Alarm goes off ... part of me was hoping it wouldn't, but the drive - ahhh, that darned 90 minute drive. Well, at least we're in sunny Florida and we're about to spend some quality time outdoors, in the fresh air.
Turns out we're a bit late ... we were supposed to be out the door a few minutes earlier, but there's only so much momentum one can gather at 6 in the morning.
We head on over to pick up our buddy, whose house is no more than about 20 minutes from where we (my girl and I) were staying. We make it by 7, a solid 30 minutes later than originally planned. It could have been much worse - traffic was backing up and I was driving - meaning, we would, eventually get lost.
We take the I-95 northbound ... I don't recall exactly how we got there of course. But, we did get there ... Suncoast High School, in Palm Beach County.
We didn't actually realize that registration had just started a few minutes earlier (8 A.M.). And in my excitement, I didn't realize that sunny Florida, wasn't so sunny. We seemed to have picked one of the cloudier days ... a thick overcast had engulfed us as we had marched on northbound, and while at Suncoast HS, I don't recall seeing the sun even attempt to peek out.
But we were there - and I really couldn't care less how cloudy, or less than ideal, conditions really were.
With registration over, the camp had begun on schedule. The first session, as is the norm at most camps and Combines, included individual testing. There was the fortuitous-40 (fortuitous for some, but not so for others), the standing broad jump ... all that good stuff. Unfortunately, it had been raining, on and off, for the previous week, making the track wet and soggy. A very slow track, without a doubt.
On hand were a number of Head Coaches from various High Schools ... coaches that had previously witnessed firsthand, the total preparedness, professionalism, and attention to detail that was displayed by Rutgers' coaches. Coaches that believed that sending their players to this particular camp, would make their guys better ... better football players ... better men.
The turnout that day at Suncoast HS would up topping near 60 or 70 players.
Among them were DeAndre Morgan (left), a physical 5'11" and 170-pound CB prospect out of Suncoast HS. Morgan twice ran a sub-4.55 forty during the early morning testing hours. While that may not sound overly impressive, one has to keep in mind the condition of the track - wet and muddy, with downright awful footing. On ideal conditions, Morgan is a sub-4.4 guy, hands down.
A WR, DB and RB at Suncoast, Morgan also runs track during spring. Earlier this spring Morgan put together a 10.7-second run in the 100 meter dash. And only a few days earlier he broke former Suncoast High School standout Devin Hester's 100 meter record.
Below, we bring DeAndre Morgan (who holds a Rutgers offer), a DB that loves to play in the face of opposing WRs to you.
|Scouting Video 1|
|Scouting Video 2|
Another stellar prospect that was on hand was one Brandon Heath, a WR/DB prospect by way of Palm Beach Lakes HS. This year, Palm Beach Lakes may very well boast one of the top teams in all of Palm Beach County. Heath is not one that will blow onlookers out of the park with his astounding athleticism. He doesn't have that blazing speed that you want out of a WR or a Safety.
What Heath is, plain and simple, is a baller. Having gone up against the top DBs and WRs, as he played offensively and defensively, Heath made plays. He displayed an instinct that led him near the ball every single time - a skill coaches salivate over.
At 6'1" and 195-pounds, Heath is already one of the most sought after prospects in all of Florida and has already exceeded over a dozen offers.
10:30 A.M.Instruction. The Rutgers staff sectioned off according to their coaching position. And teaching ensued. Attention to detail and attention to technique were stressed. It was easy to see why the HS coaches on hand were as pleased as can be about sending their players to an RU camp. A chance to learn from a college staff at an early age is an opportunity not to be passed up. But more importantly, it was the respect that Rutgers, as a staff and as an institution, had gained over the years that attracted many of the top coaches and their pupils.
Coach Jackson teaching RB camp attendees the art of holding on to the ball.
Coach Demarest stressing the importance of proper warm-ups.
Coach Flood working on proper stance.
Coach Godette working with the DL players in attendance.
While drills continued amidst the lowering ceiling above, with skies now threatening to rain, my attention was swayed by one of Rutgers' future sons and Suncoast High School's very own Vantrise Studivant (left).
Studivant already looks the part of a D-I end, towering above the rest of us. Enthused about his future at Rutgers, Studivant was on hand to root on some of his former teammates, DeAndre Morgan among them.
