Note, this is only a partial list since my list will continue to grow throughout the spring and summer as I attend more camps and combines and get a chance to watch more of the top players.
Darin Baldwin, 5-11, 170, Homestead (South Dade) -- The school's best defensive prospect since Antrel Rolle, Baldwin brings a lot of the same qualities to the field as Rolle. He's a very confident kid, who likes to get into the ears of his opponents. Baldwin began his prep career as a cornerback before moving to free safety at the start of his junior season. He finished last season with over 50 tackles and five picks and it's very impressive the way he can cover the field the way he does. Because he also plays offense, Baldwin's ball skills are very good as well. He's not a burner, which is why many project him to play safety in college. His ball skills, instincts, and playmaking skills make him one of the state's top prospects at this position. He's a lot like former Coral Reef star Dorian Munroe at this age.
Chasman Davis, 6-0, 205, Port St. Lucie (Centennial) -- While Georgia-bound Jamar Chaney got a lot of the attention from the fans and opposing offenses early on last season, it was Davis who was drawing most of the attention from opposing offenses by season's end. Davis was unblockable coming off the edge as a junior last season. Despite playing in just seven games because of the hurricane season, Davis had 68 tackles, 21 for loss, and 10 quarterback sacks. From a playmaking standpoint, there weren't many better anywhere in the state at that position. He brings a tremendous amount of athletic ability to the position. Although he's just a hair under 6-0 and a hair over 200 right now, he runs like a cornerback and can cover ground in space like a free safety with wheels. Because of that ability, he'll likely have little trouble making the transition to playing in space. He's a better prospect right now than Chaney was at this age and if he can show college coaches this spring/summer that he can play well in space, he'll get recruited nationally.
Charles Deas, 6-4, 315, Ft. Lauderdale (Dillard) -- A dominating presence in the middle of Dillard's defense, Deas was unblockable as a junior last season. He combines tremendous size, strength, and quickness to destroy opposing offensive linemen. He's the type of player who likes to get into the heads of his opponents and he's just a kid who's fun to watch on the field. He has some work to do academically and is considering transferring from Dillard for his senior season but that remains a question mark at this point. On the field, he's a big time football player.
Kenrick Ellis, 6-4, 310, Greenacres (Leonard) -- The last truly dominating defensive tackle prospect to come out of Palm Beach County was Vince Wilfork five years ago. That's going to change this season as Ellis was on top of his game as a junior last season. He'll soon be a rare four year starter and has really developed into one of the state's top players at that position. He was a first team All-County pick as a junior, despite facing double and triple teams on nearly every play. He already has a qualifying SAT score so he should be solid academically.
Jarred Fayson, 6-1, 195, Tampa (Hillsborough) -- The real deal. That's the best way to explain Fayson's game. He's a tremendous prep quarterback for Hillsborough and has a chance to be a very good one at the college level as well. He has the arm strength, the mindset, and the athletic ability to really develop at that level. Some people will talk about making him into a wide receiver. Whenever you're over 6-0 and close to 200 pounds, can run the way Fayson does, and have the ability to make defenders look like they have broken their ankles on the field, some people will think wide receiver. Peter Warrick, Anquan Boldin, and Roscoe Parrish were all prep quarterbacks. This coming season they'll all be NFL wide receivers. As I said, however, Fayson will be given every chance to play quarterback. I think he could become a real good one at the college level – especially in the right system. However, while watching his tape I just see a kid who has that natural ability to play on Sundays someday – and that could be as a wide receiver. Regardless, Fayson has to be considered one of the state's top overall prospects regardless of position.
LaBrandon Glover, 6-1, 210, Pensacola -- One of the most physically impressive linebackers in this year's class, Glover certainly passes the eye ball test everytime. He brings a tremendous amount of athletic ability to the position and coupled with a college-ready body and his tremendous ability to find the ball, you're looking at what is real close to being the total package at the linebacker position. He finished last season with over 130 tackles and will enter spring as one of the top overall defensive prospects in the entire state.
Donsay Hardeman, 6-2, 215, Jacksonville (Raines) -- One of the top returning players in the Jacksonville area, Hardeman will soon become a four year starter. He has 17 interceptions the last two seasons while playing strong safety and is also a big time player in run support, having registered 80 total tackles as a junior. He doubles as a tight end on offense, mainly because he's good enough to block people as well as catch a few extra passes. He runs really well and is the school's best DB prospect since Lito Sheppard and that may extend even further if he has the senior season his coaches expect.
