Over the past decade, the central Florida area has started to produce some elite football talent. This year, the region has 10 of the top 100, heading into spring. James Poe of Orlando Freedom is one of those stars on the rise!

During the spring and into the summer, will bring you our IN THE HUDDLE segments with football players throughout the state of Florida.

These are similiar to the evaluations we pass on to the hundreds of colleges who visit our website, call us on the phone and correspond via e-mail.

Here is another top football player to keep an eye on this season – and beyond.

PLAYER: James Poe.
SCHOOL: Orlando Freedom.
HEIGHT: 6-3.
WEIGHT: 220.
SPEED: 4.6 Pre-Spring Rating: 52.

Richard Barimo has been covering football in this state for three decades. Because he lives in the Central Florida area, I usually call on him to check out some top players in person - much the way I do with Bob Schneider in the Panhandle.

Barimo was the first to uncover some pretty decent players from Central Florida over the years, and when he watched Poe play, he proclaimed that this is going to be a standout to keep an eye on as well.

While he has had the pleasure of watching some impressive Daytona Beach-area players like the kids at Mainland and Seabreeze, I had Barimo head to Orlando twice last season to see Orlando Freedom play. He kept his eyes directly on Poe and teammate Chappell Rose in over 60 plays. He was impressed.

Because he travels the state quite extensively to see players, his trip to Orlando produced some impressive results, and then we both had the opportunity to sit down and watch two game films.

STRENGTHS: Barimo‘s evaluation on Poe was something special to read. In the two games, he saw this impressive athlete play running back, defensive end, outside linebacker, receiver and return punts.

"The thing that I just loved about James as a runner was the way he hit the hole and then knew exactly where he wanted to go once he got to daylight," Barimo said. "He didn't have the most physical offensive line, so what he did was pretty much on his own."

Barimo was sold on his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as well as go in motion and then head up field, drawing a cornerback or a safety and running decent patterns.
As an outside linebacker/defensive end, he showed tremendous instincts to get to the ball. His quickness often gave him a jump on any tight end he lined up against.

"A very smart player who created big plays with his speed, strength and quickness," Barimo said. "He dropped back in pass coverage as well as chased down plays he may have overrun when the play started."

Watching Poe on film, I shared Barimo's enthusiasm. This is a big kid, who ran a little straight up, but had the strength to lower his shoulder and hand out punishment as well as the speed to cut the play toward the sideline. He seemed to wear people down.

I felt all along that in the plays I watched him in, he was someone who could be a feature back. He has plenty of durability and size. Sort of reminded me of a young Eddie George back in Ohio State days. He had that kind of running style.

I also had the chance to watch him field punts, and that sold me on his overall athletic ability. Soft hands and return instincts are two things that you never expect from someone who is 220 plus pounds.

WHAT HE NEEDS TO WORK ON: In my opinion, his instincts on the defensive side of the ball don‘t come close to what I think he can do as a running back or perhaps a fullback in the right scheme.

Defensively, he looks lost on plays, but his ability to run and play off blocks helps him recover. While I say that offense is where he truly belongs, the right college with a defensive coordinator who is willing to spend time with Poe, could turn him into a beast!

OVERALL: With great bloodlines (cousin of Carolina PanthersRod Smart), this is someone to keep an eye on. He has all the tools to become a great one at the next level.

COLLEGES ON THE HORIZON: Right now, and it‘s very early, Poe has solid offers from Eastern Michigan and Mississippi State, but his list is quite extensive - with Florida, Georgia Tech, Miami and Nebraska all in the mix.

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