POMPANO BEACH – Three years ago when Ely High School won the 5A state championship, they had a backfield of Tyrone Moss and Norris Smith. Both were considered among the best in Florida.
Moss not only was one of the best running backs in Florida, but many had him rated as one of the tops in the nation. He took his talents to University of Miami, where he looks to become their starting running back on Labor Day Night against arch-rival Florida State in Tallahassee.
While Moss holds all the Broward County rushing records, Smith was no slouch as he rushed for close to a 1,000 yards his junior season.
Now three years later, the Tigers have recruiting experts once again asking the magic question: Do they have the best backfield in Florida? With Laron Graham (5-10, 212), Devan James (5-10, 175) and Rodney Lovett (5-9, 180), there is no doubt that the talented trio is as good as it gets as far as running back corps go.
"Big time potential," said FloridaKids.us Publisher Larry Blustein, who had the opportunity to watch all three live last season. "They all compliment each other so well."
While we won't go out and proclaim the Ely trio on the same par with a C.J. Spiller, we can tell you that the three together, will wear you down and provide this team with enough talent to make a run at a state title.
Last season, Graham average over 6.5 yards/carry, with 415 yards rushing. He has been in the system for all four years, and is simply a player who can make a major impact with his strength and large frame.
"I remember after his freshman season, Norris Smith introduced me to Laron," Blustein said. "He told me that if he stays healthy and gets the carries needed to be effective, he will be a state-rated runner. I think he still does."
Lovett chipped in with 437 yards with a 10.5 yards/carry, which was among the best in South Florida.
Perhaps the most impressive of the three was James, who rushed for 860 yards with a 9.1 yards/carry and 10 rushing touchdowns.
"From the time I first saw James run, I knew he was going to be special," said Josh Giggey of 561sports.com. "He found the holes in a hurry and was able to get outside, using his 4.4 speed. While all three are outstanding in their own way, I give the edge, at least after last season, to James."
Last season, Lovett and Graham combined for nine scores last season. The only question with these three is it possible for all of them to crack the century mark rushing the football this year?
"This is a team thing," said Graham said. "You would love to get 1,000 yards, but it comes down to doing what's best for the team. You have to feel that way."
Second year head coach Willie Snead has the task of getting all three backs playing time and keep the Tigers on track for a state championship, which will be in Dolphins' Stadium in Miami this year. Snead balanced the trio last year, and he feels that he has the formula to do it again this year as well.
"All three backs are very talented," he said. "The three of them all have the chance to play Division one football in college. They all bring something different to our offense."
"Graham and James are more power backs while Lovett has the speed and quickness to take it the distance anywhere on the field," Snead continued."
As for James, he figures that working together will have its advantages. He also knows that his running style, which he says is a lot like Clinton Portis, is different than his teammates.
"It's great to watch Laron and Rodney do their thing," James said. "I pick up things from both of them just like they pick things up from me as well. That's why we have become so successful."
Are there three backs on one team any better than Ely? "I'd like to see them," said Lovett. "You have to watch us play live to make the judgement for yourself!"
Charles Fishbein is a recruiting analyst for www.floridakids.us. He also writes columns for Scott Kennedy and Scout.com. He has become one of the premier high school football columnists in the nation. Look soon for his 2005 NFL Draft Booklet, which will be released next week. You can contact him at CFishbein@aol.com.
MORE FISHBEIN STORIES:
IN THE TRENCHES
SOUTH FLORIDA LINEMEN – PART I
SOUTH FLORIDA LINEMEN – PART II
SOUTH FLORIDA LINEMEN – PART III
IN THE HUDDLE – TYLER RICE
IN THE HUDDLE – KENRICK ELLIS
IN THE HUDDLE – EMMANUEL COOK
IN THE HUDDLE – KEVIN HOLLOWAY
PALM BEACH LAKES
KICKIN' UP A STORM
ELY RUNNING GAME: The Best In Florida!
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