Connections are this week's theme

In a span of a few short years St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall produced big name quarterbacks Steve Walsh, then Chris Weinke. Now these two former QB greats and Raider alum face off tomorrow night as head coaches in Florida. Speaking of reunions, UCF faces Penn State on Saturday. George O'Leary will take on one of his five former assistant coaches at Georgia Tech that became head coaches.

Consider yourself lucky if you are a high school with one big time college football prospect.

Well, what would you call St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall, as they had two elite quarterbacks over a period of a few years in Steve Walsh and Chris Weinke?

Collectively, Walsh and Weinke won two national championships at Miami and Florida State respectively and combined for a record of 56-4 as starters on some incredible college football teams.

Fast forward to today and they are head coaches. Walsh is in his fifth season at West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman while Weinke started a brand new program at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy. Tomorrow they met on the gridiron for the very first time.

"This is gonna be a lot of fun," Weinke said.

If you go back to 1985 it was Walsh who helped revive Cretin-Derham Hall. They were once a winning team and a proud program. But they fell on some lean years; that is until they opened up the offense for Walsh.

"Steve was the first one and he allowed us to make that next step, that next progression," said Mike Scanlan, then offensive line coach at Cretin-Derham Hall and now their head coach. "He was a smart guy who made good choices. He could really throw the ball. So we said we are no longer going to be a power run team. It was Steve that led us to beat St. Thomas Academy. I think we lost 20 in a row to them. Steve really helped us re-discover athletic success in football."

Walsh paved the way. Weinke calls him a "trailblazer".

Steve Walsh

"He was the guy," Weinke said. "Steve was the guy that I looked up to. He was the one that opened the door."

Weinke didn't directly follow Walsh. There was a signal caller in between those two. His name was Dan Scanlan, Mike's nephew. His father, Mal Scanlan, was their head coachin the 1980s. Weinke followed him and took Cretin-Derham Hall to the state title game before losing on a very controversial call in 1989. Still, there was no denying the talent of Weinke, who was an incredible three-sport star in football, baseball and hockey.

"I still remember going back," Walsh said. "I was going back to camp. They were looking at me like I was a guru or something and I was still learning. Our coach was very open. Chris was a good looking young kid. He had an arm and great tape."

Weinke and Walsh took different paths to the Sunshine State. Walsh waited his turn in Coral Gables before going 23-1 on some unbelievable Miami Hurricane teams. He was the guy that replaced Vinny Testaverde. Walsh led Miami to a national title in 1987. His only loss was to Notre Dame in a classic. He was drafted in the first round of the Supplemental Draft by the Dallas Cowboys and reunited with his college coach Jimmy Johnson. Walsh spent 11 years as a professional.

Weinke didn't crack the Florida State lineup until he was a 26 year old sophomore. He got sidetracked with a pro baseball career. He was a second round draft pick in 1990 by the Toronto Blue Jays. It took some time before he eventually arrived in Tallahassee in 1997 to play football. All he did was go 32-3 as the Seminole starting quarterback, win the 1999 national championship and the 2000 Heisman Trophy. Weinke played seven years in the NFL.

Joe Mauer

It's surreal to think that one school could produce two quarterbacks like this in the span of four-years. And yet there is also another signal caller from Cretin-Derham Hall that may have emerged as an even better quarterback. Perhaps you have heard of him. His name is Joe Mauer. He was the consensus No. 1 football prospect in 2001 but opted to play baseball for the hometown Minnesota Twins. He's one of baseball's best catchers who won three batting titles to date.

"Call me crazy," Scanlan said. "But I think Mauer may have been better than both [Weinke and Walsh] if he had played [college football]. But you look back and talk about these three, that's pretty amazing. What we had was pretty gifted."

Walsh has a simple explanation as to why the Raiders were blessed with quarterbacks. It at least sums up this trio.

"You were either in the gym or on the ice because it was too cold or when it was sunny you were playing football or baseball," Walsh said.

For Scanlan, it's not a surprise to see how successful both Walsh and Weinke were since they left Cretin-Derham Hall. He knew early on they were just exceptional in everything they did.

"Look at the talent they had and the coaches they learned from," Scanlan said. "It's amazing to think about and they are smart enough to pare down everything they learned. Good coaches can teach and I know both Chris and Steve are really good teachers. They did it at the highest levels and they have a serious knowledge of this game."

