As we head toward the halfway point of the 2014 high school football season, many of the standout football players who were predicted to have great seasons, are off to a fast start.
In an area of the country that annually produces nearly 200 FBS level prospects, there are always going to be those who are overlooked - for one reason or another. Athletes who may have been injured last year or during the spring - or perhaps are underclassmen who may have matured over the past eight months.
Talk to any college coach who has spent time in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties and all will agree that borderline prospects a year ago - or as recently as the spring - could be overlooked by schools who haven't had the chance to watch, evaluate and offer these talented players since May - which is four months ago.
"Four months is a long time for an athlete to grow and become a major prospect," said Miami Central head coach Roland Smith. "We have a few players on our team who have matured a great deal in the months since spring, so I can understand how many of the players are overlooked."
While there are several football players who haven't received the attention from colleges - with dozens of offers waiting in the balance - there are a core group of prospects who have jumped out over the past four months - and for the most part - colleges have not jumped on them, the way they should be.
Here are 10 very hot football players who should have 10-plus offers by now, but because they may not have been viewed at the right time, are flying way beneath the radar screen:
Xavier Bailey, DB, 6-0, 180, Miami Northwestern: Starting out at Miami Beach, then moving to Jackson, this is a big time defensive back/special teams player who has found a home with the Bulls. Just as recent as the first district game against Carol City, he made a solid impact with his speed and athletic ability, faking a punt and sprinting for a TD and receiving a fumble.
Shawn Curtis, LB/RB, 6-2, 230, Doral Ronald Reagan: A huge treason that the Bisons have been a force the past two years, this is a total package who can play on both sides of the ball, has plenty of size and athletic ability and gets it done in the classroom. This is a player that should have schools banging down the door.
Dusan Etienne, OL, 6-7, 300, Hollywood Hills: Nobody has watched his career take off more than this giant of a lineman over the past three months. Winning the MVP of an Ocala Lineman Challenge that was run by former NFL linemen, this impressive prospect when from another two-way line prospects to one of the elite in the state - and has continued to back it for the Spartans this season.
Jhakari Harrison, QB, 5-11, 170, Coconut Creek: Easily one of the most underrated of the quarterbacks in the Class of 2016, this three-year starter routinely throws for over 250 yards and has proven that he belongs in the conversation with the best juniors in the state. A very accurate passer who has the skills and athletic ability to get better over the next few years. You can guarantee that during the next evaluation period, his stock will soar.
Brett Israel, QB, 6-0, 170, Douglas: Another versatile run/pass quarterback prospect who has been overlooked. Losing most of his linemen and receivers from a year ago, he has guided the Eagles to a surprising start, including an upset over last year's district champion Deerfield Beach. A very accurate passer who also runs the ball very well. Another talent who will watch his stock rise as colleges watch his film and see him in person.
Joe Riggins, LB/S, 6-2, 205, Cardinal Gibbons: With a few offers on the table, this linebacker/safety prospect has been playing at a high level for two years - and while colleges have noticed - he is indeed flying way beneath the radar this season. One of the hardest hitters and instinctive players you will find. Has a nose for ball as you will see by watching him play. He is always around the ball, and has the endorsement from his coaches, teammates and the opposition.
Ivan Smith, RB, 5-11, 170, Miami Christopher Columbus: Make no mistake that this is the next outstanding runner in south Florida. A very elusive player who started to show signs last year, but has really made a difference this season with his speed and instinctive running. As he gets stronger and gains more weight, colleges will continue to see a junior who has the chance to be very special the next two years.
Gee Stanley, LB, 6-1, 200, Coral Gables: If you are looking for another great football talent who has emerged from his safety position this year, this is truly one of the outstanding football players on the rise. Had a huge off season and now as the Cavaliers continue to build toward the playoffs, you can guarantee that this is a talent that will start getting plenty of looks from colleges all over the country. By next spring, he should be one of the best in south Florida.
Keir Thomas, DL, 6-2, 220, Miami Central: With no offers as of yet, this Northwestern junior transfer is the mystery of the season so far. Easily one of the most dominating players on a team that could have one of the premier defensive units nationally, this is a prospect who should have Ohio State, Alabama, Miami, FSU interest because he is a tremendous football player who has already earned the respect of nationally rated teams as well as the local programs who have been slow away by his talent, quickness and ability to dominate.
Donavan Thompson, LB, 6-0, 200, Miami Central: If you have watched the Rockets play last year or already this season, nobody has to tell you much about what many are calling the best linebacker in south Florida, and perhaps the state of Florida. Just a junior, this quality football talent had 56 tackles in the first three games alone - against nationally rated Hoover (Al.), Stevenson (Ga.) and Booker T. Washington. A true middle linebacker who stops the run, gets to the quarterback and drops into pass coverage. With such a need for a position like this, it seems like an insult that USF is the only school with an offer. Colleges who are not on him will miss out on a game-changer.
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.