Over the next eight months, we will visit camps, combines, practices and 7-on-7 events, watching and evaluating talent throughout one of the richest regions in the nation.
In our many visits, we will see players who have improved and have started to make that climb among the elite. We will also find a number of athletes that have simply come out of nowhere.
While this top 20 ranking is a pre-spring list, you can guarantee that as we get to more events, we will see a number of hidden gems.
If there are player you want us to keep a close eye on as we compile information to update this “subjective” list, drop Larry Blustein an e-mail at Lblustein@miamiherald.com. Also, follow Larry on twitter @LarryBlustein.
1. Randy “Duke” Johnson, RB/DB, 5-9, 185, Norland - (Committed to Miami): After a stellar youth football career, this quality talent turned his game up a notch in high school, and has been one of the most impressive players in the state. A tremendous offensive threat who has speed and great vision. Defensively, he will pick you clean!
2. Eric Kinsey, DE, 6-3, 225, Northwestern: To watch this quality talent play is something you come away with so many positives. While his junior year was not what he had hoped for, all indications are that he is ready to make a statement this year, and if he continues to get better, he could end up being one of the elite pass rushers in the state.
3. Keith Brown, LB, 6-1, 220, Norland - (Committed to Miami): After a tremendous sophomore year at Southridge, the move north to play for the state runner-up Vikings turned out to be just what this talented football player needed. Despite a season that was filled with injury early on, he rebounded to become a promising football prospect.
4. Ricardo Louis, Athlete, 6-2, 190, Miami Beach: Take your pick where this talented football prospect can play. He was a force at quarterback, has been a head-turner on defense and the way he uses his impressive speed and frame to play receiver, colleges are already thinking of some of the greats who have come out of this region of the state.
5. A.J. Leggett, CB, 6-0, 175, Gulliver Prep - (Committed to Florida State): As a sophomore at Booker T. Washington, he was considered one of the best young defensive backs in the nation. Last year, as he moved down south to play for the Raiders, he added offense to his bag of tricks. He brings both speed and quickness to the table and has the type of football instincts that you like to see in a top flight prospect.
6. Deon Bush, DB, 6-1, 175, Christopher Columbus: It’s hard to imagine what player in the state will have competed in more varsity games than this quality athlete who has been making an impact since the ninth grade. A quick, aggressive play maker who has colleges looking in his direction.
7. DeAndre Jasper, WR, 5-11, 190, Jackson: Another impressive football talent who has been on the radar since his freshman season. This is a football prospect who can match up against the elite players in the state, but needs to play every down with the same intensity. Has the talent to be a top 25-30 player in Florida. Now it is up to him whether or not to fulfill that potential.
8. Brandon Snell, WR, 5-11, 165, Norland: Had his coming out party last summer during the 7-on-7 season, and never looked back, turning heads at every opportunity. One of the better all-around receivers in the region, his hands, route running ability and instincts make up for the fact that he is not real big. Has outstanding ball skills.
9. Brandon Radcliff, RB, 5-11, 215, Christopher Columbus: For those who watch and appreciate football in the Sunshine State, here is a back many expect to move way up among the best not only in Florida, but in the region this coming season. A hard runner with speed and power who can dictate the outcome of a game. If he stays healthy, there is really no telling how good he can be.
10. Teko Powell, DT, 6-1, 260, Norland: Being part of one of the most impressive junior classes, here is an athlete who can dominate. A tremendous run-stopper who gets into the offensive backfield to create havoc. Extremely quick and athletic, he has a chance to make a name for himself during the off season and into his final season. Another player to keep an eye on.
11. Brian Nicholson, LB, 6-1, 215, Coral Park: If you haven‘t had the opportunity to watch this impressive athlete play, you are missing out. He has dominated for the past two years, and with his size, speed and knowledge of the position, look for him to continue to turn heads throughout the spring and summer. Also plays on the offensive side (TE) of the ball, but this is a pure linebacker - all the way!
12. Herbert Waters, WR/DB, 5-11, 175, Homestead: One of the players we have been watching for a number of years, and with his quickness, athletic ability and passion for the game, this is another player that many coaches expect to make a huge rise during the off season. Watch and appreciate what this athletic talent can do.
13. Donaldven Manning, DB, 5-10, 175, Central: This Miami Edison transfer has been getting it done at this level for a long time. A quality defensive back who has great instincts and athletic ability. Many are wondering how much his game will be elevated by the move to play for the defending 6A state champion Rockets?
14. Frankie Hernandez, Jr., RB/S, 5-10.5, 195, Belen Jesuit: Is already regarded as one of the best football players ever to wear a Wolverines uniform. A sure tackler who has speed, athletic ability and a knack of being around the ball at all times. Is also a short-yardage back who simply will not go down on the first hit. Has a chance to turn some heads with the schedule his team will play. Tremendous student as well.
15. Vernon Davis, DB, 5-10, 175, Coral Reef: One of the most physical prospects in the state. His speed, athletic ability and knack of making big plays has colleges already taking a look at what he will do this coming year. Another player to keep an eye on.
16. Christian Hill, LB, 5-10, 190, South Dade: One of the defensive players in Miami-Dade County who has truly made some major strides over the last year. Colleges have been very impressed by his play-making abilities. A quick, strong talent who has gotten bigger and now finds himself as one of the top prospects in a very competitive region.
17. Bilal Marshall, QB, 6-2.5, 190, Dade Christian: A two-year starter who has a tremendous and accurate arm and also has great feet. Has the chance, with plenty of off season exposure, to make a major climb in the rankings. Have been watching this prospect since he first stepped on the field.
18. Torry Clayton, RB, 5-10, 180, South Dade: If any player has the chance to make a major statement this coming year, it’s this complete back who has speed, power and a knack of being able to find a hole. A tremendous pass catcher and blocker.
19. Ernest Freeman, RB, 5-11, 185, Carol City: After an impressive sophomore season, this year watched this quality football talent fall short on his pre-season goals. But the talent and passion for the game are in place, and he will be back playing at a high level in 2011.
20. Steven Braddy, RB, 6-0, 200, Miami Ferguson: Ever since his sophomore year, this is a back who has been getting done against top-flight competition. His appearance at a number of off season events have backed up how solid a prospect he has become. A hard running back who can block, catch and make big plays. Has a chance to continue his upward climb in the rankings.