When Ken Mastrole speaks to the students at his many passing clinics, he explains that hard work will lead to open doors. That philosophy recently came true for the one-time Cardinal Gibbons standout quarterback.
After years and years of making quarterbacks better and changing the course of many futures, Mastrole, who played collegiately at the University of Maryland and Rhode Island, watched his own "stock rise" - if you will.
Mastrole's many connections through the years - in high school, college and professionally - led him to Florida State University quarterback E.J. Manuel. A gifted and talented prospect, Manuel had never maximized his talents with the Seminoles.
What Mastrole did was come in - and put the gifted passer through every test imaginable. By last week's NFL Draft, many had felt that his improvement and ability was worthy of a first round pick. When the Buffalo Bills made the selection, Manuel and his instructor were center stage.
"I felt all along that if E.J. expected to be picked high in the NFL Draft, there would be a lot of work to do," Mastrole said. "You knew he had the desire when he began to improve in the first few weeks. By the time he began throwing for teams, many had made up their mind that there wasn't a better all-around quarterback in the draft."
While the selection of Manuel began to focus in on Mastrole, those who have known and worked with him for years, knew it was a matter of time. He had worked with several marquee quarterbacks in the state, getting them better and bringing all regional, state and national attention.
His prized students in the upcoming class include Sean White of University School and Washington State-bound Peyton Bender from Cardinal Gibbons to name a few. His weekly clinics have opened the door for several local players who have taken full advantage.
Plans to move his Mastrole Passing Academy events across the state are in the immediate plans. His clinics and combines have been split between south Florida and the Fort Myers area, which he calls home these days after playing Arena League in the area.
"We all knew that Coach Mastrole was special," said White. "He cares about developing and making sure that you maximize what you have. He is one of those people who is on the fast track to the top of his profession."
Mastrole also evaluates several quarterbacks throughout the state as well as this Miami-Dade/Broward County area. He offered a look at some for the Class of 2014.
Davie University School
MASTROLE ON WHITE: All the tools as one of the best pure rated passing quarterbacks in the southeast. Generates velocity with a compact stroke and can make all the throws required at Division 1 level. Steady improvements in anticipation from year 1 to year 4. White also has the strong pocket presence and can change launch points quickly.
WHAT'S AHEAD: White has a high ceiling and will now go from a pro style offense to working mostly out of the gun. Timing and speed of delivery in a fast punch offense will be key in White's growth this spring.
Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
MASTROLE ON BENDER: Washington State commit will now have full reigns of Broward county's top offensive teams through the air. Bender is very savvy in the pocket avoiding pressure and keeping his eyes moving through 2nd and 3rd progressions. Has a lighting fast release and has an excellent understanding of defensive coverages and reads. Bender's offensive fit is exactly what Cardinal Gibbons has incorporate. The Air Raid style of offense with vertical passing game combined with space and separation.
WHAT'S AHEAD: His ability to deliver through progressions and maintain proper footwork and balance is a strong characterstic in his game. Bender will continue to take the next step in his maturation process by ball placement for throws required at the next level.
Miami Booker T. Washington
MASTROLE ON HARRIS: Excellent athlete and the ability to be a game changer for the offense. Harris took Booker T to a state championship last year through the air and on the ground. Very raw and has the ability to play at the next level if the offense is custom fit to his skill set. Can raise the level of average players around him and creates when the pocket breaks down around him.
WHAT'S AHEAD: Will need to work on steps and the number taken with a rhythm based offense. A bit of a 3/4 release, Harris is better suited in an offense he can run first option then pass. Very valuable option because of his ability to play multiple positions on the field.
MASTROLE ON FLOWERS: One of the most explosive players on the map in Dade County. Another raw ability quarterback that does show the ability to make timing throws and moves through progressions. Difficult to sack but will need to work on ball security in a high level conference at the next level. Strong arm who makes plays inside the pocket and is even much more dangerous on the edge.
WHAT'S AHEAD: This Spring could be the time Flowers continues to work on his drop steps in relation to the routes and reads. If he continues to show where he left off last year staying in the pocket and moving through reads he could become one of the top 5 dual threat quarterbacks in the country.
OTHERS TO WATCH
• Nico Pierre (MIAMI CORAL REEF): Physical quarterback that can make all of the throws. Best fit offense- Kansas State style of play.
• Wade Freebeck (FORT LAUDERDALE ST. THOMAS AQUINAS): This could be a similar path to the last starter - John O'Korn. Freebeck had a strong season last year and has a very high ceiling. Will obtain multiple D1 offers by the end of spring football. Upside, Upside, Upside is the best words used to describe this signal caller.
• Jorge Pola Jr. (MIAMI BELEN JESUIT): Operating out of the always exciting Wolverines' offense, Pola Jr. has the ability to run and throw.
• Hunter Boyett (MIAMI WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN): Disappointed by a collar bone injury last year, Boyett has the arm and legs to garner serious attention this spring. Should have an excellent 2013 campaign and should be considered as a dual threat qb.
• Danarious Graham (DEERFIELD BEACH): Strong arm. Transferred from Blanche Ely. Will need to show he can lead his team to playoffs and execute the offense to start gaining serious looks. Graham is as talented as any signal caller on the list and will need to just prove it in the fall.
• Nick Jeanty (MIRAMAR): Already obtaining D1 offers. Jeanty has pure skills with the ability to distribute the ball quickly. A strong spring and fall will move this athlete up in the rankings. Has already gained national attention by his performance at the Nike Elite 11 camp in Atlanta.
• Eugene Sainterling (LAUDERDALE BOYD ANDERSON): Looks the part with size and arm strength. Has the ability to make a name for himself as he takes over for Boyd Anderson. With the nickname "Geno" and the arm and height this QB will make a stay on a number of radar screens this spring.
• Nick Velar (HOLLYWOOD CHAMINADE): Transfer from St. Thomas has the ability to keep pressure off of lineman and distribute the ball quickly. A smart QB who can put his team in a good situation.
• Kelly Benson (MIAMI MONSIGNOR PACE): Benson has the arm and the ability to take Pace into the playoffs. Will need to continue to grow from his junior campaign and will gain interest with his strong right arm.
• Alin Edouard (HIALEAH): Miami commit can make the throws at multiple angles and has the ability to burn a defense that is not disciplined. Very calm and controlled QB that continues to climb the charts.
• Sean Pratt (ARCHBISHOP MCCARTHY): New school should be beneficial to Pratt and his maturation as a quarterback. Accurate and has the ability to move the pocket. This will be an important spring for Pratt to build chemistry and a comfort level with a new offense.
• Lee "Bud" Martin (FORT LAUDERDALE DILLARD): Strong arm and has shown well at combines and camps. A strong run into the playoffs should continue to help Martin's stock rise.
We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. 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.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ROD PEARCY.