I’ve discovered the secret to South Florida’s talent.
It’s not in the water. It’s not in the food. It’s not those cute, little bunnies those kids chase down in sugar cane fields.
It’s spring football.
I know. It sounds strange, but it makes perfect since.
While those kids up north are too busy
shoveling snow and taking plows to school just before spring starts,
guys from Pahokee and St. Thomas Aquinas are running 40s and throwing
fade routes. That’s why everyone wants a shot at grabbing whomever they
can get from arguably the most talent-rich area in the country.
The speed, the athleticism and the upside
are so attractive to these college coaches, and these guys come by the
truckloads to get a glimpse of the next Willis McGahee or Devin Hester.
And with the year-round training, you are more likely to find guys that
resemble them in high school.
“I think spring football’s a great
advantage for us,” St. Thomas Aquinas coach George Smith said. “I
really do because coaches come down and watch guys run around. You go
to other states, and they might not have that. I think it’s very
important that we have spring football.”
Smith coaches the No. 1 prep team in the
country, according to multiple media outlets. Not only does he coach
this kind of talent, but he has to face it each week. No wonder he has
the best team in the land. His team might even have a case for the BCS
Championship game based on strength of schedule alone.
While he acknowledges the talent he sees around him, he’s not ready to deem South Florida as the recruiting Mecca just yet.
“There’s talent all over the nation,” Smith
said. “I think in South Florida we have a lot of good guys and a lot of
good teams down here.
“There are other good teams (around the
country). You go to Alabama and you look at Cincinnati, and those guys
are tough as hell. They might not have a lot of speed, but they can
Makes sense. Everyone might be clamoring to
get these guys, but if you look at the numbers, South Florida prospects
aren’t exactly lighting up the statistics category in college.
Since 2002, only one player originally from
South Florida has ranked No. 1 in any offensive category. That player
was Kevin Smith, of Miami, Southridge, who led the country in rushing
yards when he compiled 2,567 yards on the ground for the Central
Florida Golden Knights. Then you have McGahee, who was fifth in the
nation with 1,753 rushing yards for the Hurricanes in 2002.
Only one quarterback from South Florida,
Omar Jacobs of Delray Beach, ranks in the top five of any passing
statistics. The Bowling Green signal-caller was fourth in the country
with a passer rating of 167.20.
You can’t even find any receivers anywhere when it comes to receptions or receiving yards.
Defensively, a few more names pop up, but as far as offensive stats go, South Florida players are hard to find.
One example that I like to point to is the
success of Florida since Urban Meyer arrived in 2005. The day he
stepped into Gainesville, he made it his goal to recruit South Florida
with ferocity. But where are all these southern studs?
I’m not saying Florida hasn’t tried. It has
gone after guys like Demetrice Morley (Killian), Antone Smith
(Pahokee), Sam Young (St. Thomas Aquinas), Armando Allen (Miami Lakes),
and of course, Patrick (Johnson) Peterson (Ely). But the Gators have
come up lame with all of them.
with those misses, the Gators have snagged the likes of Deonte Thompson
(Glades Central), Janoris Jenkins (Pahokee) and Major Wright. The
Gators currently have one commitment – Nu’Keese Richardson (Pahokee) –
on board for the 2009 class and have two in Matt Elam (Dwyer) and Demar
Dorsey (Boyd Anderson) for next year’s class.
Meyer talks about wanting to be the
fastest team in the country year in and year out, but if so, why hasn’t
he bum-rushed the area? How come he can’t lure talent away from the
University of Miami? And how in the world does Ohio State go all the
way down to Miami to grab a commitment from one of the top running back
prospects in the entire country in Jamaal Berry?
“Kids are going to stay and they’re going
to go where they want to go,” Smith said. “In the age of the Internet,
it makes it so much more open for guys to look everywhere and see
what’s going on. All these (out-of-state) schools recruit down here.
They take a shot and if works it does, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Maybe Meyer isn’t as sold on what he sees
out of South Florida or maybe South Florida isn’t sold on what it sees
out of Meyer. Regardless, Meyer has done so much with so little from
2006 national championship team only had four players – Ray McDonald,
Dorian Monroe, Steven Harris and Javier Estopinan – from South Florida
that really made any significant contributions to the team.
His team this year could get Meyer to his second title game in three years and it’ll do so without much help from South Florida.