It's hard to believe that the 2010 football season has come to an end. Now the recruiting madness will really kick into fifth gear as we head toward National Signing Day in a few weeks.
This season certainly delivered some outstanding individual performances among South Florida athletes, including a single-game state playoff-record 437 yards rushing by sophomore sensation Kelvin Taylor of Glades Day (Belle Glade). Recruiters already are keeping a close eye on Taylor, the son of New England Patriots running back Fred Taylor, and he still has two years of high school remaining.
Taylor's phenomenal performance in the Class 1B regional finals ranks as the fifth-best single-game rushing performance in state history, and he was a one-man wrecking crew in Glades Day's four playoff games, rushing for 1,204 yards and 16 touchdowns as the Gators captured the state title for the second consecutive year.
Equally impressive was the performance of Central (Miami) running back Devonta Freeman in last Saturday night's Class 6A championship game at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Freeman rushed for 308 yards — 20 yards short of a state championship-game record — and scored three touchdowns in Central's come-from-behind 42-27 win against Dr. Phillips (Orlando), which was ranked No. 15 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 entering the final game of the season.
On hand to witness Freeman's performance on a cool, damp and foggy night in Central Florida was Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher. Freeman, who had 354 yards rushing in the state semifinals the week before, has made a verbal commitment to FSU, and Seminoles fans have plenty of reasons to feel pretty good about the future in Tallahassee.
After the game, there were comparisons being made to another outstanding back who played at FSU, namely Warrick Dunn. If Fisher and FSU are able to harness two other highly touted players from South Florida who are on their recruiting board, the future certainly will look bright for the ‘Noles. I'm referring to Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens) teammates — quarterback Jacoby Brissett and tight end Nick O'Leary — both of whom have the talent to be very successful at the next level.
So far, neither Brissett nor O'Leary have announced where they intend to play next year, but FSU is high on both of their final lists. Close friends off the field, Brissett and O'Leary, who is a grandson of golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, have hinted that they would like to continue to be teammates and play at the same college, so FSU just might have an inside track on landing them on National Signing Day in early February.
Brissett told me last week that he has not been "too focused" on making his decision yet because he was so focused on trying to lead Dwyer back to the Class 4A state championship game. The Panthers fell short of that goal when they lost on a last-second field goal to Armwood (Seffner) in the state semifinals two weekends ago. "It's going to be just where I feel most comfortable and have a good relationship with the coaches. It's already difficult, but it's been fun," Brissett said.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Brissett also is an outstanding basketball player and reported to hoops practice three days after Dwyer played its last football game. He's been tearing it up at the State Farm City of Palms Classic tournament in Fort Myers, Fla., the past few days. Brissett averaged almost 25 points a game in Dwyer's first three games of the prestigious tournament that attracts several nationally ranked teams. He also grabbed 34 rebounds during his 63 minutes of playing time in the first three games as he works to get into basketball shape.
Here's the deal: Brissett has openly said that basketball is his first love, and the Dwyer basketball coaching staff truly believes that he could be an elite player at the next level in hoops if he would concentrate solely on that sport. However, with his size and athleticism, Brissett also has the potential to be a top-notch quarterback. He finished this season with 2,473 yards passing, 32 touchdowns and only one interception. His stats could have been off the charts had he not sat out the second half of most games after Dwyer had built commanding leads in all but two of its games this season.
Brissett has said that he wants to play both sports his freshman year in college, so that also could play a major role in his decision-making process. We'll see how it all pans out, but it could be an interesting January for Brissett as the recruiting race heads down the home stretch toward signing day.
PHENOMENAL RUN FOR ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) has been recognized as one of the best football programs in South Florida for several years. The Raiders have earned an elite status nationally the past three years.
Aquinas capped off another 15-0 season last Friday night in Orlando when the Raiders defeated Plant (Tampa) 28-7 in the Class 5A state championship game at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Aquinas has a 57-2 record over the past four seasons, including three state titles and a mythical national championship in 2008 when the program was recognized as a national powerhouse. The Raiders almost claimed another sweep in the national polls this year, finishing No. 2 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings that were released this week.
"I think it speaks volumes for the players," Aquinas coach George Smith told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "We lost a lot of good players from last year's team, and these guys stepped up and did something only a few other teams have done, and that's have a perfect season."