The future Scarlet Knight is probably best known for his dominating performance in last year's Palm Beach All-Star game. The Suncoast tight end went against University of Miami defensive end signee Courtney Harris. After stepping onto the field he made certain folks would take notice in a hurry. A quick pancake block to start off the game was followed by three more of the same - Studivant sent the future Hurricane lineman into the ground four times in just the first two series.
With Rutgers thin on the D-line and Studivant already in prime condition, some early action could be in the offing.
Shortly before lunchtime, the skies darken ... and within minutes they let loose quite a roar. We may have dodged the early morning rain, but that was as far it would go - we were about to get soaked. With hardly a warning the pellets (that is what they seemed like - if it wasn't for the searing heat I would have sworn we were in the middle of a blizzard) started falling ... horizontally. Rain is one thing, but once the thunder starts to clap ... everyone must get inside.
And a prolonged lunch ensued with hopes of eventually resuming the afternoon.
As is typical (or so I'm told) in the sunshine state, the rain came and the rain left ... and though the field was a swimming pool in parts, those Florida prospects were eager to get back out there. The afternoon you see, was the time for 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s. It was time for individuals to shine.
Emanuel Cook (#44 left) is a 6-foot 200-pound linebacker/running back prospect out of Palm Beach Gardens. Cook was rated No. 26 in the www.floridakids.us Pre-Spring 275, an annual pre-season rating compiled by Larry Blustein.
"I rated him so high because of his athletic ability and a motor that never stops," said Larry Blustein of www.floridakids.us. "On defense, he has great vision and gets to the ball quickly. As a running back, he has tremendous instincts, gets to holes quickly and has the speed to run away. He is a true blue-chipper in every sense of the word."
Before one gets to see Cook in action one may suggest that he may be undersized. But seeing him on the field makes one a believer. Cook (with a Rutgers offer among many others) is a playmaker.
Below, we bring Emanuel Cook one of the top LB prospects in Florida to you.
|Scouting Video 1|
|Scouting Video 2|
|Scouting Video 3|
One of the top WR prospects in the state of Florida this year is Preston Parker (left), a 6-foot and 180-pound prospect out of Atlantic HS (alma mater of Rutgers wideout Tres Moses). Parker's recruitment will be an interesting one due to his academic preference. Having a desire to major in Drama, Parker is willing to head to whatever college gives him the best chance to excel in that field. Of course, he's no slouch on the field. Already holding offers from a number of schools, including Rutgers, Parker was the star wideout those in attendance on Friday came out to see. And he did not disappoint. Parker has good size and is not afraid to get physical.
Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was his 1-on-1 match up against DeAndre Morgan. Two hard nosed athletes, among the best at their respective positions, going head to head. In the end, after several battles, the match was a draw - both players getting the better of the other at times. The physicality, the blistering speed, all on display.
The highlight of the day was provided by a 5-foot-10-inch and 165-pound prospect by the name of Brandon Thompkins out of Palm Beach Lakes HS, one of the top schools in Palm Beach County.
What Thompkins did at the RU camp, against some of the top secondary play in all of Florida, turned some heads and put the young man on the radar screen of college recruiters. Palm Beach Lakes boasts some impressive talent, including Brandon Heath. As is often the case, especially in a state like Florida where talent does indeed grow on trees, getting overlooked because a few guys ahead of you receive all the attention is not unheard of.
But Thompkins, who repeatedly went up against DeAndre Morgan and bested him on several occasions, was immediately noticed by the RU staff and other coaches on hand. A lightning quick first step, Thompkins displayed solid strength and was able to fight off the physical line play of Morgan. Thomkins showed good concentration and displayed a solid pair of hands on his way to becoming discovered at the RU camp.
A very impressive performance behind him Thomkins has now caught the attention of college scouts who will be paying close attention to his senior season.
A successful Rutgers one-day Camp at Suncoast High School concludes ...
DeAndre Morgan [left] with Coach Rizzi [right].
DeAndre Morgan [right] with Coach Demo [left].
Emanuel Cook [right] with Coach Rizzi [left].
In Part III, we'll continue our camping trip as we head back south on I-95 ...
Next: Day 2 - Rutgers at Miami Edison Senior HS
Mike and the Big Dog LLC