For years, high school football prospects in South Florida have made their college decisions early.READ MORE: COVID uptick being felt across South Florida as CDC recommends taking added precautions
Got it out of the way, so the rest of the experience can be spent on winning a district, regional and even a state title.
As the 2016 season is now a little under three months away, and as the athletes in this Class of 2017 prepare for this important year ahead, some are still getting that most important life decision out of the way.
But others are not so willing to make a choice at least 6-8 months before they truly have to.
Because there are so many athletes in this region of the state who are getting offers daily this time of year, waiting may be a dangerous move – because of the competition for that scholarship.
“It has always been this way down here where colleges come in – and while you are important – you are just another piece in their building process,” said Prep Films Director Dana Wiley. “The out of state schools have a certain amount of players they will take back with them, so they cannot afford to wait too long. They need to proceed.”
This spring alone, it is not unusual to see 20 college coaches from Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, South Carolina, LSU, Temple, Bowling Green, Navy, Army, and in-state schools Florida, FSU, Miami, UCF, USF, FAU, FIU, FAMU, Bethune, West Florida, Florida Tech, Stetson and Jacksonville crossing Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
The competition for these players is perhaps as heated than it’s ever been. College coaches from all over the nation recognize that Florida athletes, especially here in South Florida, have that certain something that really gives them the edge.
Check some of the scrimmages these schools host on campus. It’s not unusual to see entire conferences showing up at St. Thomas Aquinas, American Heritage, Central, Booker T. Washington and just about every other school in the region that is loaded with exactly what they are looking for.
“The process has become such an exact science,” Wiley pointed out. “The relationships that are formed with kids, their parents and friends and family members is something that makes all the difference in where the athlete heads.”
Larry Scott, who is now at Tennessee, had such and influence and relationship with Tyler Byrd at Naples that when he committed to the University of Miami, it was after he originally pledged to the University of Florida as a freshman. That bond was so strong that when Scott left the University of Miami for Tennessee, Byrd changed his pledge.
“You really don’t want to go to a school because of a coach,” Wiley said. “The coach can leave tomorrow, but bonds get strong – and that is what Coach [Mark] Richt and his staff are looking to establish with the Hurricanes.”
As we are now winding down spring football for another year, and coaches coming around with offers, here is a look at some of those in this area, for the Class of 2017, who have made up their mind – at least for now:
Jake Allen, QB, 6-2, 190, St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida commit): After his first year as a starter for the defending 7A state champs, this is one of the hot names that made his decision early in the process. He is once again surrounded by some of the best in the nation, so big numbers are likely every week in 2016.
Trajan Bandy, S, 5-10, 180, Christopher Columbus (Oklahoma commit): One of the elite football players who has impacted the Explorers since arriving on campus; Bandy is a big-time player who received many offers. This is a great fit for a physical prospect.
Kyshaun Bryan, RB, 5-11, 180, St. Thomas Aquinas (South Carolina commit): When he is healthy and running on all cylinders, there aren’t many backs that are better than Bryan. This is a talented back who comes into a new environment that fits his game perfectly. He breaks tackles and runs away from you.
Robert Burns, RB, 5-11, 206, Gulliver Prep (Miami commit): Since the end of his 8th-grade year, this is a player that everyone spoke very highly about. Now, he is ready to have a final, productive and healthy season for the Raiders – before moving on the “U”.
Daewood Davis, WR, 6-2, 176, Deerfield Beach (Florida Atlantic commit): While everyone is still waiting for him to play a full season, this could be the year that this impressive athlete accomplishes that. While he has several gifted pass-catchers on the team with him, look for him to make a difference.READ MORE: Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign off on housing money
Kevaughn Dingle, WR, 6-1, 190, Carol City (Miami commit): From defensive end at Dr. Krop to difference-making pass catcher last season for the district champion Chiefs, Dingle has proven that he is indeed one of the prospects that the Hurricanes cannot wait to get to Coral Gables.
Navaughn Donaldson, OT, 6-5, 336, Central (Miami commit): From the first snap he took for the Rockets, there was no denying the fact that this is a unique line prospect. Great size and quickness and super athletic. Donaldson is a player that everyone is impressed with – and for good reason.
Tyler Dunning, ILB, 6-1, 220, St. Thomas Aquinas (Mississippi State commit): From the time we first saw him play at the end of his freshman season at Dillard, you knew that this was going to be a special player. Dunning has really adjusted with the Raiders and now looks toward his final season. He is surrounded by top-flight playmakers as well.
Mike Epstein, RB, 6-0, 185, St. Thomas Aquinas (Illinois commit): This has been the longest year that this quality athlete has spent in his young life. Suffering a season-ending injury at this time in 2015 stopped his junior season before it began, but now this one-time Cypress Bay standout will have his chance to show why schools such as Michigan, Temple and others really loved what they saw.
Jonathan Ford, DT, 6-4, 260, Dillard (Miami commit): One of the prospects who has been under a microscope since hitting a growth spurt in his sophomore year. Ford is an athletic, physical and potentially game-changing kind of player that many have watched and appreciated.
