It’s time for high school football, and for hardcore recruiting fans (read: nut jobs), this means watching games on national television to scout some of your favorite players.
ESPN’s family of networks has a few games Gator recruiting fans won’t want to miss. This weekend alone features a smorgasbord of 13 games called the High School Football Kickoff.
As a bonus, I’m throwing in some games on CSS (Comcast Sports Southeast), a 24-hour sports network that’s on a lot of cable systems in the South. Amateur scouts can thank their lucky stars if they have CSS this fall. Read below to find out why.
I’ve made this list for Gator recruiting fans, so it mostly concerns pledges and targets. Without further adieu, here is a list of this season’s prep highlights …
◘ Gainesville, Ga. at Buford, Ga., tonight, 7 p.m., ESPN3.com — If you have a good high-speed broadband connection you can tune in to watch Buford Kurt Freitag, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end who has been high on Florida’s board all year. Buford is loaded. Watch Freitag’s teammates, four-star LB Dillon Lee (an Alabama commit) and four-star OT Vadal Alexander, who once expressed interest in Florida but seems to be focused now on LSU, Alabama and Auburn.
◘ Armwood, Fla. vs. Bishop Gorman, Nev., tonight, 8 p.m. ESPN2 — This would have been a huge game for Gator fans to watch if Armwood’s star running back Matt Jones (6-3, 210) were healthy. Jones, one of the Gators’ most-prized commitments, had surgery recently to repair a slight tear to the meniscus of his right knee and will miss at least the first month of the season. Florida fans will want to keep their eyes glued to Armwood’s elite 2013 safety prospect Leon McQuay (6-2, 184), who grew up a big fan of the Gators.
◘ St. Thomas Aquinas, Fla. vs. Prattville, Ala., Saturday, noon, ESPN — Aquinas is a traditional state powerhouse that has won two of the last three high school national championships (don’t ask me how those are determined). The Raiders feature defensive end Jelani Hamilton, a 6-5, 245 defensive end who is committed to Miami. Gator fans can check out fellow DE Bryan Cox Jr., (6-3, 240), the son of former NFL linebacker Bryan Cox who recently earned a UF offer at Friday Night Lights.
◘ Grayson, Ga. vs. Edgewater, Fla., Saturday, 5 p.m., CSS — This contest stands out because of the chance to watch Grayson defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (6-5, 253), who may be the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2013. On the other side, Edgewater has 2012 wide receiver Alton “Pig” Howard (5-10, 175), who has a UF offer and camped in Gainesville this summer.
◘ Sulphur Springs, Texas vs. Denton Ryan,Texas, Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN — Gator fans might only want to tune into this one to see defensive end Mario Edwards, ESPN’s No. 1 recruit in the nation who is committed to Florida State.
◘ Hillcrest, Mo. vs. Seneca, Mo., Saturday, 9 p.m. ESPNU — Until he officially crosses Florida off of his list, Hillcrest wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (6-6, 220) can still dance through the dreams of Gator recruiting fans. The No. 1 prospect in the nation according to Rivals and Scout is said to be considering Missouri and Oklahoma the most.
◘ Collegiate Academy, Washington D.C. vs. Taft, Ohio, Sunday, 11 a.m., ESPNU — All eyes will be on the Academy’s stud defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (6-4, 305), but Gator fans should know that Goldman recently trimmed his list down to seven school and crossed off Florida.
◘ Cocoa, Fla. vs. Colerain, Ohio, Sunday, 3 p.m., ESPN — Another glimpse into the future is on hand for Gator fans scouting the deep pool of 2013 running back prospects from the state of Florida. Cocoa features Tarean Folston (5-10, 190), who camped at UF this past summer.
◘ Carver, Ga. at Buford, Ga., Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m. CSS — Another chance to watch the Buford Boys.
