick Bosa from St. Thomas, Gulliver Prep defensive back/receiver Dionte Mullins, Champagnat receiver Darnell Salomon and Booker T. Washington running back Mark Walton. All impact prospects who take teams to the next level.

Even though these five still stand tall, this is after all, one of the most prospect-rich regions in the country and without hesitation, several other elite prospects have started to join this quality group.

The special players from this class seem to get more exposure each and every week during the season - and take full advantage of the off season.

Among those offensive prospects to keep an eye on include a south Florida quarterback class that many are thinking rivals the 2014 group that sent top-flight prospects across the country.

Champagnat's Kato Nelson, Hallandale's Tyler Huntley, Coconut Creek's Jhakari Harrison, Christian Matos (Belen Jesuit), Eddy Mendez (Edison), Cypress Bay's Kole Stealy, Jackson's Desmond Phillips, Chaminade's Steven “Buckshot” Calvert and Central's Jerrod Thomas have plenty of talent.

"This quarterback class is really impressive," said Ken Mastrole, who runs Mastrole Passing Academy. "From a technical standpoint, one of the dynamic we've had. This is the group that started early and have come on quickly."

While Walton is the marquee back of the class, he isn't alone. Cardinal Gibbons speedster Deon McIntosh and Coral Gables' standout Keino Mike are very impressive. So is Coral Springs Charter's Kalen Carson and a number of other players who will rise to the top during the spring.

Receivers are also going to be special with Northeast's 6-4, 195-pound Binjimen Victor leading the way – along with American Heritage's Brandon Johnson and Dredrick Snelson.

The depth at receiver in this class boasts prospects such as Miami Westminster Christian's Tony Gaiter, Carol City's Steve Newbold, Southridge standout Freddie Pinder, Malek Young (Coconut Creek), Hallandale's Chris Cotto and Neru N'Shaka - as well as North Miami's Henry Payoute. Even tight Vosean Joseph from Norland is looking for a breakout year.

Defensively, linemen such as Gulliver Prep's Joseph Jackson (6-6, 240), Dillard's Aaron Thompson (6-3, 240), Monarch's Matt Croyle (6-1, 250), Zion Lutheran's Chris Judge (6-3, 230) and Central's Kier Thomas (6-2, 225) have the chance to be special.

Coral Gables' linebacker Shakur Cooper has the chance to be as talented as the Cavaliers have had - and they have produced some quality prospects at this position through the years.

Other quality linebackers for the class will include Bradley Clements (American Heritage), South Broward's Edward King, Hosea McMullin (Booker T. Washington) and Donovan Thompson (Central).

Once again, south Florida is not this region without quality defensive backs. Gulliver Prep safety Cedric Wright and Booker T. Washington cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams - are headed to the next level.

Champagnat's Antoine Webster, Stranahan's Marcus Garvin, Hallandale's Jaelyn Faulk and Central's Jamel Cook are very special as well.

As we continue to do – we will add prospects each week – giving this area the exposure and promotion the stellar athletes deserve.

    We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

March 06, 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas vs. American Heritage to open 2014 football season at Sun Life Stadium

            Two of the nation's best and most-tradition rich programs in Broward County will clash this August to kick off the 2014 football season.

            Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, a seven-time state champion and two-time national champion, will take on defending Class 5A state champion Plantation American Heritage in each team’s regular season opener at Sun Life Stadium.

            According to St. Thomas athletic director George Smith, the game is tentatively scheduled for August 29 at a time to be announced later.

            “It depends on scheduling with the Dolphins, but it should be that Friday,” Smith said.

            American Heritage won its first state football championship this past season going 13-1 and winning its final 13 games. The Patriots return several starters from last year’s team and are expected to be among the nation’s best next season.

            Aquinas reached the regional finals last season a year after winning its seventh state championship and is also expected to be tabbed among the top teams in the country and a favorite to win the Class 7A state championship.