Kemore Gamble, TE, 6-4, 216, Southridge (Univ. of Florida commit): When he started his career as a receiver at Coral Gables, many were blown away by the potential this quality football talent had. Now, as his final season is set to begin, the position change to tight end could definitely add up to be the move that speeds up his progression at the next level – and beyond.
Billy Gibson, Jr., S, 6-1, 175, Southridge (Miami commit): From the time he was 10, there were those who watched the way he played, looked into how smart he was on the field and saw that he was indeed the dominating force on the field. As his final season arrives, Gibson is easily as good a defensive secondary performer as you will find – and the Hurricanes are counting the days for him to arrive in Coral Gables.
Christopher “C.J.” Henderson, Athlete, 6-0, 175, Christopher Columbus (Miami commit): When many first this quality athlete, he was winning the “fastest man” contest at a 7-on-7 event, which took him from a player that was about to break out to one who had arrived. His play in the offensive backfield and on kick returns also opened some eyes. Some are even looking at him in the defensive secondary, which is a place that he could very well end up.
Sharod Johnson, WR, 5-11, 165, Booker T. Washington (Syracuse commit): When you watched Miami Jackson’s football team the past two years, this was the young man who caught the attention of everyone. Now he makes the move to play his final season for the Tornadoes, and you can guarantee that this is going to be an impact player for the defending Class 4A champs too.
Jordan Merrell, WR, 5-10, 180, St. Thomas Aquinas (Cincinnati commit): From his days as a dominating youth football prospect to his first three seasons at Dillard, this quality playmaker has worked harder than anyone to show that he is indeed as good as any pass catcher in South Florida. Merrell is fast, strong and will catch mostly everything thrown in his direction. Could be a breakout year ahead.
Jernard Phillips, WR, 5-10, 180, Central (Univ. of South Florida commit): Nobody has worked harder in the offseason to show that he is indeed one of the best in the state than this quality young man. Phillips burst onto the scene last season, right after his brother Da’Vante left for FSU.
Willa Pierre, OG, 6-3, 285, Booker T. Washington (Temple commit): One of the premier big men in South Florida who will be starting his fourth season on the line for the powerhouse Tornadoes. Pierre is big, athletic and a leader up front. He’s also a very hard worker who has put himself in a position to succeed.
Rodney Scott, WR, 6-2, 175, Southridge (Miami commit): It has been said over and over again, especially in the South Florida hotbed, that while prospects such as Trevon Grimes (St. Thomas Aquinas) and Jerry Jeudy (Deerfield Beach) receive much of the attention and the spotlight – Scott is a football talent who brings the same credentials to the table with him. Watch him play and you will see why Miami is so very high on him.
Waynmon Steed, LB, 6-1, 220, Central (Miami commit): Being injured and kept out of the 2015 season was not easy for someone who came in and impacted the powerhouse Rockets as a sophomore. Steed is a major playmaker on defense – one who has worked harder to get back in shape than anyone we have watched. He is indeed a big-time linebacker, and anyone who tells you differently, has not watched him. The Hurricanes have stuck by him through his injury, which was a very smart move – as dozens of colleges are offering this spring.
Kyron Taylor, OG, 6-2, 280, South Dade (Marshall commit): Talk about an athlete who has blown up over the past year, and you are dealing with this young man. Taylor is a two-sport star, who committed to the Thundering Herd early on – before he began to dominate the best defensive linemen in South Florida, and win the national wrestling championships in the 285-pound division. Now, every major school is on him.
Kadeem Telfort, OT, 6-6, 305, Booker T. Washington (Univ. of Florida commit): From Dade Christian to Norland, and now for the four-time defending Class 4A state champions as a senior; this is one of those young men who jumped on the radar from the beginning. While originally showed interest in Miami, he switched last year and made a pledge to the Gators. He will only benefit from his BTW experiences this coming year.
Bentavious Thompson, RB, 6-1, 200, Southridge (Miami commit): Since this gifted athlete re-classified from 2018 and made his move from Killian to compete for Billy Rolle’s Spartans, the attention has fallen in this big back’s direction. Everyone is getting the chance to see another in a long line of very talented runners heading to Coral Gables.
Cody Watson, OLB, 5-10, 200, Chaminade-Madonna (Fresno State commit): Here is one of those young men who will be in on every play, making an impact every time the offense has the ball. While he is undersized, check him out and see what you think. Watson will lead or be near the top in tackles – no matter where he plays.MORE NEWS: Second Suspected Case Of Monkeypox In Broward Under Investigation
Drew White, LB, 6-1, 220, St. Thomas Aquinas (Notre Dame commit): While many felt that his career took off last season, and that may be true, this impressive football talent really started the climb toward South Bend at Boca Raton High, where he established himself as a playmaker. The younger brother of current Auburn quarterback Sean White, look for this talented defensive football player to have a huge year.