By Dave Glenn, ACC Sports Journal
August 27, 2005
Colleges recruiting Florida this year will find, as usual, a bevy of talented wide receivers. But this year's Top 40 crop, led by Miami commitment Sam Shields of Sarasota Booker, is even deeper than usual. As many as 20 or more of the top 100 seniors in the state are receivers, though as always some eventually will land in the secondary.
After wide receiver, however, the state's always-amazing talent pool (more than 300 Division I-A signees in 2005) is a bit less predictable.
While Florida usually produces three or four top-rated quarterbacks, depth at that position appears woefully thin in 2005. After St. Augustine Nease QB Tim Tebow, who is arguably the top overall recruit in the Sunshine State, no quarterback prospect has an offer list that would merit even top-50 consideration.
By contrast, Florida is stacked with top offensive line recruits. At a position where the state's prospects are known to often bust, this year's crop could be the one to shake that stereotype. Talk about line prospects in Florida begins and ends at Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, where three blockers will sign with I-A programs. Bookend tackles Marcus Gilbert and Sam Young and center Daniel Wenger each have more top-shelf offers than they care to count.
This year's best Sunshine State players also appear to be more studious than the academically challenged groups of the past, with a high percentage of top prospects carrying solid grade-point averages and already posting passing ACT and/or SAT scores.
Tebow, one of the nation's most highly regarded players at any position, set state records for total yards (5,572) and passing yards (4,429) as a junior, with 46 touchdown passes and 24 rushing TDs. Invited to the Elite 11 quarterback camp in California this summer, he won two camp awards while competing with the nation's best high school passers. Many believe Florida is a lock for Tebow's services (parents attended, close to home, ideal fit for coach Urban Meyer's offense), but the youngster maintains interest in other suitors.
Jacksonville Sandalwood defensive back Jamar Hornsby first turned heads during the summer before his junior season, when he turned in a 4.37 clocking at a Georgia Tech camp after checking in at 6-3 and 190 pounds. Now a bit bigger, he remains blazing fast and a big-time prospect at both free safety and wide receiver. As a junior, he posted 125 tackles and five interceptions. While Hornsby doesn't yet have a firm list of finalists, it appears that Florida and Michigan head his long list of possibilities. With Sandalwood likely to face a struggle this fall as it breaks in a new starting quarterback, look for Hornsby to be more productive defensively as a senior.
Lake Butler Union County tailback C.J. Spiller claims no early favorite, but many consider Florida State the team to beat. Union County sent star defensive lineman Charles Howard to FSU a few years back, and Spiller perfectly fits the mold of the small, quick back the Seminoles' coaching staff always has favored. While playing in a Wing-T offense that featured his blazing speed and quickness, Spiller rushed for more than 1,600 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. He already has posted a strong 21 ACT score.
Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas offensive lineman Sam Young favors nearby Miami over a long list of top-notch suitors. He is a tackle for St. Thomas Aquinas, and he projects to remain at tackle in college. Young comes from one of the state's top programs in Aquinas, which produces Division I-A linemen almost annually. He has offers from as far away as Southern Cal, and his outstanding academic credentials (3.5 GPA, 1,200 SAT) and impressive results in the weight room (370 bench press) help explain why.
"I think my best attribute is my work ethic," Young said.
Sarasota Booker wide receiver Sam Shields is coming off a knee injury that limited him to a 20-catch, eight-touchdown junior season, but that didn't scare away many recruiters. He committed early to Miami over other top programs, although he hasn't entirely shut the door on the idea of taking some visits to other schools this fall. Shields listed early playing time as a very important factor in his college decision, and he said his work ethic in between games is one of the things that sets him apart.
"I'm a good practice player," Shields said. "I take it seriously out there."
Tampa Hillsborough athlete Jarred Fay-son is a quarterback in high school but almost certainly will switch positions at the next level. He is leaning toward Miami and Florida over offers from most of the top programs in the South. A dangerous run/pass threat who's considered among the fastest prospects in the state, Fayson projects as a wide receiver according to most recruiters, a defensive back in the eyes of some. He accounted for more than 2,000 total yards as a junior, including 613 rushing.
Immokalee High tailback Javarris James has the talent, the production and the bloodlines college coaches like to see. Miami all along led the pack for this younger cousin of NFL star Edgerrin James, a former Hurricanes standout who also attended Immo-kalee. Javarris committed to UM (childhood favorite) this summer over Florida State and Southern Cal, among many others. As is the case with many Sunshine State products, however, James said that despite his commitment he still may visit other schools. As a junior, he ran for almost 1,700 yards, while earning first-team all-state honors and leading his team to a state championship.