 

GEORGIA TRIPLEHEADER

 

The game adds to an already jam-packed weekend involving South Florida’s top high school football teams.

 

On August 30, Miami Norland, Miami Central and defending national champion Miami Booker T. Washington will play a tripleheader against three of Georgia’s top teams.

 

The event will be played at Hallford Stadium (15,000-seat capacity) in Clarkston, roughly 18 miles from Atlanta.

 

Norland, which is trying to turn around from a 3-7 season, will open the event against MLK High.

 

Central, the back-to-back defending Class 6A state champions, will take on Stephenson in the middle game.

 

Booker T., which will enter next season on a 26-game winning streak, will cap the event playing Tucker, a Class 5A state runner-up in Georgia last year.

 

At least part of the event is expected to be televised nationally by the ESPN networks.

 

            Booker T. began its national championship run with a 55-0 victory over Norcross (Ga.) last season on ESPN.

 

            Georgia teams have not been kind in recent years to Central, which lost to CamdenCounty in 2010 and Grayson in 2012, but won on the road last season against Don Bosco Prep (NJ).

 

            Norland lost to Stephenson in its opener last season at Hallford Stadium. The Vikings’ opponent this season, MLK, defeated Pompano Beach Blanche Ely the same day.

 

Central and Booker T. are each also working on booking a second road game early next season.

 

February 27, 2014

Plantation tight end Ravian Pierce commits to Mississippi State over Florida Atlantic

Ravian Pierce needed a few weeks to decide where he wanted to play college football.

In the end, he found comfort from a family member already playing at his future school.

Pierce – a 6-4, 215-pound tight end at Plantation High School – signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the Bulldogs in front of friends and family members at his school on Wednesday. He will join his cousin, Rufus Warren, who will be a junior next season and is listed as a tight end for the Razorbacks, but Pierce said Warren will play on the offensive line.

Pierce visited the school this past weekend, and made a final decision 22 days after National Signing Day for the Class of 2014 because he was waiting on a qualifying ACT score to close the deal. Pierce will likely spend a year at a junior college to meet academic requirements before playing at Mississippi St.

Pierce was previously committed to Arkansas thanks to his close relationship with Charlie Partridge, who was an assistant head coach and defensive line coach at Arkansas before taking the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic. Pierce withdrew his pledge to the Razorbacks on Jan. 22, and picked Mississippi St. over FAU despite his rapport with Partridge.

“I can’t complain about anything,” Pierce said. “I feel like I made the right choice. I didn’t rush anything.

“Me and coach Partridge, I was real close with him. But I kind of feel down – not saying in a bad way – but I’m just saying like me and his connection was real tight, but things happen for a reason.”

Pierce said he’s not really sure which school he would have picked if he had to make a decision on National Signing Day. Both FAU and Mississippi St. would have accepted his commitment, Plantation coach Steve Davis said.

“It was really hard,” Pierce said of his final decision. “It was very close. Very close.

“I’m pretty sure [Partridge will] be ok [with my decision], but still excited for me.”

Pierce becomes the 24th commitment in the Class of 2014 for Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen and co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales, whom Pierce informed of his decision earlier Thursday.

“They were pumped up,” Pierce said. “They were excited.”

Now Pierce’s attention shifts to finishing the school year strong, and his journey ahead.

“I’m a clown and I like to play around, but I’m going to take this serious for the next couple of years,” Pierce said.

February 23, 2014

Class of 2015 secondary prospects talented, abundant

When it comes to recruiting south Florida, there are always going to be quality receivers, running backs and even emerging quarterbacks that dot the talented landscape.

But if you want the position that has long been the calling card for this region of the state – there is no question that the defensive secondary is the place where colleges come to enhance their programs – and the NFL is a destination.

When the 2013 NFL season began, there were more defensive backs – who were groomed for the future – in south Florida - than any other part of the country. It’s been that way since the 1970s – when prospects from this area would star in Super Bowls and NFL championship games. It’s that way today.

