The recruiting path down to South Florida is a beaten trail.
For years, college coaches have come from all pockets of the country (and the state itself) to stake a claim in one of the country’s most productive recruiting grounds.
In the 2009 class, the cupboards were not empty, but they certainly weren’t brimming as they had been in years past. While there were some highly-regarded recruits, like Pahokee quarterback Nu’Keese Richardson, it lacked the depth and star power that recruiting fans are accustomed to.
The class that preceded it, the class of 2008, was particularly deep. Miami Northwestern and Booker T. Washington each churned out college-ready prospects like University of Miami linebacker Sean Spence and defensive back Brandon Harris.
The University of Florida dipped into the pot as well, snatching Pahokee cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who had an impressive debut season for the Gators.
According to Tom Lemming, the 2010 recruiting class in South Florida will be even stronger than the 2008 class.
“(The University of ) Miami should live off these guys,” Lemming said after a recent tour around the southern part of the Sunshine State. “I don’t think they have to travel 40 miles. Go to Lake Okeechobee and Pahokee. They should have a top 10 class just by staying home.”
One player that many schools have an eye on is De’Joshua Johnson. The Pahokee wide receiver is appearing on Miami’s radar, though several other schools are currently courting him. He is expected to make a decision early in his senior campaign.
Another talent-rich school on the banks of Lake Okeechobee is Glades Central. Pahokee’s rival school may not be as stocked with prospects as it sometimes is, but Glades Central still boasts star safety Travis Bell. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Bell is receiving Division I interest for his work in the secondary.
Down in the city of Miami, both Northwestern and Booker T. Washington are once again deep with recruits.
“Northwestern has the top nose guard in the state,” Lemming said, referring to 5-11, 300-pound junior Todd Chandler, whom he described as a “ferocious player."
Chandler’s value is especially high, according to Lemming, because defensive tackles are at a premium in this year’s recruiting class. Along with the quarterback spot, it is one of the two weak positions in 2010.
Lemming was pleasantly surprised by teammate Corvin Lamb. The 5-11, 180-pound running back looked good on video and in person.
“He really impressed me on film and he really impressed us at the (U.S. Army All-American) combine in San Antonio,” Lemming said. “He’s very quick and very athletic.”
Another member of the Bulls worth noting is offensive lineman Torrian Wilson, who stands at 6-4 and has great potential.
Across town, the Booker T. Washington Tornadoes got an added boost when standout receiver Ted Meline transferred after the season from Westlake.
“I watched him run routes,” Lemming said. “He goes in and out of breaks very well, and shows sure hands. He’ll be one of the most dynamic players in South Florida.”
Booker T. Washington is also home to running back Eduardo Clements.
“He’s a slasher with a little bit of power,” Lemming said. “He’s got good vision and can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Florida State fans like their chances early on with Clements, but Georgia is hoping to sway him toward Athens.
Perhaps underrated on the Tornadoes squad is Quinton Dunbar, who recently committed to the University of Miami. While some assume that Meline will step in and be the primary downfield target, Lemming thinks Dunbar may be equally dangerous.
“I think there’s a question as who is the better receiver. Dunbar is that good.”
Jose Jose, a massive offensive lineman, will also play on Saturdays.
Other recruits within city limits include Jakhari Gore from Columbus, who Lemming thinks could play running back or cornerback in college, and Jeffrey Godfrey, a quarterback at Central who projects to play in the secondary in college.
Up in Fort Lauderdale, defending national champion St. Thomas Aquinas is well-equipped to defend its title, and could be the most talented team in the country for a second straight season, according to Lemming.
“They may have as many as 15 Division I players,” he said.
Highlighting the bunch is running back Gio Bernard, who impressed Lemming with his consistency. The fact that Aquinas played some stiff competition is also in his favor.
Also in the backfield is 5-11, 185-pound James White. White has 4.5 speed, according to Lemming, who said that some people think he is as good as Bernard.
Paving the way for the powerful duo of backs is Brandon Linder, one of the two best linemen in the state along with Bolles’ Bruce Benedict.
Linder has a great frame at 6-6, 280 pounds. He can play anywhere on the line, including center. This makes him particularly enticing to college programs, Lemming said.
“Anyone who can play center in high school is a major plus. He’ll be worth his weight in gold when colleges come after him.”
Defensive backs Cody Riggs, Reynaldo Kirten, and Brian Robinson are all Division I-caliber players for the Raiders. Jermaine Barton (6-5, 270) is another candidate to play at the next level.
Arguably the biggest recruit on the team is also its newest addition. Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner transferred from Miami Southwest just a few weeks ago and joins an already ultra-talented Raider secondary.
“He’s a terrific ball hog and a cover corner,” Lemming said.
Riggs and Joyner form what is probably the nation’s top cornerback duo.
Given its returning talent, Aquinas’ game against Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) this season will have serious national rankings implications. The winner of that game has a legitimate case as the nation’s best team.
Other 2010 names to know;
-Matt Elam: Dwyer safety is one of the nation’s premier players
-Trey Burton: Venice quarterback has primetime match-up against Oscar Smith (Va.) star Phillip Sims
-Chris Dunkley: Royal Palm Beach receiver shows explosiveness after the catch
-Gideon Ajagbe: The Ransom Everglades linebacker is an All-American-caliber player, according to Lemming
-Corey Lemonier: Hialeah is a beacon of talent; Lemonier will be one of the nation’s top defensive ends