There is a raging debate in the Sunshine state – who's the top running back in Florida between Sony Michel (Plantation American Heritage), Dalvin Cook (Miami Central) or Joseph Yearby (Miami Central)? That's the million dollar question that has people talking in this state. If you poll coaches and scouts you will come up with all different rankings of the three.
For me, I have been a huge Michel fan since I first saw him as a freshman. He actually burst on the high school scene playing (at a very high level) as an 8th grader. Then you have Yearby, who happens to be my favorite player in this class. Cook has been cooking of late and he's the most dangerous of the three.
Going into the 2013 season, I had them ranked Michel, Yearby and then Cook. I am not so sure anymore. In fact, you could make a strong case that these three guys are the top three recruits in the state, period. That's how good and how close together they are when you truly break them down. And right now, Cook is playing the best ball and he has arguably the most upside of the three.
Michel, who has committed to Georgia, can do it all. He has good size and can run with power and elusiveness. Michel can catch the football out of the backfield and has the best stiff arm in this class. He's so smooth and very dangerous. While he didn't have quite the dominating year everyone thought he would, Michel should flourish in Athens. Many will say Michel got bored and was ready, able and willing to take his game to the SEC a year ago. Regardless, Michel is immensely talented.
Then you have Yearby, who certainly doesn't look the part at first glance. Then again, you can't judge running backs by how they look because running backs come in all shapes and sizes. Case in point – Derrick Henry from Yulee, Fla. one year ago.
Yearby & Cook one year ago
The bottom line is this kid is phenomenal with the football in his hands. Yearby possesses unbelievable feet, balance and vision. He's slippery and has as good of a burst as you will see, whether it's in the hole with traffic all around him or in the open field. He does things you can't coach because so much of his game is centered around his pure instincts. To be honest, he has some Barry Sanders in him. There I go again with the analogies.
Yearby was really the soul of that Central offense, the guy that kept moving the chains. He broke his leg last month and had to miss the last two games over Central's championship run. Yearby finished his career with 5,593 career rushing yards, which is second all-time to Bobby Washington (5,695). There is no doubt that missing the last two games cost him that record. Regardless, Yearby will go down as one of the all-timers when talking about running backs from Dade County. He has committed to play at Miami.
Then you have Cook, who seemed to always take a back seat to his teammate and Michel. But that has to be dispelled now. There's no doubt that Cook is as good or better than the other two. Certainly it would have helped over the past three years if he and Yearby didn't share the same backfield.
But they did and they loved every minute of it. The two are close and beyond just ‘teammates'. Cook wore Yearby's jersey number in their state semi-final win over Daytona Beach Mainland is honor of his fallen teammate and friend.
Cook's game is all about speed and the big play. Defenses will keep him in check for a play or two and then he will explode. At this level, he just couldn't be contained, hence his almost 11 yards per carry career average. Cook is who he is, a pack of dynamite that fits into any offensive system. To be honest, I see him as having the most long term upside. You can teach what he has – pure speed.
Cook has now been elevated to the No. 4 ranking at this position overall. He was first committed to Clemson before backing off that pledge. Cook then committed to the Gators. During the fall season he took four official visits and a few weeks ago he signed financial aid agreements with the Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes. While Cook continues to say he remains committed to Florida, he also is set on announcing his final decision during the Under Armour All-America Game on January 2.
So how on earth do you go about ranking these three? It's one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in all my years of covering recruiting. If I were a coach of a college I would be happy and lucky to have anyone of them. They are all that good and that special. You look at last year's group led by guys like Alex Collins and Derrick Henry.
Michel, Cook and Yearby are better.
So I will have to submit my final rankings for this class. When I do, I will go Michel, Cook, and then Yearby. They are all five-star recruits and there's only one guy nationally (Fournette) that I would rank ahead of them, and I question myself on that as well.
TEN thoughts from the state championships
Part 1- Dalvin's Cook'in!
Part 2 - Raging debate
Part 3- Impressive Ivey
Part 4- South Florida domination
Part 5- What a class
Part 6- Something special
Part 7- Lightning
Part 8- Darling's golden
Part 9 -Missing in action
Part 10 –Creating buzz