◘ Archbishop Wood, Pa. at Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Pa., Sept. 4, 2 p.m. ESPN2 — Gator fans will want to check out Wood’s Colin Thompson (6-5, 255), the No. 1 pro-style tight end prospect in the Class of 2012 and a die-hard Gator commit. Thompson will be hard to miss running routes down the middle of the field.
◘ Palm Beach Dwyer, Fla. vs. Belle Glades Glades Central, Fla., Sept. 5, 4 p.m., ESPN — Fans should tune in to this one just to see a serious high school rivalry. Dwyer has been something of a pipeline to Florida recently, with head coach Jack Daniels leading the way. Florida still has offensive tackle Patrick Miller (6-7, 270) on its board even though he has turned most of his attention to Auburn and LSU. There’s a chance the Gators aren’t out of the running for Miller. On the other side, Glades Central features wide receiver Jamie Wilson (6-0, 185) who had an offer from Florida’s previous coaching staff but hasn’t garnered much interest from the current Gator honchos. Another one to watch is 2013 defensive back William Likely (5-8, 170), a recruiting combine star who visited Florida this summer for Friday Night Lights.
◘ Cypress Bay, Fla. at St. Thomas Aquinas, Fla., Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m. CSS — Another chance to watch Aquinas.
◘ Yulee, Fla. at Buford, Ga., Sept. 9, 8:30 p.m., ESPNU — This is a big one. Buford tight end Kurt Freitag is expected to commit to either Florida, Alabama, Florida State or Miami during the broadcast. For Yulee, Gator recruiting fans already know to watch for 2013 running back Derrick Henry (6-3, 233), an athletic freak who is committed to Georgia. Henry is a monster who will be hard to miss when he totes the pigskin. He grew up a Gator fan, and no one thinks his recruitment is over.
◘ Oakland Park Northeast, Fla. at Miramar, Fla., Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m., CSS — This one might be worth the cost of finding a cable system that carries CSS. The Miramar Patriots have a major Florida target in four-star cornerback Tracy Howard (6-0, 175) along with four-star wide receiver Malcolm Lewis (6-0, 185), who also has a UF offer, and receiver Devonte Mathis (6-2, 205), who does not have a UF offer. For the Northeast Hurricanes, Gator fans will want to watch 2013 receiver Stacy Coley (6-1, 170), who could contend to be the top prospect in the state of Florida next year. Coley, an elite talent, grew up a Gator fan watching the Tim Tebow years. As a subplot, he has become good friends with Howard, who very well may cover him in this contest.
◘ Henry County, Ga. vs. Sandy Creek, Ga., Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m., CSS — Florida fans can drop in on 2012 defensive line commit Quinteze Williams (6-4, 295) as well as his teammate Jaquay Williams (6-4, 191), a four-star wide receiver who is pledged to Auburn and once considered UF. Facing them will be 2012 four-star defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (6-2, 270), who has a UF offer.
◘ De La Salle, Calif. at St. Thomas Aquinas, Fla., Sept. 23, 8 p.m., ESPN2 — Aquinas is everywhere this fall.
◘ Yulee, Fla. at Jacksonville First Coast, Fla., Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m., CSS — Derrick Henry and Yulee travel to nearby First Coast, which features a 2013 stud linebacker named Daniel McMillan (6-2, 220). Even though First Coast has been an FSU pipeline, McMillan insists he will consider the Gators. He camped at Florida when he was in the ninth grade and said he plans to take an unofficial visit to Gainesville this fall.
◘ M.L. King, Ga. at Stone Mountain Stephenson, Ga., Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m., CSS — Talk about a grand finale. Florida fans who have CSS can take a look at two major 2012 commitments. The Stephenson Jaguars feature four-star running back Mike Davis (5-10, 190), who is one of the leaders of this Florida class, and defensive tackle Jafar Mann (6-3, 285), a serious run-stopper in the middle of the line. Watch Stephenson anyway, because the Jags have a hoard of Division-I prospects.