By Chase Goodbread
August 30, 2006
One look at the Class of 2007 in Florida, at least as of mid-August, proves that early commitments no longer are just a Northern trend.
Once common only with Big Ten and Big East schools, the early commitment began migrating to the South years ago. In 2006, to date, more than 60 seniors from the Sunshine State have made pledges to Division I-A programs. That's more than all but a handful of states will tally through the entire recruiting process, but in Florida, dozens of top-notch athletes remain undecided.
It's in the secondary where the most big names have been scratched off colleges' Florida recruiting boards. Lakeland's Ahmad Black (Florida), Pensacola's Chris Lett (Alabama), Miami Pace's DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami) and Glades Central's Johnnie Lee Dixon (Auburn) lead a group of a dozen or so defensive backs whose minds already are made up.
As for positions, the typical depth found in the state at wide receiver doesn't appear to be there this year. At the top of the list, Homestead's Alphonso Bryant, Ocala Trinity Catholic's Dion Lecorn and Glades Central's Deonte Thompson would be elite prospects in any year. But the state usually delivers a dozen or more receivers who have a myriad of high I-A offers, and that may not be the case this time.
Academically, there are a handful of major question marks among the top prospects - that's always the case in Florida - but overall it appears to be a group that will qualify at a more successful rate than usual.
Ocala Trinity Catholic quarterback John Brantley, the top-rated signal-caller in the state, made an April commitment to Texas. A pure dropback QB, he threw for 2,800-plus yards with 41 touchdowns and only five interceptions as a junior, as the Celtics rode his arm to a state championship. Brantley has a quick release and a good feel for a collapsing pocket, though his mobility clearly is limited. His father, John Sr., was a QB at nearby Florida, but Brantley, who is on track to qualify, was a poor style fit for the Gators' spread option.
Armwood defensive tackle Torrey Davis is a pure inside defender with run-stuffing skills. He drew scholarship offers from almost every major power before committing to Florida in July. As a junior, he had 61 tackles and nine sacks. Impressive in the weightroom, Davis draws constant double-teams and is disruptive play after play at the prep level. He comes from one of the state's powerhouse programs but must upgrade his academic credentials to qualify.
Lakeland defensive back Ahmad Black is possibly the most heavily recruited player among several big-time prospects on the same team. He enters his final prep season with 16 career interceptions, including six as a junior. After also gaining offers from Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State and many others, Black picked Florida in June, thanks in part to the dogged recruiting of assistants Stan Drayton and Charlie Strong. Lakeland, ranked among the nation's top programs this season, already has several seniors committed to the Gators.
Glades Central wide receiver Deonte Thompson was the top-ranked uncommitted player in the state in late August. He has offers from the three major in-state programs and favors Miami among those. Notre Dame, Southern Cal and Ohio State are the out-of-state suitors with the best chances. Thompson caught 12 TD passes a season ago, on 35 receptions for nearly 800 yards.
Nease offensive lineman James Wilson gave an early pledge to Southern Cal over Notre Dame, and in February he'll become the first Northeast Florida prospect ever to sign with the Trojans. With offers from the state's three elite programs, Wilson chose to leave a place he has lived in for only three years. (He grew up in Colorado.) A guard prospect with outstanding strength and skill, Wilson is athletic and carries less body fat than most 300-pounders.
Mosley tailback Enrique Davis may have the best combination of power and speed in the state this season in the offensive backfield. Alabama, Florida and Georgia are among the frontrunners for Davis, but he has many other top offers and isn't saying much about favorites. He ran for 1,820 yards and 24 TDs as a junior and posted a 4.39 40 at a Nike combine earlier this year.
Homestead wide receiver Alphonso Bryant, who pulled in close to 900 receiving yards as a junior, favors offers from hometown Miami and Florida State among dozens of others. Auburn also is working overtime for Bryant, a speedster who also is an accomplished defensive back. Many are predicting a fall commitment to the nearby Hurricanes.
North Fort Myers tailback Noel Devine is a player whose recruitment has been anticipated ever since his 1,000-yard freshman season, and he has only gotten better since then. While questions about his size loom, Devine has vision and quickness that make him the most exciting running back the state has seen in years. With spin moves and cut-back ability, Devine not only makes big plays, he makes defenders look bad. FSU, Southern Cal, Auburn, LSU and Nebraska are the frontrunners, though most expect the Seminoles to win out. Academics are a concern for Devine, who ran for just under 2,000 yards as a junior.
