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