Newberg's Mailbag - No. 6

Prospects departing Florida is the theme of this mailbag, including breakdowns of Tristan Payton to USC and Nate Craig (2016) to Auburn.

What’s the deal in Florida? It seems like FSU, Florida and Miami are all recruiting pretty well. But it also seems like a lot of the top end kids are leaving the state. What’s up with that?

You are right, the Big Three are recruiting well. The national champion Seminoles have 18 commitments and are sitting No. 5 nationally. Miami has 22 commitments and is ranked No. 13. Florida only has ten commitments at this stage and is ranked No. 30.

There are two things to remember here. First, there are so many high level prospects from the Sunshine State. It’s impossible for them all to be Gators, Seminoles or Hurricanes. Secondly, there are great options outside the state, especially offensively.

Below is breakdown of some [not all] of the recruits leaving the state of Florida -

Three of the better quarterbacks in the state are staying home. Deondre Francois (Bradenton IMG Academy) and DeAndre Johnson (Jacksonville First Coast) are headed to FSU. Dwayne Lawson (Tampa Hillsborough) has committed to Miami. Meanwhile, quarterback James Pensyl (Land O’Lakes) is headed across the country to play at Oregon State. He’s the state’s No. 6 ranked quarterback. Meanwhile, two of the state’s top signal callers are likely leaving in Torrance Gibson (Plantation American Heritage) and Lamar Jackson (Boynton Beach).

The Hurricanes have dominated at running back with Jordan Scarlett (Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas), Mark Walton (Miami Booker T. Washington), Dexter Williams (Winter Garden West Orange) and Jordan Cronkrite (Miami Westminster School). The state’s No. 2 back, Jacques Patrick (Orlando Timber Creek), favors FSU and Alabama.

Auburn is the early out of state winner at running back. They have committed D’Anferee McGriff (Tallahassee Leon) and the country’s top fullback prospect in Chandler Cox (Apopka). Then you have West Virginia getting Alex Anderson (Miramar), Louisville landing James Allen (Citra North Marion) and UCLA committing T.J. Simmons (Lakeland Christian). Those are all top 10 backs in the state.

Wide receiver is where things get real interesting. Five-star Calvin Ridley (Coconut Creek Monarch) has pledged to Alabama. The state’s No. 2 and No. 6 wide receivers, Deon Cain (Tampa Bay Tech) and Ray Ray McCloud (Tampa Sickles) are both headed to Clemson. The No. 3 wideout, George Campbell (Tarpon Springs East Lake), previously pledged to Michigan but now is open to FSU, Florida and a handful of out of state schools like LSU, Clemson and others. Next is John Burt (Tallahassee Lincoln) and he’s headed to play for Charlie Strong and Texas. Other top ten wide receivers in the state like Jovon Durante (Miami Norland) and Shaquery Wilson (Coral Gables) are committed to West Virginia and Georgia respectively.

Tight end is no different, where three of the state’s top tight ends are leaving in Garrett Williams (Orlando The First Academy), Jake Bargas (Boca Raton St. Andrews School) and Chris Cunningham (Jacksonville Atlantic Coast). They are all headed to the ACC to Clemson, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech respectively.

The same number of offensive tackles have committed to out of state schools – Christian Pellage (Brooksville Nature Coast) to South Carolina, William Sweet (Jacksonville First Coast) to North Carolina and Jake Fruhmorgen (Tampa Plant) to Clemson.

In the secondary, Alabama has a pair of safeties committed in Shawn Burgess-Becker (Coconut Creek Monarch) and Ronnie Harrison (Tallahassee Florida State University School). Three other high profiled safeties are leaving in Kendrell McFadden (Miramar), Carlton Davis (Miami Norland) and Deontai Williams (Jacksonville Trinity Christian). They are headed to West Virginia, Ohio State and Georgia respectively. The nation’s top safety, five-star Derwin James (Haines City) is committed to FSU. So too is Calvin Brewton (Miami Central).

Five-star cornerback Kevin Toliver (Jacksonville Trinity Christian) has been a long time commitment to LSU. Meanwhile, Deandre Baker (Miami Northwestern) and Jamal Dean (Cocoa) have committed to Georgia and Ohio State respectively. Tyrek Cole is a four-star rated ahead of these two that has committed to the Seminoles.