Defensive tackle John Brown, yet another top prospect from loaded Lakeland, has named Alabama and FSU as his leaders. He made five sacks as a junior, despite facing constant double-teams. Brown has less lateral quickness than some tackles, but the pressure he applies upfield is second to none.
Oakland Park Northeast tailback Bo Williams is a power back who rushed for less than 800 yards as a junior, thanks in part to a hurricane-shortened season. This year, he'll likely see far more attempts. Nebraska will get an official visit from Williams in September, but the Gators and Seminoles could have the final say in where he signs. A true tackle-breaker who can be at full speed in just a couple steps, Williams is on track to qualify academically.
Ocala Trinity Catholic wide receiver Dion Lecorn showed a flair for the spectacular last season, as the main target of above-mentioned QB John Brantley. Lecorn repeatedly has shown great hands and breakaway speed. Most believe he is Florida-bound, though South Carolina also continues to recruit him heavily. Lecorn has averaged more than 1,000 receiving yards over the last two years, and his senior season should be no different.
Jacoby Monroe of Sandalwood is a massive high school defensive end who likely will play tackle in college. He committed to Georgia Tech over FSU, Florida, Miami and others. Sandalwood coach Adam Geis claims that Monroe can squat more than 800 pounds. Monroe, who missed his junior season while attending an alternative school because of a discipline issue, must improve his academic credentials to qualify.
St. Thomas Aquinas defensive back Major Wright is a classic strong safety prospect who could grow into a linebacker. He plays for one of the state's elite programs and has offers from all three major in-state schools. Wright made six interceptions as a junior.
North Miami Beach athlete Doug Wiggins, an exciting all-purpose prospect, could end up at any number of positions. He started as a quarterback last season but could play tailback, receiver or cornerback in college. Wiggins made seven interceptions as a junior. Virginia Tech is a main player here, though in-state offers from Florida and Miami will be tough to pass on.
Jacksonville Jackson defensive tackle D'Angelo McCray has played everything from linebacker (early in his career) to center, tight end, defensive end and defensive tackle. While the latter position is where he likely will play in college, McCray's athleticism could conceivably allow him to play end. He committed early to Florida but later backed off that pledge. McCray made 13 sacks last season and also caught 19 balls as a tight end.
Seabreeze defensive back James Scott is a pure corner who lacks size but has offers galore, after posting 65 tackles and three interceptions as a junior. Florida and Ohio State seem to be in front here, though Scott isn't talking much on favorites. Scott is a younger brother of Georgia Tech star cornerback Kenny Scott, who also attended Seabreeze.
Glades Central defensive back Damien Berry is a strong, aggressive safety who committed to Miami in June. He also considered Florida and others, but with a father who was a Hurricane, there was little doubt on this one.
Miami Pace defensive back DeMarcus Van Dyke, a speedy cornerback and return specialist, committed to Miami early over Auburn, Florida, Michigan and many others. He picked off three passes as a junior, then ran a sub-4.4 40 time at a Nike combine, helping to spur many of his top offers.
Miami Lakes tailback Armando Allen averaged 10 yards per carry as a junior and scored 13 touchdowns despite a lack of size and a tough schedule. He hasn't tipped
his hand on a favorite, but he has offers from most of the top programs in the nation. Some believe Allen will end up in the secondary.
Tailback Antwain Easterling comes from tradition-rich Miami Northwestern, where the starting running back often is among the state's best. With 1,400 yards rushing a season ago, against one of the toughest schedules in Florida, Easterling earned scholarship offers from Miami, FSU, Georgia, Tennessee and many others.
