After being upset by Palm Beach Gardens in the 8A state playoffs and then watching its most successful head coach in school history take a college job, there were those who were quick to write Miramar off as a contender for the 2014 season.
While this program has been one of the best in Florida over the past five years, there was feeling that losing Coach Damon Cogdell and a quality class of seniors would certainly stand in the way of the Patriots being among the elite for the upcoming season.
Fearing many of the remaining players may be swayed to leave and attend other schools, Miramar High administrators worked quickly to hire a replacement for Cogdell, who had taken his alma mater to levels the program had never been since opening in the early 1970s.
With Cogdell heading to West Virginia, his help in naming a successor, quickly was huge as this program welcomed assistant coach Matt Strout to lead the Patriots into the 2014 season. The decision to hire someone who had been on staff was easy. That way the staff that had so much success working under Cogdell would remain in place and the transition would be smooth and the players would be content to stay on
While several key players graduated on both sides of the ball, it was the offense that really took a hit as two quarterbacks, a number of quality running backs and receivers and linemen departed, leaving Strout and his staff with a huge spring assignment.
“This spring was so much easier because of the staff that remained,” Strout admitted. “We realized that our defense would be solid, but there were many questions to be answered on the offensive side of the ball, where a new quarterback, several new linemen and a coordinator all had to gel.”
Class of 2016 quarterback Demari Simpkins (5-11, 170) was the perfect place to start for a team that featured some impressive talent returning. Simpkins, who is still a work in progress, picked things up quickly, and with a 13-day trip planned this summer to several colleges, learning all facets of the spread offense will come easier.
“We are very excited about what Demari brings to this offense,” Strout explained. “We lost two senior leaders at the position from last year, so it was essential that he came in and picked things up almost immediately.”
While Simpkins will manage the offene, he will not be asked to do it all. The senior class is loaded with playmakers, starting with running back Alex Anderson (6-0, 205), who is regarded as one of the best in the state. There is also Sanjai Bruno (5-9, 180), who saw extensive playing time a year ago. Receivers Khalil Lewis (6-1, 195) and 6-4, 200-pound Kevin Purlett are quality players as well.
The offensive line, which lost some depth, features University of Miami commit Leeward Brown (6-4, 320), Stewart Boyd (6-3, 285) and versatile Jaquan Owens, who made the move from defense last season.
“This senior class has experience and leadership,” Strout pointed out. “That was huge in our spring game win at a very athletic Lake Wales squad.”
Class of 2016 prospects such as running back Greg McCrae (5-11, 165), receiver Kyle Anthony (6-4, 180) and Everglades line transfer Obinna Nwankwo (6-3, 280) give this program plenty to work with during the summer.
As many questions swirled around Strout’s first spring as head coach on the offensive side of the ball, defensively, the Patriots were in great hands.
With a secondary that is perhaps as good as any in the country, there was a feeling that things would fall into place – especially at the linebacker position where Broward County Player of the Year, Ryan Samuels and David Lee, had graduated.
“We knew coming in with our secondary and what we had up front, we could be just as dominating as we have been in the past,” Strout explained. “It was a matter of using some of our rising seniors with a few juniors to set the tempo. When we left Lake Wales, I think we all felt very good about players such as senior Danzel King (6-1, 210), and juniors Deshondre Pitts (5-10, 185) and Mark Niles (5-9, 195) to start with.
The Patriots also believe that they have as active and athletic a defensive front as anyone. With seniors Bryton Diejuste (6-2, 225) and Darrel Swanson (6-3, 205), and junior playmaker Khalil Roan (5-10, 265), moving the ball would be very tough in 2014.
If you really want to make Strout and Patriot fans smile, mention the secondary and you will get nothing but glowing comments.
Led by highly-recruited Tyrek Cole (6-0, 170) and Jeff Hill (5-9, 175), the tradition continues. Add in versatile and athletic Herbert Miller (6-2, 195), Josmar Diaz (5-11, 180) and McArthur transfer Kendrell McFadden (6-3, 180) and catching a ball in this secondary will be nearly impossible.
The Patriots will also feature 2017 standout Brian Edwards, a 6-4, 185-pounder as well.
“I have not seen all the defensive secondaries in the country, but if there is a better one than this, you better not schedule them,” Strout said. This is a group that is being recruited by every college in the country. Having McFadden gives us additional freedom to move him around the field to make plays.”
The Patriots will make good use of the 13-day trip that includes Cincinnati, Ohio State, Louisville, Kentucky, Marshall, Ohio U, Pittsburgh, Akron and a visit to see Coach Cogdell and West Virginia. In addition, the Patriots will visit Auburn, UAB, Alabama, Samford and Florida.
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.
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OTHER INFORMATIONAL BLOG
Columbus will rely on a more experienced team in 2014