Every year at this time, coaches, players and fans have plenty of expectations for the season ahead. While everyone is 0-0 here in August, there are prospects on each team that could change the course of a game.
As South Florida continues to produce more talent that any area in the country, there are superior athletes who can turn the tide of a game with one run, pass, tackle, interception or block.
If you were given a choice to pick one prospect that you would start your team with, who would it be? We asked a number of coaches, players and ardent fans which football player they would start their program with? You may be surprised at what players were mentioned.
Here are the 10 top athletes mentioned. You may agree or not, but there is no mistaking that all these football players will be heard from, plenty in 2016 – and beyond.
Trajan Bandy, CB, 5-9.5, 180, Miami Christopher Columbus: While many have their own opinions who may be the best in the defensive secondary, when you choose one on this region of the country, there is no way you can be wrong. This physical University of Miami commitment drew raves from those players and coaches who have watched him dominate and shut the door on some of the elite pass catchers in South Florida. Bandy has the opportunity to really step up this year and show why so many feel strongly about his talents.
James Cook, RB, 5-11, 190, Miami Central: Even though he re-classified from 2019 to 2018, things still do not change for this impressive runner who ate up undefeated Seffner Armwood in the Class 6A state title game, and will continue to do the same this coming season. Like his brother Dalvin, you can guarantee that he is only going to get better and better, and by the time he graduates in two years, this is really going to be someone who has the chance to be among the best ever. He committed to FSU this season – which is not a surprise. Like his close friend, Nayquan Wright (Carol City), he is a national standout already.
Navaughn Donaldson, OL, 6-5, 335, Miami Central: Donaldson has emerged, in the minds of many coaches and fellow players, as one of the best nationally. He’s strong, athletic and a has passion for playing this game at a high level. College coaches we spoke with believe that he is perhaps the most college-ready line prospect to compete at the next level – which he will do next season at the University of Miami. Donaldson is one of those linemen who can run block and pass block equally as well, there is no getting around that this may be the nation’s elite line prospects when all is said and done.
Jonathan Ford, DL, 6-5, 275, Fort Lauderdale Dillard: While some coaches and fans never had the chance to watch this difference maker perform, others who have been on him since his sophomore season feel that when the dust settles, this University of Miami prospect could be among the best nationally. His size, strength, athletic ability and knowledge of the position has given him a huge advantage. His ability to play end and interior will make him a prospect that could blow up immediately. Ford has big-time potential who has been doing this for three solid seasons now.
Trevon Grimes, WR, 6-4, 202, St. Thomas Aquinas: Considered by many as one of the nation’s elite receivers. His speed, size and overall athletic ability has helped him turn the corner in a region that has so many playmakers who are always out to slow you down. Grimes showed how he is big-game ready by taking over the regular season matchup against Hallandale this past season. Without him, the Raiders would have lost. He came up with the catches needed to secure the win.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, 6-1, 180, Deerfield Beach: Here is a football talent who has done more than live on the hype that was created by his play locally. Every time he leaves South Florida, he singled out as being the best in the country. His speed, athletic ability and the talent to dominate any defensive back has truly put him in a space that very few occupy. He does not brag or boast, but this Alabama commit could make the claim as the No. 1 pass catcher in the nation, and nobody could really argue. Jeudy started dominating as an eighth grader in 7-on-7 competition.
Stanford Samuels, III, CB, 6-2, 175, Flanagan: Ever since he was in youth football, this is the prospect that everyone wanted to watch mature and come into his own. This FSU commit follows in the footsteps of his father, who is now Flanagan’s head coach. He is quick, instinctive and very athletic and is will always change the course of a game with his instincts and athleticism. This is a great athlete who could play anywhere for the Falcons and make a difference.
Tedarrell Slaton, OL, 6-5, 340, Plantation American Heritage: For the past two-plus seasons, this is a name that everyone has talked about. Slaton is big, strong and very agile, using his success on the basketball court to propel him to the next level. He has tremendous pass blocking skills and he has learned a lot about by playing the position and making a major difference along the way. Coaches who watched him perform believe that his overall athletic ability will make him a start at the next level – and perhaps, beyond.
Pat Surtian, Jr., CB, 6-1, 185, Plantation American Heritage: In the world of quality secondary performers, this 2018 standout could be among the best. Surtain is a physical cover corner who will shut just about anyone down – while making plays all game. The son of former Southern Mississippi, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chief and current American Heritage head coach Pat Surtain, this is a junior who will continue to make a major name for himself. He’s easily one of the nation’s best.
Nayquan Wright, RB, 5-9.5, 185, Miami Carol City: Very seldom does a freshman walk into a Miami-Dade elite program and dominate. This Class of 2019 standout helped the Chiefs win a rare district title, upsetting nationally rated Miami Central. But this is a new year and this gifted back will have a chance to show that what he did in 2015 was certainly no fluke. His running style lends itself to competing against the best. Every coach, player and fan that talked about his path to success mentioned what a tremendous and grounded young man he is. Is on every list nationally – and that makes him a must to fill out any roster.
In a region such as South Florida, there are dozens of prospects who could easily fit in this category, but of those polled for this Countdown To Kickoff segment, here are the prospects that received the most interest.