Brandon Heath, 6-0, 180, Palm Beach Lakes -- A top level two-way player, Heath is considered by many to be a top notch WR prospect as well. However, his ability to cover ground and make plays in the secondary is what will likely have college coaches most excited. He had over 40 tackles, 10 for loss, and two picks as a junior but it's his size, speed, and overall athletic combo that has people excited. He's a natural center fielder who will likely emerge as one of the state's top safety prospects this coming season.
Corey Hobbs, 6-5, 320, Oviedo -- A hard-nosed interior player who plays on both sides of the ball, Hobbs is a handful inside. Many project him to play on the defensive side of the ball in college but I think he could become an outstanding guard at the college level. He's extremely powerful and has a nasty streak that is missing most times when evaluating a 320+ pound player. He threw aside the competition as a junior as if he were to be on another level. If he can keep his weight down and continue working on his technique, the sky's the limit. He has everything you look for in a big time O-Line prospect.
Jamar Hornsby, 6-4, 190, Jacksonville (Sandalwood) -- With his size, speed, leaping ability, and production this past season, Hornsby is about the closest thing to a complete package that you're going to find. He was all over the place while playing safety, netting over 80 tackles and five picks. He also blocked some kicks, returned some, and had over 500 yards on offense. Because of his size/speed combo and his ability to create mismatches in the passing game, he projects as a wide receiver in college. He's a tremendous athlete (track and hoops standout as well) who knows how to play the game and will be recruited nationally.
Richard Jackson, 6-3, 210, Clermont (East Ridge) -- Another huge, physical target who played on both sides of the ball as a junior. He doesn't have the quick feet quite like Hornsby and didn't dominate quite like the Jacksonville star but he brings a lot of the same qualities to the table. He had over 700 yards receiving as a junior and is widely considered one of central Florida's top basketball prospects for the Class of 06. His body control is outstanding for someone his age and size.
Javarris James, 6-1, 200, Immokalee -- The cousin of former UM back Edgerrin, Javarris emerged on the statewide scene as a junior when he ran for over 1,500 yards. He helped lead his team to the state championship, as he ran for more yards against Madison County than their defense had allowed the previous 13 games. James is tough between the tackles and has some breakway speed. He's a downhill runner who really knows how to move the pile. He's not as talented as his cousin at this age but he'll likely be one of the state's top few players at his position as a senior.
Laurence Marius, 5-11, 160, Key West -- One of the state's fastest players, Marius won the fastest man competition at a camp in Lakeland last summer. That's always a good place to start when evaluating a cornerback prospect. He makes plays in all phases of the game and will likely be Key West's top prospect in over a decade. He may not get the same amount of spotlight as some other in-state cornerbacks, but his ability matches up pretty well with most of them.
DeAndre McDaniel, 6-0, 175, Tallahassee (Godby) -- Perhaps the top defensive back prospect in the Panhandle this season, McDaniel shut down opposing wide receivers last season. He is the 6-0+ cornerback that college coaches love these days and brings a tremendous amount of athletic ability to the position. His coaches at Godby love him for not only what he does on Friday nights but what he can do during the week and through the offseason. He's a high energy kid, who works hard, and gets good grades. He'll likely get recruited nationally.
Bryant Miller, 6-3, 250, Miami Central -- Dade County is loaded with quality defensive linemen every year and next season will be no different. The head of the class will be Central's Bryant Miller. Although he only played in four games as a junior because of injuries and wasn't a full-time starter in 03, Miller showed flashes of being a big time player. He plays with tremendous quickness and that's the first thing you look for in a defensive line prospect. He plays with his head up and his hands out in front and he goes laterally very well. He looks a lot like Bryan Pata at that age. He'll also be one of the top shot put and discus throwers in Florida this spring. If he can stay healthy for his entire senior season, forget about trying to block this kid. He'll show up on most national recruiting radar screens by the end of spring.
John Paul, 6-5, 250, Immokalee -- When I went to watch the state championship game between Immokalee and Madison County this past December, I was excited about seeing running back Javarris James in action. While James was impressive, it was a junior defensive lineman from his team that was far and away the most impressive player on the field. Paul, who played tackle out of need his junior season, dominated from inside at 235-240 pounds. His long arms and tremendously quick feet allowed him to destroy opposing linemen all season. His motor never stops running, as indicated by a game in the state playoffs in which he was credited for 30 tackles. Yes, 30. One game -- as a defensive tackle. He runs exceptionally well and because of his frame and ability to get upfield, he projects as a defensive end at the college level. He was clearly one of the most impressive players I watched all year and needs to be considered one of the state's elite level players heading into the spring. On the plus side, Paul is still very raw and it's very clear while watching him that his best days are way ahead of him.
