Being from Oxford, Miss., I ventured down to Tampa for Thanksgiving with my roommate. I decided to entertain myself by taking in the Armwood-Tampa Bay Tech game. Not only was it a great playoff game to watch (Armwood 50, Tech 20), but there were a few D-I prospects out there.
The headliner was Armwood’s Ryne Giddins. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound weakside defensive end, is one of the fastest guys off the line that I’ve seen in a while. He was consistently getting pressure on Tech’s quarterback. He had a couple knockdowns (one came way after the ball was thrown and drew a late-hit penalty). He finished with two sacks on the night and recorded two touchdowns. He recovered a fumble in the first quarter to tie the game at 6-6 and then returned an interception 12 yards for a touchdown off of a tip at the line late in the fourth.
He’s a bit on the thin side in my eyes. I understand he’s still a senior in high school, but he looks more like a tall linebacker at this point. But so did Jermaine Cunningham when he was his age. Giddins hits hard and plays fast. He also didn’t come out of the game much, rotating out on defense for the first time with 4:50 left in the second quarter. No wonder he was named the CSTV National Defensive Player of the Year.
As for recruiting, Giddins would like to clear up the rumors about him finding his future school already.
“I know there were rumors out there that I’m committing to North Carolina. I’m not,” said Giddins, who’s a four-star prospect and the No. 4 weakside defensive end rated by Rivals.com. “Right now I still have to figure out what my options are and what I’m about to do.”
What he’s about to do is concentrate on the rest of the playoffs and take two more official visits. He’s already taken an official to UNC and said he wants to visit UF and FSU.
He said he doesn’t have a leader at the moment but has been to Gainesville three times this year.
Not as highly regarded is Armwood’s inside linebacker and defensive leader, Petey Smith. Only a three-star prospect according to Rivals, Smith is a very high-motor player. He was nailing Tech’s players every chance he got and was firing up his players and jawing with his opponent every chance he got. For a guy who’s listed at a generous 6-feet tall, he delivers a powerful punch and he’s got the thickest legs I ever seen on a linebacker at any age.
He’s getting attention from some big schools as well. He’s got an offer from UF, but he says the Gators are “out of the picture.” He initially had interest in UF and had a great relationship with former defensive line coach Greg Mattison and Urban Meyer, but Smith said once Dan McCarney was hired the interest level on the Gators’ side waned. His final two schools are Alabama and Auburn.
The last two seniors that made an impression were safety Angelo Hadley and quarterback/athlete Mywan Jackson. Hadley broke his school’s record for career interceptions with 19 after picking off a pass to seal the game in the fourth. He was very tentative early and said he was antsy about getting his pick. He needs to improve his defense against the run, but is very athletic and plays the deep safety position well. He has yet to get an offer from UF, but said he spoke with offensive line coach Steve Addazio the other day and had a “good talk.” He’s a three-star safety rated by Rivals and his top three schools are UNC, Georgia and UF.
I didn’t get to speak with Jackson after the game, but man is he athletic. He’s only a three-star prospect by Rivals, but he moves very well on the field out of a single-wing offense. His throwing needs work, but he won’t be doing much of that in college. His nicest play of the day was when he took a direct snap and weaved his way through defenders for 46 yards and even pulled off a pretty spin move near the 5-yard line before finally scoring. He lists interest in Auburn, Michigan, Louisville, UNC and others.
I’m sending a shout out to FSU students. Not only did I get verbally assaulted for wearing neutral colors on my way to the press box Saturday, but cheering for Percy Harvin when he went down must have been nice for recruits (Andre Debose) who were on hand to hear it. You can bet there will be some Gator players whispering about that incident to potential FSU prospects once they get on campus.