So tomorrow night the two former Raiders square off for the very first time. Walsh is the veteran coach of the two while Weinke leads his team's inaugural season. This past spring IMG had only 22 players but they picked up some gems of late like Alabama commitment (running back) Bo Scarborough. Quarterback Michael O'Connor is committed to Penn State. They may be small on numbers but IMG is large on talent… already.

"We have made great progress," Weinke said. "But I know we have a long way to go. We brought in some players that believe in what we are doing. Each week our goal is to improve and win that week. We want to go 1-0 each week. So far I am very pleased."

Walsh knows what he's up against. While he has one of the state's best players and prospects in wide receiver/defensive back Travis Rudolph he also realizes Weinke's new program is talented.

"I am concerned," Walsh said. "This is a good football team with a lot of seniors. They have some special players and some very good high school players."

George O'Leary

Head coaches at waiting under O'Leary
Have you ever taken a close look at George O'Leary's coaching staff at Georgia Tech in the mid-1990s? At one time his assistant coaches consisted of Billy O'Brien, Doug Marrone, Ralph Friedgen, Ted Roof and Randy Edsall.

That's an amazing group who all one day became head coaches or are currently head coaches. You can tell when speaking with O'Leary he's proud of that staff and that time with the Yellow Jackets.

"I think it's great, it's tremendous," O'Leary said. "I have had the opportunity to be around or on some very good staffs but that one was special. The one thing all of those guys had in common was great work habits. Each one of those guys couldn't learn enough. And I am not talking about just their position or specialty. I am talking about all phases of the game. That's one of the big reasons as to why they all rose to be head coaches. I guess back then they were all head coaches in waiting."

Friedgen was the first to become a head coach. In 2001 he landed at his alma mater, Maryland. Roof became the head coach at Duke in 2003. Doug Marrone left New Orleans as Sean Payton's offensive coordinator to become the head coach of his alma mater, Syracuse. He left the orange to head to the NFL, where he's now the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Ironically, Edsall was the head coach at UConn before replacing Friedgen at Maryland.

Then there's O'Brien. He landed with the New England Patriots in 2007 before taking over for Joe Paterno in a not so easy situation at Penn State.

O'Leary's done an amazing job with Central Florida. He has been the UCF head coach since 2004. The Knights needed leadership and they found their general in O'Leary. He has rebuilt that program, greatly enhanced their facilities and they now have an on-campus stadium.

The 2-0 Knights travel to 2-0 Penn State this weekend. O'Leary will meet one of his star pupils in a coaching reunion in Happy Valley.

"Billy's overall success doesn't surprise me at all nor what he has done at Penn State" O'Leary said. "He took over a very tough situation at Penn State and I think he's done a masterful job utilizing their personal and bringing their student body and alumni together. That wasn't easy."

Marshall to be released

Trey Marshall

Lake City, Fla./Columbia four-star safety Trey Marshall will be released from the hospital at some point today. Columbia head coach Brian Allen told that to Amy Campbell of yesterday.

Marshall, a Florida State commitment, was seriously injured last Thursday night on a play against Tallahassee Lincoln. He had emergency surgery because of a ruptured stomach. Marshall was hit by a helmet in the gut.

We will try and bring you more of an update on Marshall, his condition and future, after he arrives home and recuperates.

Nebraska making their move

Quenton Flowers

The Cornhuskers have made a huge move for quarterback Quenton Flowers. This Miami Jackson four-star standout is one of the Sunshine State's finest prospects in this class. He would be an ideal fit for their offense and he can home from Lincoln blown away by Nebraska.

"I can definitely see myself fitting in there," Jackson told Bryan Munson of "I basically do the same thing at my high school that Nebraska needs at the quarterback position. I am just like Taylor Martinez, but I am more elusive."

Flowers also told Munson, ""It was a ‘10'. I really liked the fans the most about the visit. I liked the facilities too. They are also really close from where you have to eat, the locker room, to the weight room and to all of the coaches. All of the facilities are really nice."

This is significant because Flowers wants to be a quarterback at the next level. Many teams believe he would have a higher ceiling as a receiver or defensive back. They may be right.

But if Flowers sticks to his guns and wants to be a signal caller, Nebraska could be his calling card. His skill set is ideal for how they run their offense.

West Virginia, Texas, USF, Tennessee and Marshall are also very high on his wish list. Flowers was briefly committed to the Bulls over the summer.

Ben Knox

Knox back on the market
Four-star offensive tackle Ben Knox (DeLand, Fla.) is back on the recruiting market after de-committing from the University of Florida. It has been some time since he last talked with the Gators.