The defensive secondary Class of 2015, like the running backs that came this past year, could be among the most talented and deepest group ever.

As the off season unfolded, there were at least 30 cornerbacks and safeties who were recruited by major colleges and universities across the country.

At the head of that list is Killian safety and top-rated prospect Jaquan Johnson (5-11, 180). The gifted athlete has been among the nation’s best football prospects, and as he is now healthy, all eyes are on his off season.

What makes Johnson so special is his overall athletic ability and gift of playing anywhere on the field. A true safety prospect who changes a game – in a hurry.

“I enjoy playing a lot of positions, but safety s where I think I can really make the difference,” Johnson said. “I think that is where I can help the team the most.”

As Johnson continues to receiver plenty of attention, he is certainly not alone. Top-flight safety prospects will roam several secondaries over the next year. Among the other players already turning heads include Shawn Burgess-Becker (6-2, 190, Coconut Creek Monarch), West Virginia commit Kendrell McFadden (6-3, 190, Miramar), FSU commit Calvin Brewton (6-0, 170, Miami Central), Killian’s Bruce Davis (6-0, 195), FAU commit Roderick Archer (6-1, 200, South Plantation), Antonyo Sontolongo (6-0, 200, Gulliver Prep), Malik Jackson (5-11, 180, Hialeah Champagnat Catholic) and University School transfer Christian Irving (5-11, 198, Plantation American Heritage).

“I have been watching a lot of what south Florida produces for a long time,” said Dana Wiley of Prep Films. “This group of defensive backs is easily the deepest. There’s a tradition to live up to.”

The cornerbacks in this class are also tremendous as well. Leading the way is Plantation American Heritage’s Tarvarus McFadden (6-3, 195), early FSU commit Tyrek Cole (5-10, 165, Miramar), Tim Irvin (5-9, 190, Miami Westminster Christian), Norland standout Carlton Davis (6-2, 190), Devante Davis (6-2, 190, Booker T. Washington), Champagnat Catholic standout Gerald Robinson (5-11, 175), Rashard Causey (6-0, 190, St. Thomas Aquinas) and Carol City standout Rashad Fenton (5-10, 180).

Other cornerbacks who have received plenty of recognition so far include Northwestern’s Khalid McGee (5-10, 180), Sheldrick Redwine (6-2, 190, Killian), Robert Knowles (6-1, 185, Edison), Tyson Cisrow (6-1, 185, St. Thomas Aquinas), Jeremiah Dinson (6-0, 170, American), Olin Cushion (5-10, 170, Central), Richie Kittles (6-0, 180, Stranahan), Ronnie Hoggins (5-10, 165, Monarch), Andrew Spence (6, 2, 190, Coral Gables), Damon Arnette (6-2, 185, St. Thomas Aquinas), Jeffrey Hill (5-8, 175, Miramar), Deonte Fair (5-10, 190, Plantation American Heritage), Tobias Moss (5-11, 180, Miami Westminster Christian), Blanche Ely’s Kevin Williams (6-2, 185), Jalin Leandre (5-9, 175, Hallandale) and McArthur’s Malik Wisdom (5-10, 180) to name a few.

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

February 10, 2014

VIDEO: Flanagan football coach Devin Bush talks about his returning stars for next season

2014 Miami Nike SPARQ Combine Recap

Although Nike made its way to South Florida to showcase some of the top, rising high school football players in the area, two athletes far from home stole the show.

Nike continued its SPARQ Combine Tour at North Miami Stadium on Sunday with 2016 wide receivers Tyler Bryd (Naples High) and Brock Miller (Vero Beach Saint Edward’s) earning the only two unofficial ratings eclipsing 100 points.