Caz Piurowski, 6-7, 240, Land O Lakes -- The state's premier tight end prospect heading into the spring, Piurowski was current FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford's favorite target two seasons ago when he had over 500 yards receiving. He had 350 more as a junior but really began to develop into a complete player at the position. He has the height, the speed, the hands, and the toughness to become a very good player at the position at the college level. He's also a top notch baseball player and led the county with six home runs as a junior.
Daron Rose, 6-3, 295, Tampa (Jefferson) -- I had heard a lot of good things about Rose leading up to last year's state playoffs and then I was fortunate enough to have watched him at the 3A state title game. He was more than impressive. He's got the right build -- he's plenty big enough but isn't carrying too much extra. Because of that, he's light on his feet for someone who is close to 300 pounds. He has the natural ability to bend his knees and stay low in the running game. He was a dominating force at Jefferson all season and looks like he's got a real bright future as an offensive lineman. If not for Sam Young, he'd likely be the state's top O-Line prospect heading into the spring.
Sam Shields, 6-0, 180, Sarasota (Booker) -- Nothing was able to slow Shields down this past season -- not injuries and certainly not any of his opponents. Despite missing several games because of a minor knee injury, Shields had 10 touchdown receptions and added three more on kickoff returns. He's another player who's very dangerous every time he touches the ball. He's at his best in the open field and creates a mismatch because of his height and speed.
C.J. Spiller, 5-10, 180, Lake Butler (Union Co.) -- Last spring over 700 kids participated in the MSL Combines in Florida. The 40-times were done on grass and by former pro coaches. Two of those 700+ players ran 4.40 or better -- Antone Smith and Spiller. He's built a lot like Smith, although he's not quite as good between the tackles. However, he has that type of speed and explosiveness and he's coming off back to back seasons where he went over 1,000 yards. He has most of what you look for in a big time running back prospect and will likely be the state's most heavily recruited player at the position this coming season.
Leslie Stirrups, 6-4, 305, Tampa (Hillsborough) -- After I saw Stirrups dominate a game like few are capable of this past season, I asked his coach what he thought of him. His response? Stirrups is as good as any player he's coached in over 30 years. He's got everything you look for in a defensive tackle prospect -- he's very quick, he's relentless, he's instinctive, and he makes a lot of plays from the middle of the defense. He's over 300 pounds but plays on his feet like he's 250. He's a classic two-gap player who has a chance to be a really good defensive tackle at the college level. He's the school's best DL prospect in several years and that includes former Hurricane and current 49er Andrew Williams.
Tim Tebow, 6-3, 215, St. Augustine Nease -- The state's top quarterback prospect heading into the spring, Tebow put up video game-like numbers as a junior. He has everything you look for in a QB prospect -- size, arm strength, accuracy, instincts, leadership, work ethic, etc. He's real close to being the total package. He'll be one of the most heavily recruited quarterbacks in the entire country this coming season.
Chevon Walker, 6-0, 190, Fort Myers (Riverdale) -- Whenever you run for over 1,500 yards as a junior and you placed in the state track meet in the 100m event as a sophomore, you're bound to get noticed by a lot of people. Walker was unstoppable as a junior on the gridiron and after an impressive sophomore campaign in track season, he's one of the favorites to bring home a state championship in track. Bottom line -- he can fly and he's got the size you like in a running back prospect. Although he's not as well known yet as guys like Spiller and James, he's the real deal and someone who will likely get recruited nationally.
Tony Wilson, 6-0, 180, Daytona Beach (Mainland) -- A few years ago, Mainland was led to the state championship by running back Vince Wilson, who is now at North Carolina. Tony is the younger brother and is every bit as good at this age. He was Mainland's go-to receiver, catching 20 passes for 450 yards and five scores. He also starred in the secondary and on special teams. He could be next year's version of Avery Atkins. When Jonathan Garner was injured against Lakeland in the state semi-final game, Wilson was the man they called upon to make things happen with his feet. He's just a gamer whose skills are going to get noticed nationally this fall.
Sam Young, 6-7, 275, Fort Lauderdale (St. Thomas Aquinas) -- I've seen some good offensive linemen at this age over the years. Vernon Carey, Jeff Faine (both first round draft picks) and Matt Hardrick were probably the three best I had seen live until I watched Young at the state games in Gainesville this past December. Young appears to be the total package at left tackle. He's every bit of 6-7 and he's lean. He has the build to add a lot more weight (and strength) while keeping his natural athleticism, quickness, and flexibility. He's a natural knee-bender, he's a finisher, he's athletic, he's well coached, and looks like a kid who has the upside to play for a long time on Sundays, barring injury. If there's a better left tackle prospect anywhere in America, please make me aware of it.
Pre-Spring: Super 25 To Watch
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