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There was a time – not so long ago – where offensive linemen in south Florida were not the first option for many college coaches who headed south during the spring. On the whole, they were just not talented enough.

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But thanks to local, regional and national camps, and the fact that the powerhouse college programs in the state needed to start getting big men from Florida, things have certainly changed.

For at least the past five years, south Florida has followed a lead that other areas of the country – as well as right here in Florida started to do. In recognizing and spotlight the offensive linemen, more and more athletes started growing up and wanting to be in the trenches. They also saw what some NFL tackles were making, too.

Long known and admired for the defensive backs and receivers this area of the country has produced, South Florida had slowly moved into a direction where playing off the Vernon Carey’s, Davin Joseph’s, Marcus Gilbert’s and Sam Young’s, was catching on.

“You look at 10 years ago, and these kids had very few big time offensive linemen to look up to down here,” University School head coach Daniel Luque explained. “As a coach who grew up teaching and coaching offensive linemen, I have watched the change, and so have the college coaches.”

When an Ereck Flowers can jump up and become a top-10 NFL Draft pick, plenty of local athletes start thinking about playing the position. Flowers attended Norland, so every youngster who has some size starts thinking that the New York Giants can one day look in their direction.

With spring now within a month, several local linemen – in every class – are starting to get plenty of recognition. And according to Dana Wiley of Prep Films, these talented athletes are starting to pop up everywhere.

“You look at the major guys in south Florida that everyone has known about, and to me, that paves the way for the other kids to be discovered,” Wiley pointed out. “I know we have been able to put plenty of linemen into the NFL, it was never at the rate it is today. Almost any draft you have, there are at least five to six linemen that we know about that are selected or invited as free agents, and that is pretty good.”

BIG TIME KIDS ARE STEPPING UP
There is probably no other region in the country that can quickly determine how good prospects are – just by watching them compete against the elite talent that has filled high school rosters for decades. With that in mind, we have certainly become a haven for some elite big men who are bringing major college coaches down here in record numbers.

“The elite kids down here have truly helped in so many ways,” Luque said. “There is no getting around the fact that they help bring the attention down here, and others players are benefitting.”

While there are so many linemen on the rise, a certain group of them seem to grab the spotlight a little more than others. Here is a look at those prospects who head toward spring – truly on the radar.

Cody Bowes, 6-3, 275, St. Thomas Aquinas: After coming all the way from southern Miami-Dade County, here is one of those elite prospects who started to get the looks as soon as he arrived. A big man with a basketball background, Bowes is one of the most athletic offensive linemen in Broward County.

Navaughn Donaldson, OL, 6-5, 320, Central: Nothing to say about this young man that has not been said. Picked up where Trevor Darling left off for the Rockets before Darling heading to the University of Miami – which happens to be Donaldson’s school of choice as well. This is a very athletic line prospect that has great feet and has battled some of the elite defensive linemen nationally. He is ready and is one of those prospects who makes a difference – at all times.

Teaki Fuller, OL, 6-3, 280, Booker T. Washington: When many look at the Tornadoes and find the reason why this program has been one of the best nationally, here is indeed one of the main reasons. The ability to assemble quality offensive lines is what has given top-flight prospects like this a chance to learn against the best – and then compete against elite players throughout the career. Fuller has quickness, strength and the ability to open holes for a running game or provide enough protection for the passing game to click.

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Corey Gaynor, OL, 6-4, 285, Douglas: When you watch prospects actually play the game – and don’t rely on just watching the film or listening to what others have to say – you get a quick heads up on a prospect like Gaynor. While he was getting little attention early on – because nobody took the time to watch – he truly started to blow up when he attended events and dominated some that others considered as elite players. This is easily one of the most athletic big men in Florida. His work ethic is second to none. By, the way, his brother is headed to TCU this coming season play up front for the Horned Frogs.

Kai-Leon Herbert, OL, 6-6, 255, Plantation American: Since arriving from Cardinal Gibbons before last season, all he has done is impress with everything he does. Herbert’s strength, athleticism and footwork are as impressive as you get. He has small man’s mentality in a large frame – and that’s why colleges love what he brings to the table. His pass blocking is improving – and his quickness already helps him get up the field on running downs. Herbert should put it all together this season. College coaches are already watching and making their push to land him.

Steve Jean-Baptiste, OL/DE, 6-2, 280, Chaminade-Madonna: His size, athleticism and work ethic has pushed him into a position where this versatile talent is putting on a show every time he lines up. Is part of a unit that may be one of the most physical around – as they all push each other throughout the year to get better. Colleges love what this young man brings to the game. His passion and ability to make things happen up front make him a commodity.

Mershawn Miller, OL, 6-1, 305, Miami Central: Having watched this quality prospect lineup many times, he continues to do what he has done since making a lasting impression at the start of his sophomore year. Like this teammate Donaldson, he has experience of playing against the best – and at a very high level. Miller has watched his game continue to improve and the attention directly on what he is doing. He has turned into one of the best around. Miller has big-time potential.

Willa Pierre, OL, 6-3, 288, Booker T. Washington: The only way you can appreciate this young man is by watching what he does in a game. Pierre is another one of the quality line prospects who has been making a major impact since his sophomore grade year. He is quick off the ball, technically sound and has played on the grandest stage – a number of times. Make no mistake, this is a prospect that shows up and makes a huge impact in the big game, and very few players can make that claim.