"Even if I do visit other schools, nothing can pull me away from Miami," James said. "The (UM) coaches know I'm coming, and they know it's possible that I'll take some visits, and they're cool with that. I know I'm going there, and (the Hurricanes) know I'm going there, and that's all that matters."
Clermont East Ridge wide receiver Richard Jackson was one of the state's most productive pass-catchers as a junior, pulling in 73 receptions for more than 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also plays defense in high school, but almost everyone projects him as a receiver in college. Jackson, who participated in a summer camp at Clemson, has been leaning to Miami and Florida State for some time.
Daytona Beach Mainland athlete Tony Wilson committed to Georgia this summer over FSU and many other top-level offers. He lacks ideal size but is an instinctive and versatile player who also excels on special teams. Coming from a top prep program at Mainland, he could play early at Georgia, where the receiver position is an open competition.
Clearwater Central Catholic athlete Riley Cooper averaged 28 yards per catch on offense last season and pitched in with 118 tackles and five interceptions on defense. He claims no early favorite but has all of the top offers, with most schools excited about his potential as a safety or even linebacker. A first-team all-state pick as a junior, Cooper also is likely to be a high baseball draft choice in 2006, a fact that could complicate his recruitment on the gridiron.
Tampa Hillsborough defensive lineman Leslie Stirrups is coming off an injury-riddled junior season, but with tackles at a premium on the recruiting trail he's nevertheless regarded as a precious commodity. He managed six sacks in 2004 despite his physical problems, and he has excellent quickness and lower-body strength, with a squat of more than 500 pounds. Stirrups reportedly favors Miami but must improve his academic credentials to qualify.
St. Augustine High defensive back Jacques Rickerson intercepted eight passes last season, including two from Nease star Tim Tebow in a playoff game. Rickerson breaks on the ball quickly and has all of the requisite instincts for the cornerback position. Look for Auburn and Tennessee to be heavy players in Rickerson's recruitment, with Clemson still in the race among ACC schools.
Oviedo High defensive tackle Corey Hobbs ended his recruitment with a summer commitment to Florida. Coming off a foot injury that cost him about half of his junior season, he should rebound nicely for Class 6A Oviedo, an Orlando-area school that also produced Florida linebacker Brandon Siler. Hobbs, a bullish run stopper with great toughness, made nine tackles for loss in his limited action last year. He had offers from Georgia, FSU, Alabama and other top programs before committing to the Gators.
Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert has been a bit overshadowed by teammate Sam Young, but Gilbert's offer list is nearly as impressive. Look for Miami (childhood favorite) to win out in the end here, although Gilbert recently said he remains wide open. He bench presses 365 pounds and easily will qualify academically.
Tampa Jefferson offensive lineman Daron Rose has a slew of offers as a tackle prospect, led by in-state powers Florida and Florida State. He plays in the trendy spread option offense, which gives him a good balance of experience between pass blocking and run blocking. Jefferson reached the Class 3A state championship game last season.
Orlando Edgewater athlete Greg Mathews is another two-way starter in high school who likely will end up on defense at the college level. He shows excellent instincts in coverage and is a willing run supporter. Mathews, who likes Miami above a long list of offers, comes from one of Central Florida's most successful programs in Edgewater, which has been a talent factory for years. He still is awaiting a passing SAT or ACT score.
Alachua Santa Fe wide receiver Melvin Patterson is one of the most underrated players in the Sunshine State. A two-way standout at both linebacker and wide receiver, he pulled in 808 receiving yards as a junior and added nearly 100 tackles defensively. He's considering several top-flight offers, including one from Miami, but Florida may have the best chance given its location in Patterson's hometown of Gainesville.
