State Championship Week Report

I've spent the past few days in Gainesville watching the the last five state championship games (missed 1A and 4A on Thursday). This week is a perfectly clear example of why the state of Florida is simply on a different level when it comes to H.S. football. From the talent level of the kids to the atmosphere of these games, it's amazing. Here are some of my thoughts.

Chaminade/Madison -- Total domination. Chaminade was awesome from day one this year. The best player on the field was clearly John Dunlap and nobody was even close. At 6-2 and 210, he's got the perfect build for a LB prospect, has tremendous athletic ability, instincts, and some big play flair (see his offensive scores). He's the real deal, one of the top overall prospects in the state. Darby, he's a very talented kid but he's a total non factor at most points during the game.

Mainland/Naples -- Congrats to Mainland, who's been in either the 3rd or 4th round of the 5A playoffs for something like six years in a row. They finally made it to the show and dominated a very good Naples team, winning its first ever title. Mainland's Vince Wilson (who I saw call Cameron Colvin out at UM's camp and out run him in a foot race) was awesome for Mainland. However, the best player on the field was a junior defensive end from Naples named Spencer Adkins. He's a little undersized at 6-1 and about 225 but talk about an athlete, wow. Big time motor, extremely quick off the ball, very explosive, a leverage freak, and he's constantly making plays. He's got McDougle like quickness and Pata-like strength. He made plays all night. Mainland couldn't block him, even when they moved the tight end over for help. He had a great junior year. If he gets a little bigger (so he's got closer to ideal size), wow.

Pahokee/Union County -- Congrats to Pahokee. Their only loss was in the Muck Bowl to Glades Central. Demir Boldin has an NFL body. Alphonso Smith is a very good athlete. However, the best player on the field was again a junior -- Antoine Smith. Although he battled some injuries (like he has all year), he was exceptional when in the game. He has incredible speed and quickness. He hits the holes hard and runs downhill. He's a little smaller than I thought (not ht,wt but in build). His legs aren't thick, doesn't have big calves, etc. However, he is about 5-8 and 185 and runs really well.

Pace/Bolles -- What a great game. Pace connected on a 4th and 12 with under 2 left that went for 75 yards to set up the winning score. It was a play where they had the wrong formation. I was standing two feet from their head coach, who was screaming for a time out to be called. It wasn't and look what happened. Lovon Ponder's a good prospect. He's a great athlete, he's got good football instincts, and he's very intelligent (he has the highest GPA on Pace's team). However, he has average ball skills, doesn't like to mix it up, and isn't a big playmaker right now. The best DB, also the best on the field in my opinion, was junior strong safety Quentin Andrews. He's roughly 5-10, 180. He's much more physical, has big play flair. He had two picks, one he had an incredible break on and the second was acrobatic. He must have been around the ball carrier about 15 times. He was knocking OL on their behinds. Maybe not as athletic as Ponder but he's got most of the tools -- especially for a junior. Remember that name as well. Pace has 4 Div 1 kids on defense -- Ponder, Andrews, LB Derwin Lamb, and DE Vlaud Faustin. Talented group.

Edgewater/Carol City -- The excitement in the stadium leading up to kickoff was unbelievable. You won't feel it listening on the radio or watching the replay. It was electric on the field. I thought it was going to be a real battle and it was going to be -- until Willie Williams broke the arm of Edgewater's QB on a hit that was probably heard all the way back in Miami.

Willie, again, showed why he's in a class by himself in this state. There can't be a better defensive prospect anywhere in the country. He's got NFL written all over him. He's a manchild out there, slamming guys, making all kinds of plays. His instincts are very good, his closing speed is awesome, he hurts people when he hits them, and he can go laterally and chase. Big, big time future -- clearly the No. 1 prospect in the state, in my opinion. An example is Edgewater's top kids -- Jones and Ingram. Both are excellent prospects but you can just tell they're not in Willie's league right now.

Speaking of Jones, he had a great game. Again, he was being held every other play, double teamed, etc. He played hard and showed why he's the state's best DL prospect right now. Ingram wasn't real active but he made two plays (one was a reception) where he showed the type of athleticism that most kids only dream of having. Remember, he's 6-4 and around 200. Very good looking prospect. They have a junior right tackle named Matt Hardrick who goes about 6-3 and 360 but he carries it well. He's built a lot of Vernon Carey was at that age. He comes off the ball well, moves his feet well for someone that big, and looks like a nice prospect for next year.

Carol City's loaded in addition to Williams. Junior DE Ricky Jean-Francois (The Freak) was unblockable most of the night (again). 6-2, 230 type has excellent speed and quickness.Not quite as athletic or active as the kid from Naples but he's slightly bigger. Safety Kenny Phillips looked awesome. Some feel he'll be the nation's top safety prospect next year. His build is looking more and more like Sean Taylor's at that age every day. He's the real deal. He laid Ingram out on one play. He's relentless. He has excellent ball skills, speed, and playmaking ability.

It was a great weekend for football, that's for sure. We had a chance to see some of the best of the best -- and not just the seniors. I had a chance to talk with some current Gators who were close to becoming Canes like Everett and Dee Webb. They're excited about the future. Ron Zook was there for every game. Just being around him, I can tell why he's such a successful recruiter -- very personable, people like him. He's a lot like Coker in that way.

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