Byrd, an early University of Florida commitment had the highest SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness) rating amongst the more than 1,500 prospects who participated with a score of 102.54, highlighted by his scores in the 40-yard dash (4.61 seconds), kneeling power ball thrown (38 feet) and vertical jump (38.8 inches). Miller finished with a 101.82, highlighted by his 4.25-second time in the 20-yard shuttle run and 38-feet attempt in the kneeling power ball throw.

The ratings come from tests in the above events, with players also having the options to scratch a time if they wish it not be reported. Having a score scratched, in turn, negatively affects an overall score, which would affect a player’s ability to get invited to a Nike Football Training Combine or even The Opening – Nike’s premier summer event showcasing the top high school players in the country.

Twelve players had ratings of 90 or higher, with three just barely missing the 100-point threshold. Miami Norland 2015 defensive back Carlton Davis had the third highest overall score with 99.78, followed by Miami Gulliver Prep running back Robert Burns – the highest rated 2017 prospect – with a 99.69, and Palm Beach Central 2015 linebacker Frantz Frezin (99.12).

Miami Braddock 2015 running back Lazaro Cespedes (96.54), South Plantation 2015 linebacker and Florida Atlantic commit Rodrick Archer (94.98), Hialeah Champagnat Catholic wide receiver Steven Claude (94.89), Coconut Creek 2015 wide receiver Korron Rozier (93.45), Miami Gulliver Prep 2015 safety Antonyo Sotolongo (92.70), Miami Booker T. Washington 2016 running back Mark Walton (91.47) and West Broward 2016 running back Ricardo Rosario (91.32) round out the athletes from South Florida who had ratings more than 90.

Pembroke Pines Flanagan’s Ryan Stanley was the highest-rated quarterback amongst all participants with an 86.94 rating, marked by a 4.62 40-yard dash, 4.50 20-yard shuttle run and 36-foot kneeling power ball throw.

Miami Coral Reef’s Joe Suarez was the highest-rated defensive lineman with his 88.74 rating, followed by Coconut Creek’s Kermit Silva (87.66), Miami Northwestern’s Keir Thomas (87.48) and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas’ Wyatt Ray (85.71) and Deerfield Beach’s Jason Strowbridge (84.75).

Aquinas' Samuel Clausman was the highest-rated offensive lineman with an 81.39 score.

Top performers in each event:

--40-yard dash: Miami Christopher Columbus 2016 running back Amir Rasul with a 4.52 time.
--20-yard shuttle run: Plantation 2015 wide receiver Mitch Milfort with a 4.12 time.
--Kneeling power ball throw: Strowbridge with 42 feet.
--Vertical jump: Naples High 2016 running back Carlin Fils Aime with 40.8 inches.

Click here for the complete unofficial results from the Miami NFTC combine. 

February 06, 2014

VIDEO: Homestead WR Ermon Lane talks about signing with FSU

VIDEO: Booker T. Washington's Treon Harris, South Dade WR CJ Worton talk about picking the Gators

VIDEO: Dillard's Randy Ramsey (Arkansas), Bud Martin (FIU) talk Signing Day

VIDEO: Interviews with Aquinas football standouts Moten, Linder, Holmes, London, Absheer on Signing Day

VIDEO: Heritage's Sony Michel, Isaiah McKenzie; Homestead's Gilbert Johnson talk about signing with Georgia

February 05, 2014

Live stream of Signing Day ceremony at Booker T. via South Florida Sports Network

February 04, 2014

NMB receiver Steve Ishmael picks Syracuse

North Miami Beach receiver Steve Ishmael, one of the top remaining uncommitted recruits in South Florida heading into the final days leading up to National Signing Day, committed to Syracuse University on Tuesday.

Ishmael picked the Orange over Cincinnati and Illinois where he will join former NMB teammate Ritchy Desir.

"I just want to go to Syracuse and help build an ACC Champion," Ishmael said. "We will have the opportunity to play against great competition and I am going to my best to get on the field as early as possible. Coach Cubit at Illinois and Coach Gran at Cincinnati did a great job of recruiting me but in the end I felt more at home at Syracuse. Go Orange."