FLORIDA'S TOP 40
|No. Name||Pos.||Ht./Wt.||High School||College Favorites|
|1. Tim Tebow||QB||6-3/215||St. Augustine Nease||Fla., FSU, Ala., LSU, Clem.*|
|2. Jamar Hornsby||WR/DB||6-3/195||Jacksonville Sandalwood||Fla., Mich., OSU, So.Cal, GT*|
|3. C.J. Spiller||RB||5-10/185||Lake Butler Union County||FSU, Fla., Mich., So.Cal*|
|4. Sam Young||OL||6-7/280||Ft. Lauderdale Aquinas||Miami, Fla., So.Cal, ND, Stan.*|
|5. Sam Shields||WR||6-0/180||Sarasota Booker||MIAMI|
|6. Jarred Fayson||WR/DB||6-0/185||Tampa Hillsborough||Fla., Miami, WVU, Ga., Tenn.*|
|7. A.J. Jones||LB/DB||6-2/190||Tampa Middleton||Fla., Aub., So.Cal, LSU, Ala.*|
|8. Javarris James||RB||6-0/205||Immokalee High||MIAMI|
|9. Richard Jackson||WR||6-2/195||Clermont East Ridge||Miami, FSU, ND, GT, Neb.*|
|10. Tony Wilson||WR/DB||5-10/170||Daytona Beach Mainland||GEORGIA|
|11. Marcus Sims||RB/LB||6-0/215||Tallahassee N. Fla. Christian||FSU, Ga., Aub., LSU, Tenn.*|
|12. Ryan Hill||DB||6-0/180||Tallahassee Rickards||Miami, FSU, Fla., Clem.*|
|13. Riley Cooper||DB||6-3/210||Clearwater Catholic||Texas, Fla., Clem., Ga., Tenn.*|
|14. Leslie Stirrups||DT||6-2/275||Tampa Hillsborough||Miami, Fla., FSU, Tenn., Okla.*|
|15. Jacques Rickerson||DB||5-10/180||St. Augustine High||Tenn., Aub., Fla., Ga., Clem.*|
|16. Corey Hobbs||DT||6-3/310||Oviedo High||FLORIDA|
|17. Marcus Gilbert||OL||6-5/275||Ft. Lauderdale Aquinas||Miami, Fla., Okla., LSU, NCSU*|
|18. Daron Rose||OL||6-5/310||Tampa Jefferson||Fla., FSU, ND, Mich., Okla.*|
|19. Greg Mathews||WR/DB||6-2/190||Orlando Edgewater||Miami, Mich., FSU, NCSU, OSU*|
|20. Melvin Patterson||WR||6-2/205||Alachua Santa Fe||Miami, Fla., FSU, Ga., WVU*|
|21. Bryan Thomas||DB||6-1/180||Zephyrhills High||Fla., OSU, Tenn., USC, Clem.*|
|22. Dominic Brown||WR||6-4/180||Dade City Pasco||Miami, FSU, Tenn., USC*|
|23. Daniel Wenger||OL||6-3/285||Ft. Lauderdale Aquinas||Fla., Pitt, Duke, PSU, Pur.*|
|24. Anthony Jones||WR||6-0/170||Tallahassee Godby||Tenn., Neb., Ala., Aub., Miami*|
|25. Matt Bosher||PK||6-0/180||Jupiter High||MIAMI|
|26. Cruz Barrett||OL||6-4/315||Daytona Beach Mainland||FSU, Miami, Fla., LSU, Ga.*|
|27. Kevin Young||OL||6-5/320||Clearwater Central Catholic||FSU, Miami, USC, NCSU*|
|28. Jim Barrie||OL||6-4/310||Tampa Berkeley||FSU, Mich., Okla., Tenn.*|
|29. Dustin Doe||LB||6-0/215||Live Oak Suwannee||FLORIDA|
|30. Chasman Davis||LB||6-0/215||Ft. Pierce St. Lucie||Aub., Fla., Ga., Okla., UNC*|
|31. Markihe Anderson||DB||5-10/175||Ft. Myers Dunbar||FLORIDA|
|32. DeAndre McDaniel||DB||6-0/185||Tallahassee Godby||Clemson|
|33. Caz Piurowski||TE||6-7/235||Land O' Lakes High||FLORIDA STATE|
|34. Charles Deas||OL/DT||6-4/315||Ft. Lauderdale Anderson||Ga., Neb., Aub., Tenn.*|
|35. Brandon Heath||DB||6-0/185||Palm Beach Lakes High||WVU, Miami, Fla., Louis.*|
|36. Kenrick Ellis||DT||6-4/330||Lake Worth Leonard||Fla., Miami, FSU, Tenn.*|
|37. Laurence Marius||DB||5-11/170||Key West High||GT, FSU, WVU, Minn., Duke*|
|38. Zack Handerson||OL||6-7/255||Jacksonville Bartram Trail||NORTH CAROLINA|
|39. Kevin Perez||OL||6-3/275||Miami Killian||GEORGIA|
|40. Latarrius Thomas||WR||6-1/195||New Smyrna Beach||Fla., Miami, FSU, Louis., So.Car.*|
NOTE: Preseason player rankings by the ACC Sports Journal.
* also considering other schools