FLORIDA'S TOP 40
|No. Name||Pos.||Ht./Wt.||High School||College Favorites|
|1. John Brantley||QB||6-3/195||Ocala Trinity Catholic||TEXAS|
|2. Torrey Davis||DT||6-5/290||Seffner Armwood||FLORIDA|
|3. Ahmad Black||DB||5-11/180||Lakeland High||FLORIDA|
|4. Deonte Thompson||WR||6-0/180||Belle Glade Glades Central||Miami, Fla., OSU, ND*|
|5. James Wilson||OL||6-4/310||St. Augustine Nease||SOUTHERN CAL|
|6. Enrique Davis||RB||5-11/210||Lynn Haven Mosley||Fla., Ala., Ga., FSU*|
|7. Alphonso Bryant||WR||6-1/195||Homestead High||Miami, FSU, Aub., Ga.*|
|8. Noel Devine||RB||5-8/175||North Fort Myers High||FSU, USC, Neb., LSU*|
|9. John Brown||DT||6-2/280||Lakeland High||FSU, Fla., Ala., Miami*|
|10. Bo Williams||RB||6-1/200||Oakland Park Northeast||FSU, Neb., Pitt*|
|11. Deon Lecorn||WR||6-0/200||Ocala Trinity Catholic||USC, Fla.*|
|12. Jacoby Monroe||DT||6-2/280||Jacksonville Sandalwood||GEORGIA TECH|
|13. Major Wright||DB||6-1/200||Ft. Lauderdale Aquinas||Miami, Fla., Ga., OSU*|
|14. Doug Wiggins||WR/DB||5-11/180||North Miami Beach||Miami, Fla., Ga., BC*|
|15. D'Angelo McCray||DT||6-4/280||Jacksonville Jackson||FSU, USC, GT, Ill.*|
|16. James Scott||DB||5-10/165||Daytona Beach Seabreeze||Fla., OSU, LSU, Ala.*|
|17. Damien Berry||DB||5-11/195||Belle Glade Glades Central||MIAMI|
|18. DeMarcus Van Dyke||DB||6-1/165||Miami Pace||MIAMI|
|19. Armando Allen||RB||5-9/180||Hialeah Miami Lakes||FSU, Fla., ND, USC*|
|20. Antwain Easterling||RB||5-11/195||Miami Northwestern||Miami, Fla., ND, Rut.*|
|21. Leonard Hankerson||WR||6-2/180||Ft. Lauderdale Aquinas||Miami, Ga., OSU, Tenn.*|
|22. John Jones||LB||6-2/210||Sarasota Booker||FLORIDA|
|23. Stephen Garcia||QB||6-2/200||Tampa Jefferson||Fla., USC, Miss.*|
|24. Jermaine McKenzie||WR||6-1/165||Bradenton Academy||ALABAMA|
|25. Jordon Hammond||TE||6-4/235||Lakeland High||LOUISIANA STATE|
|26. Lorenzo Edwards||LB/S||6-2/220||Orlando Edgewater||Fla., Miami, Ga., ND*|
|27. Kevin Bryant||OL||6-6/375||Hallandale High||Miami, LSU, Ga., Fla.*|
|28. Johnny Lee Dixon||DB||5-11/180||Belle Glade Glades Central||AUBURN|
|29. Thomas Edenfield||OL||6-5/280||Jacksonville Bartram Trail||FSU, Fla., Clem., Aub.*|
|30. Jerry Howard||DE||6-4/240||Orlando Jones||FLORIDA|
|31. Tim Lamb||DT||6-1/310||Tallahassee Lincoln||Miami, Aub., Ala., Clem.*|
|32. Carlton Johnson||LB/S||6-1/190||Lynn Haven Mosley||Fla., FSU, Ala., Ga.*|
|33. Akeem Auguste||DB||5-11/175||Hollywood Chaminade||Aub., Fla., FSU, USC*|
|34. Chris Lett||DB||6-2/200||Pensacola High||ALABAMA|
|35. Jamire Williams||DB||5-11/170||Jacksonville First Coast||USC, Fla., GT, Aub.*|
|36. Brandon Hicks||LB||6-2/205||Jacksonville Forrest||Fla., Miami, LSU, Clem.*|
|37. Art Evans||DB||6-1/180||Lakeland Evangel Christian||TENNESSEE|
|38. Brandon Paul||DB||5-10/185||Tallahassee Lincoln||FSU, LSU, Tenn., Miami*|
|39. Kendall Smith||LB||6-1/205||Bushnell South Sumter||FSU, Ala., Ga., Tenn.*|
|40. Chris Rainey||RB||5-9/160||Lakeland High||FLORIDA|
NOTE: Preseason player rankings by the ACC Sports Journal.
* also considering other schools