Now comes the post-season evaluation process for all head coaches. Smith will need to replace three major Division I recruits on the offensive side of the ball — quarterback Jacob Rudock (Iowa commit) and wide receivers Phillip Dorsett (Miami commit) and Rashad Greene (Florida State commit). Rudock passed for 2,819 yards and 36 touchdowns with only three interceptions this season. Dorsett and Greene combined for 89 catches for 1,893 receiving yards. That's a lot of offense to lose. The quarterback in waiting likely is junior Max Lescano, who was Rudock's backup this season, but did not pass much when he entered games late this season after Aquinas had the game won.
Aquinas does have a potential star running back returning, however, in sophomore Frederick Coppet, who raised some eyebrows last weekend in the state championship game by rushing for 168 yards on 10 carries. Also returning in the backfield is Dami Ayoola, who rushed for 564 yards this season.
Aquinas defeated 12 playoff teams this season, including Camden County (Georgia) and Skyline (Dallas), and the Raiders have a 5-0 record against out-of-state teams from Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio and Texas over the past three seasons. Smith told the Miami Herald that he wants the Raiders' program to be considered among the elite in the nation and he plans on scheduling two out-of-state teams for next season. "We want to be up there and be recognized. It's great for Broward County, and it's great for the state of Florida, beyond what's good for us," Smith said.
SUNS ALSO RISING
Another Broward County program to keep an eye on is University (Fort Lauderdale), which lost a wild triple-overtime shootout to Trinity Catholic (Ocala) 56-55 in the Class 2B championship game. University will lose starting quarterback Doug Cooke to graduation, which will leave a huge void in the Suns' offense. Cook completed 231 of 363 passes for 3,163 yards this season.
However, the consensus among many reporters and observers at the state finals the past two weekends in Orlando is that University is a program on the rise. Most of the starters on both the offensive and defensive lines return, and wide receivers MacGarrett Kings and Jordan Cunningham, both of whom had at least 600 receiving yards this season, also will be back next year.
SOUTH ALL-STARS ROLL
The South crushed the North 44-7 in the 14th Broward County Athletic Association All-Star Football Classic at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. The South all-stars scored 34 points off eight turnovers by the North, including two interceptions by Cory Peart of Western (Davie), who was named the South's defensive MVP. Austin Warnock of Flanagan (Pembroke Pines) also had a big game for the South all-stars, recovering two fumbles and scoring a touchdown. Western quarterback William Coyne passed for two touchdowns. Dillard (Fort Lauderdale) running back Otis Wright rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown to earn the game's Otis Gray Foundation Award as the game overall MVP.HESTER DISMISSED AT GLADES CENTRAL
Some stunning news came out of
state power Glades Central (Belle Glade) last weekend when Raiders head
coach Jessie Hester was fired only six days after his team lost in the
Class 2A state championship game in Orlando.
standout wide receiver at Glades Central, FSU and in the NFL for 10
years, compiled a 36-4 record in his three seasons as head coach at his
alma mater. Glades Central was 14-2 this season and lost to Cocoa 14-13
in the 2A title game when the Raiders muffed a PAT kick. It's the second
consecutive year that Cocoa has beaten Glades Central in the
championship game. Glades Central Principal Anthony Anderson released
the following statement: "We are grateful for the three years that Mr.
Hester spent with our football program at Glades Central. As we move
forward to connect the bridge of academics with our athletic program, we
have decided to move in a different direction. We are continuing to
build the academic foundation that will allow our players to become
champions on and off the field."
Hester told the Palm Beach
Post that he and the school's administration did not see eye-to-eye and
that their relationship had become strained late this season. Hester
said that more than 20 players on this season's roster had at least a
3.0 grade point average and questioned the reason behind his firing.
made sure from the first day I got there that those kids were focused
on academics," Hester said. "That was a slap in my face. I know what I
stand for when it comes to academics. Just be man enough to say, ‘Hey,
coach, you didn't win back-to-back state championships. We need someone
who can do that.' I just think they didn't want to leave themselves out
there like that."
Glades Central has won six state titles,
tied for second-most in state history, and has been a playoff team for
eight consecutive seasons. A search for Hester's successor already has
begun, but no deadline has been announced on when it will be filled.
Sincerely hope all of you have a peaceful and safe holiday as we get ready to ring in the new year. Enjoy the college bowl games. I'll be back in two weeks with more news and updates from South Florida, especially on the football recruiting front.
Steve Dorsey, who covers the South Florida region for MaxPreps.com, is a freelance writer based in West Palm Beach. He has covered the South Florida high school sports scene for the past 29 years. He also is a contributing writer for American Football Monthly and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.