"It was a lack of communication," Knox told yesterday. "I haven't talked to them in a month, so I didn't know if they were recruiting me or not. It started making me think."

Surely there will be more teams that jump on Knox and see if any interest is there. For now he favors Louisville followed by South Florida.

Two big questions regarding Louisville are - do the Cardinals have room and how high on the board (if at all) does Knox sit?

Time will tell not just with Louisville but other programs as well.

Ryeshene Bronson

Big news for Bulls
Speaking of USF, they got some much needed PR late last week with the announcement from Ryeshene Bronson. This four-star wide receiver from Fort Meyers (Fla.) Dunbar committed to the Bulls last Friday evening.

This was big for all parties involved. USF is in desperate need at this position and they also needed some positive news following the McNeese State loss. Bronson, a former Gator commitment, wanted to stay close to home. So this worked out very well for both the Bulls and Bronson.

Rohan Blackwood

Badgers land talented DE
Three-star Rohan Blackwood (Brooksville, Fla./Nature Coast) made his decision this week. After visiting Nebraska and then the Badgers this past weekend, he elected to make his commitment to Wisconsin. Blackwood sent the Tampa Bay Times a text with the news on Sunday.

"This weekend was great I think I found myself a home #badgernation," Blackwood tweeted earlier in the day.

Blackwood, 6-foot-5, 215-pounds, is basketball standout turned defensive end who has a ton of upside. He has a big frame and is long with a chance to fill out and really [physically] mature in the coming years. He has a good get off and speed to attack the edge. He's athletic and also plays on the other side of the ball at wide receiver. He has two issues - he has to get bigger and stronger and also needs to learn to play with technique and the use of his hands.

This was one many thought would land in Tampa and become a Bull.

Upcoming visits
• Florida State has their first home game this weekend, as they host Nevada. They will have one official visitor in three-star tight end Ryan Izzo (Sparta, N.J./Pope John Paul XIII). The Seminoles have an excellent shot at landing Izzo. Their main competition right now is Wisconsin. Other notable unofficial visitors are 2016 quarterback Feleipe Franks (Crawfordville Wakulla) and his brother, Jordan (2014 prospect) and 2015 wide receiver Ryan Davis (St. Petersburg Lakewood).

• USF is back at home as they take on Florida Atlantic. Some notable uncommitted prospects that said they will be in attendance are 2015 standouts like offensive tackle Christian Pellage (Brooksville Nature Coast), quarterback Brad Mayes (Tampa Berkeley Prep), defensive back Jonathan Crawford (Largo) and athlete Donovan Hale (Largo).

• South Florida wide receivers Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer) and JoJo Robinson (Miami Northwestern) will both make official visits to Arkansas this weekend. Before you down play the Razorback's chances of landing one or both of these recruits remember this is the same program that shocked the recruiting world with the pickup of five-star running back Alex Collins (Plantation, Fla./South Plantation) last year. Former Miami head coach Randy Shannon is part of the Arkansas staff and one of their ace South Florida recruiters is Charlie Patridge.

Utah will host a handful of players from the Sunshine State, all of which hail from the Miami area. Cornerbacks Nigel Bethel (Miami Booker T. Washington) and Juwan Dowels (Davie Western) and wide receivers Deltron Hopkins (Miami Booker T. Washington), Lamar Parker (Miami Booker T. Washington) and Brandon Snell (Garden City, Ka./Garden City Community College) will all make official visits to the Utes. Bethel is committed to Miami while Snell played his high school football at Miami Carol City and signed with Louisville.

Iowa State will host four Floridians for official visits in wide receiver Kenric Young (Gainesville), linebacker Matt Solt (Gainesville), Dedrick Brinson (Lake Wales), and cornerback Cordell Hudson (Largo).

• Running back Brandon Powell (Deerfield Beach, Fla.) will make an official visit to Nebraska. He first committed to Tennessee and now he's committed to Miami.

• Running back Dalvin Cook (Miami Central) will make an official visit to Texas. He first committed to Clemson and now he's committed to Florida.

• Wide receiver Trevon Lee (Ft. Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons) will make an official visit to Cal this weekend.

• Running back Trevon Walters (Bradenton Manatee) will visit Toledo. He's committed to Missouri.

• Linebacker Xavier Preston (Jensen Beach, Fla.) will make an official visit to West Virginia.

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