IN THE HUDDLE: Antonio Lowery

As a sophomore, Antonio Lowery was one of the best linebacking prospects in the state. Despite over 20 college offers in the past few months, the Miami Columbus standout still needs to have a big senior year to establish himself as one of the elite players in the Sunshine State.

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

These are similar 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: Antonio Lowery
POSITION: LB
SCHOOL: Miami Christopher Columbus
HEIGHT: 6-2
WEIGHT: 210
40 SPEED: 4.7
HEAD COACH: Chris Merritt
www.floridakids.us Pre-Spring Rating: 67

Just about 25 years ago, I remember boarding an airplane in Miami to head to Pensacola to serve as color announcer for the state championship game between Miami Columbus and Pensacola Woodham.

Back in those days, the title games were played at schools and not in one location like they are today. It limited what fans and college coaches could see, since they were all played on one night.

As I boarded that plane, I saw that the Columbus team was also aboard. While you never know what the future held, you could tell a lot about a team that featured linebacker/running back Alonzo Highsmith and quarterback Michael Shula.

Through the years, the Explorers have had their share of top-rated football talent. Brian Griese was also a tremendous athlete, but that came later.

While this program has had so many quality football players, I never thought that they would ever have a chance to duplicate and athlete like Highsmith, who was big, strong, quick and could play this game. When I watched Lowery as a sophomore in two games, I was sold that he could be the one.

When you cover high school football for a span of so many years, you tend to find it easy to draw comparisons. But you also find yourself searching for something that may never come. I felt that while watching Lowery that he could indeed be that someone special.

As the 2005 season is about to start, Lowery is on a watch list by many colleges across the country. Many remember what made him such a star on the rise two years ago, and they are banking, after an average junior season, he will regain that form this year.

STRENGTHS: Having watched Lowery in three games and in two camp settings, I see a football player with good speed and the ability to make plays. He gets off the ball very well, is physical and has the instincts to play the outside linebacker position.

While many colleges have watched him play, most felt that his ability to play outside is what will get him into college. I feel that he reads plays extremely well, knows how to react and can anticipate. He also has a great sense of moving forward and blitzing, which comes from his quickness and the knowledge of the game. He was taught to play this sport very well.

WHAT HE NEEDS TO WORK ON: There is little doubt that if you watch Lowery play, you will notice that he needs to initiate more tackles. Instead of just driving the play back inside or chasing a runner toward the outside for help, he needs to make first contact tackles. Colleges will grow thin of patients if they get him on campus and he fails to make plays.

There are more athletes who are recruited on size, quickness, strength and the promise that one day he will become a play maker. For my money, if you don't make plays at the high school level, in all honesty, making them at the next level, especially at an elite program, will be very hard to do.

OVERALL: College offers mean nothing to me. When February rolls around, and the athlete signs on the dotted line, that is the ONLY thing that will matter. Not 22 offers in July or August. Lowery needs to have a monster senior season. Looking good and being in great shape is nice, but making plays, especially as a linebacker, is essential. Mark my words, if colleges continue to watch, and he fails to initiate plays, they will start to look the other way. No matter how much the athlete can lift or how fast he runs!

If Lowery gets back to the basics like he did as a sophomore, he will be that linebacker prospect we all predicted.

COLLEGES ON THE HORIZON: Among the 22 offers that Lowery has includes Alabama, Auburn, Boston College, North Carolina, Rutgers, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Pittsburgh, South Carolina and Tennessee. While his hometown school, University of Miami, hasn't offered, he is also looking at the Hurricanes as well.

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