Five of three-star inside linebackers are headed out of state in Sherrod Pittman (Jacksonville First Coast), Cecil Cherry (Frostproof) and Victor Alexander (Jacksonville Trinity Christian). Pittman is headed to South Carolina while Cherry is going to Tennessee and Alexander to UCLA. Then you have Andre Smith (Jacksonville Trinity Christian) committed to North Carolina and Nick Thomas (Bradenton IMG Academy) pledging to Wisconsin.

The state’s top inside linebacker, TeVon Coney (Palm Beach Gardens) is leaning towards the Gators.

Jeff Holland (Jacksonville Trinity Christian) is the state’s top outside linebacker. He’s still undecided and is looking like he could end up in Gainesville. Sh’Mar Kilby Lane (Hallandale) is committed to FSU while Charles Perry (Royal Palm Beach) is committed to Miami. Then you have Juwaan Taylor (Hallandale) who has committed to the Bulldogs. Another trio of three-star guys are leaving the state in Darren McNair (Ocala Trinity Catholic), Carson Lydon (Tarpon Springs East Lake) and Dominic Sheppard (Miami Gulliver Prep). McNair is going to Mississippi State while Lydon is headed to Virginia Tech and Sheppard to Wisconsin.

The state’s top two defensive ends, CeCe Jefferson (Glen Saint Mary Baker County) and Byron Cowart (Seffner Armwood) are both five-star recruits that have not pledged anywhere yet. They say they want to play together Florida seems to be the school to beat at the end of the day. However, Cowart says Oregon leads. This two should be interesting to follow between now and national signing day. Marques Ford (Gibsonton East Bay) is the top rated defensive end that has committed to an out of state program. He’s headed to Tennessee.

Just how good is Tristan Payton from Jacksonville? Is he USC good? Are my Trojans getting a good one?

Jacksonville First Coast wide receiver Tristan Payton committed to the Trojans last week. He was previously committed to Florida. While there are others rated ahead of him in the Sunshine State this is still a very good pull for Southern Cal. Certainly this kid brings a lot to the table and I love what I saw from him this off-season.

Payton has pretty good size being in the 6-foot-0 range. Don’t let that fool you because he has long arms, giving him length. And this kid plays bigger than his size anyway.

The one thing that really screams out at you are his hands. First off he has huge paws. Secondly, he has strong hands and he effortlessly plucks the ball out of the air. Payton is a very natural ball catcher. He doesn’t fight it or let the ball get to his body.

Payton has good athletic ability. He shows body control in the air and around the sideline. Payton shows uncanny hand-eye coordination with some of the ridiculous grabs he can make, especially when leaving his feet. This kid just has good concentration and that knack for making the acrobatic catch. I guess you can say he has a large catch radius because he can go up or down to get the football. Just throw it in his vicinity.

Payton is not a speed demon but he can get in and out of his breaks, create separation and get open.

Again, there may be a handful of other guys ranked higher than Payton from Florida but do NOT let that fool you. There is just great depth at this position from Florida. This kid is a baller and has a bright career in front of him at USC.

How would you compare Nate Craig (Tampa Catholic) to the group of wide receivers from Florida in the Class of 2016?

That’s a good question Will. At this point I would likely put him No. 2 overall, just behind Calvin Ridley (Coconut Creek, Fla./Monarch).

Both Ridley and Craig are five-stars in their respectively classes. Craig, 6-foot-2, 205-pounds, is currently the top wide receiver in the 2016 class and committed to Auburn. I would definitely rate Craig ahead of Deon Cain (Tampa Bay Tech), George Campbell (Tarpon Springs East Lake) and the other Florida wide receivers in the 2015 class.

There are also two other big time wideouts from the Sunshine State in the next class in Darnell Salomon (Hialeah Champagnat Catholic) and Sam Bruce (Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas).

Below is a video of Scott Kennedy and myself discussing Craig and his Auburn commitment.

If you would like to submit a question for next week’s mailbag please email me at

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