Tedarrell “T.J.” Slaton, OL, 6-5, 325, Plantation American Heritage: This is one of those south Florida linemen that comes once every generation. Slaton is the total package – has everything you are looking for in a football player. In just one year, he has taken himself from a very good player, still learning everything about the position, to one of the most sought after in the country. Fast, strong, smart and knows exactly what path to take to that next level and beyond. Slaton is a very gifted basketball talent too, but his true sport is football. He is a possible future first-round NFL Draft selection – if all goes well.

Kyron Taylor, OL, 6-3, 275, South Dade: There is no doubt that when looking at the most athletic lineman, this is a name that has to be in the conversation, A two-year starter on one of the best lines in Florida, Taylor started to get college recognition as a sophomore. In addition to being a tremendous football prospect, he finished second as a sophomore among Class 3A heavyweight wrestlers in Florida. This year, he won it all. Taylor is a big-time football talent who not lose many battles up from – no matter how good the defensive lineman happens to be.

Kadeem Telfort, OL, 6-6, 315, Norland: The first on the radar in this class – just as he moved from Dade Christian as a freshman to play for the Vikings. From the first day, his size, athleticism and ability to play up front were evident. He has worked hard and has thrust his name into the conversation about the best around. Telfort is a very good football player who should have a solid final season.

HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?
In south Florida, it is always easy to be overlooked. It happens all the time. But now with more competition and more year-round exposure, things are changing.

Other prospects who have made a major impact include A.J. Jancosko (6-1, 306) and Julius Ianella (6-0, 255), Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna, Sebastien Dolcine (6-4, 265) and Brandon Shaw (6-0, 292), Miramar, Michael Crespo (6-5, 300), Tremaine Roundtree (6-2, 276), Tre Roberts (6-1, 330) and Ivan Martinez (6-1, 270), Hialeah Champagnat Catholic, Tyler Crawford (6-6, 288, Miami Jackson), Eric Cortez (6-0, 272 and Michael Flaherty (6-3, 295) from Miami Christopher Columbus, Alessandro Cantillo (6-1, 250, Miami Ferguson), Aaron Carreno (6-1, 255, Miami Sunset), Alix Altidor (5-10, 227, Plantation), Sharod McBride-Brewster (6-0, 270, Boyd Anderson), Jordany Bruny (6-2, 270) and Jeremy Polidor, 6-0, 275), Dr. Krop, Christian Chain (6-3, 307, Nova), Deondre Chambers, OL, 6-3, 275, Miramar, Tyler Dix (6-3, 265, Cypress Bay), Rey Dorta (6-2, 240, Monsignor Pace) and Jason Dunois (6-4, 285, Carol City.)

In addition, there are Marcus Etienne (6-0, 255, Flanagan), Nicholas Fennimore (6-4, 310, Hollywood ISB), Adam Fox (6-4, 268, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons), Javier Garcia (6-1, 260, Miami Belen Jesuit), Cyress Girtman (6-2, 230) and Nick Jensen (6-0, 230), Miami Palmetto, Melchisedek Jeudy (5-10, 250, Miami Southridge), Jonathan Llinas (6-3, 310) and Nicholas Pons (6-4, 295), Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy, Conor McIntyre (6-5, 342 (American Heritage), Adrian Moskowitz (6-1, 265), Zack Sweeney (6-3, 270), Nick Antonacci (6-0, 255) and Jonathan Resnick (6-2.5, 255), St. Thomas Aquinas, Kevin Nuno (6-0, 265, Coral Gables), Q Palmer (6-3, 260, Coral Springs), Ricardo Rosas (6-2, 260, Miami Braddock), Carter Vasallo (6-0, 316, Coral Springs Charter) and Christner Valebrun, 6-2, 277, Hialeah).

ON THE HORIZON

The Class of 2018 is also setting the table for the future with some quality football talent. Here is a look at some of those on the rise. Like we do with all classes, we will continue to add to that growing number:

Terry Augustin, DT/OT, 6-2, 325, Flanagan
Adrian Bichara, 6-0, 220, Coral Reef
Anthony Chavis, 6-6, 334, Homestead
Jeremy Czerenda, 6-4, 245, University School
Tayvon Dukes, 5-10, 255, Homestead
Travis Flowers, 6-0, 246, Miami Palmetto
Jack Fris, 6-5, 300, Douglas
Lamont Harrison, 6-2, 265, Everglades
Dejmi Dumervil Jean, 6-4, 365, St. Thomas Aquinas
Chad Keirnan, 6-2, 270, St. Thomas Aquinas
Tarique Livingston, OL/DL, 6-0, 240, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna
Jorge Martinez, 6-1, 260, Miami Killian
Rodney Mompremier, 6-3, 285, Booker T. Washington
Marcus Nunez, LS, 5-11, 245, Archbishop McCarthy
Daniel Perera, 6-1, 280, Gulliver Prep
Noah Rosado, 5-10, 220, Monarch
Sebastian Sainterling, 6-3, 334, St. Thomas Aquinas
Delone Scaife, OL, 6-2, 277, Miami Killian
Eric Scott, 6-2, 255, Archbishop McCarthy
Nesta Silvera, 6-2, 295, American Heritage
Cameron Stage, 6-3, 280, Coral Springs
Jason Swann, 6-3, 260, St. Thomas Aquinas
Jaylaan Williams, 6-3, 290, Coral Reef
Jawaun Wilson, OT/DT, 6-3, 250, Champagnat Catholic
Zack Zambrano, 6-3, 290, American Heritage
Max Zinn, 6-2, 230, St. Thomas Aquinas

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Remember, our objective is to promote and get the prospects out there. If there are some athletes you want us to look at and get out there for colleges to see, drop a note to Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

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