Ishmael earned All-Dade First Team honors this past season, hauling in 68 passes for 951 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Here is a link to a story I wrote on Ishmael before the start of the season.

NMB offensive lineman Osman Aguilera and defensive back Immel Raj are expected to sign with Florida A&M and Highlands Community College, respectively.

> Former NMB defensive back Correy Omeally, who was a JUCO All-American at Elsworth Community College in Iowa this past season, will sign with Texas Christian University Wednesday, NMB coach Jeff Bertaini said. Omeally graduated from NMB in 2012.

-- MANNY NAVARRO

February 03, 2014

Cardinal Gibbons' George Rushing commits to Wisconsin, Trevon Lee picks Duke

George Rushing and Trevon Lee have seen the repercussions coaching changes in college football have had on current and prospective players firsthand.

In the end, choosing the colleges that offered the two Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons wide receivers the most stability where major factors in their decisions.

Rushing announced his commitment to Wisconsin, with Lee deciding to take his talents to Duke. Both made their decisions public on WQAM Monday night.

Rushing, rated a three-star receiver by multiple media outlets, has had a hectic start to 2014 to say the least. He was previously committed to Louisville since May 2013, but Charlie Strong’s departure to take the head coaching position at Texas left Rushing trying to put all the pieces in his recruitment back together since withdrawing his pledge on Jan. 8.

“It’s been crazy,” Rushing said to the Miami Herald about 90 minutes before announcing his decision.
Rushing took official visits to Wisconsin on Jan. 17, Louisville on Jan. 24 and TCU this past weekend in hopes of finding some clarity, and did with a school kept its persistence.

“The only school I’ve known for a really long time has been Wisconsin,” Rushing said. “They’ve been recruiting me since April. They never gave up even when I committed [to Louisville].”

Rushing said getting to know the new staff at Louisville and trying to quickly build a relationship with those at TCU “as kind of hard, but worth it.”

In the end, joining Wisconsin’s pass-heavy offense was the deciding factor for Rushing, who has grown close with Badgers head coach Gary Andersen and wide receivers coach Chris Betty. Rushing should have no problems thriving as he secured the third-most touchdowns amongst players in Miami-Dade and Broward County last season with 13.

“Basically what [Andersen] wants to do is bring in some playmakers to throw the ball” said Rushing, who had 47 catches for 598 yards. “And I feel like I can be that playmaker especially in the Big Ten.”

For Lee, seeing Duke coach David Cutcliffe promote passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery to offensive coordinator once Kurt Roper left for Florida was reassuring to say the least.

“That was a very big factor to me since a lot of coaches have been swapping schools lately,” Lee said before an hour his announcement. “But Coach Roper leaving didn't really affect me, and I know for a fact Coach Cut isn't going anywhere.”

Duke defensive backs coach Derek Jones was also a key component for Lee, who visited the school this past weekend after taking an official visit to Vanderbilt on Jan. 24. Ultimately, Duke provided more stability after seeing James Franklin leave Vandy to take the helm at Penn State.

Lee, who was tied in 15th place amongst Miami-Dade and Broward County players last season with 741 receiving yards, will now share receiving duties with another South Florida stud in Chris Taylor from Davie University School.

“I say we're pretty close,” Lee said of his friendship with Taylor. “Still working on our friendship since we pretty much just met in the middle of this football season, but we're really cool. He's been telling me about the program and why I should go there with him.”

In the meantime for Rushing and Lee, announcing their decisions together was a lasting moment for both.

“It means a lot,” Lee said. “[Rushing has] been my bro since he got to [Cardinal Gibbons] so I'm glad we're ending our recruiting process together. “We both worked very hard for this moment.”

-Two more local prospects announced their commitments Monday night. Miami Columbus linebacker Nick MeBeath will sign with Holy Cross. Miramar quarterback Nick Jeanty will head to New Mexico State.