Posted by Bryan Fischer
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- If one championship was lucky, a second confirms what the South Florida-based Footballers Fire 7-on-7 team thought all along, that they were one of the most talented teams in the country.
Composed mostly of players who were cut from the elite South Florida Express travel team, the Footballers Fire ended up beating them for a title in Tampa and ran through the competition over the weekend to grab their second title on the campus of Samford University.
The group ended up taking three vans from Miami to Birmingham, a trip that lasted over 13 hours. The long drive was the furthest thing from their mind when they held up the championship trophy though.
"Everybody was excited about getting out of Florida and coming to Alabama," Pompano Beach (Fla.) cornerback Adrian Burton said. "The difference between Tampa and here is we came up here undefeated. We didn't lose one game in this tournament and we won outside of our elements. We wanted to prove we were college-ready and came to play outside of our elements by playing in another state."
The team was the most vocal of any of the 15 teams that came to the event from all over the South. Part of the hooting and hollering after every play was strategy, especially once they reached the championship game and kept quiet in order to throw the other team off.
"The competition was really good," Gainesville (Fla.) corner Chris Bivins said. "We talked a bunch throughout the day but we decided to calm it down for the championship game and make them think we weren't playing. We were quiet and things started clicking."
Bivins is not full-time member of Footballers Fire but decided to come along on the trip and play with several of his friends on the team. He deferred to other members of the team in terms of playing time but still managed to make an impact in the secondary, playing both slot and outside receivers.
Burton, on the other hand, was in for nearly every play on defense and picked off two passes during the tournament, one more than he had in Tampa. Grabbing an extra pick wasn't as meaningful for the talented corner as grabbing a second title however.
"It meant a lot to me personally," Burton said. "We heard on ESPN that there was no way we can repeat, it was a fluke. Honestly we don't take that too lightly. We went from the cut list (from the South Florida Express) to winning two 7-on-7 championships. What more can we say?"
Texas Tech is one school showing a lot of interest in Burton but has yet to offer him a scholarship. Defensive backs coach Otis Mounds is the coach recruiting him and Burton had good things to say about the former South Florida high school coach.
"He has to be one of the coolest guys I've met who is a recruiter," Burton said. "He talks about real stuff, real situations, he doesn't actually talk that much about football. In his words, there's only two things they want us to come to Texas Tech for, to play ball and get your education. Education and football, I'm glad he pointed that out and it's not just football."
Bivins is also seeing his recruitment pick up with the May Evaluation period in full swing and already holds five offers, including ones from Utah and USF. He picked up his first SEC offer from South Carolina on Thursday and is excited about what the Gamecocks bring to the table.
"They've been contacting me lately. Coach (Steve) Spurrier Jr. came to school but I wasn't there because I had a track meet," Bivins said. "I called him on the phone and he said they were going to offer me a scholarship because they love big corners with long arms and speed."
Both players will head to the Badger Sports National 7-on-7 Tournament in Dallas over Fourth of July weekend.
Ward drops into coverage
Aberdeen (Miss.) defensive end Channing Ward didn't show up for Day One of the tournament and many thought he had taken an unofficial visit or just stayed home for the weekend. Turns out he had a good excuse as he was anchoring Aberdeen High's 4x100 and 4x200 track team and ended up running a 11.3 second 100 meters at a hefty 6-foot-2, 250 pounds.
The big and fast defensive end ended up playing linebacker for much of Day Two of the tournament and did so mainly to get better with his footwork and show off a little bit more to observers.
"It was a good challenge," Ward said. "I had to keep my feet moving. I think it will make me a better defensive end because I have to keep my feet moving. I felt ok."
Ward recently picked up another offer to add to his growing list that is sitting at 16 and includes Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss and Notre Dame among others.
"I picked up an offer from Miami last Friday," Ward said. "I have interest in them."
There are also several schools close to extending a scholarship and Ward offered up one school who might be the next to pull the trigger.
"Florida State. The've been writing me a lot and told me to come to their camp," Ward said. "I'm going this summer. I'll also probably go to LSU and Auburn (camps). I've been to both of them to watch a game and on Junior Day."
Alabama and Mississippi State are the two schools recruiting him the hardest with Crimson Tide assistant Jeff Stoutland being his primary recruiter and one of the few who are recruiting him as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker. He still hasn't narrowed down his list of schools but looking for a few things in his future school.
"Graduation rate, good vibe from the coaches," he said.
Ward has offers from just about every SEC schools and projects more as a defensive end than linebacker in college.
Dural doesn't live up to his own high standards
One of the few commitments participating in the tournament was Beaux Bridge (La.) wide receiver Travin Dural. The LSU commitment didn't get too many balls thrown his way and had trouble meshing with his teammates he met just two days before on their way from Louisiana.
"I didn't feel like I played my best, I kind of had an off weekend," Dural said. "I did alright in some games but just didn't really get it going."
Although he didn't live up to his own high standards, Dural did compete against some of the best defensive talent he's seen and he felt he measured up well despite having an off weekend.
"I wanted to play with the best and see how I do," he said. "They say these are some of the best players in the country so I wanted to see how good I really am. I kind of showed that I can compete with them."
Firmly committed to LSU, his commitment was pretty open and shut as soon as the Tigers became interested in the in-state prospect.
"When I got the offer," he said of when he committed. "That was the school I wanted to go to ever since I was little. That helped because I wanted to go there and didn't have to worry about committing when I wanted to go there."
The 6-foot-2, 170 pound Dural is still receiving mail from several programs but isn't being actively recruited by anybody. Many schools will stop by to see him when spring football starts in two weeks but putting on the pads isn't something Dural is looking forward to.
"No," he said with a grin. "It's going to be hot out there. I'm in track right now so I'm not even in football shape. I do the 200 and high jump, long jump and 4x200 (relay). I've got the state track meet next weekend at LSU. Last week at regionals, our relay team ran the seventh fastest time in the nation."
Gross looks good at quarterback
There were not a lot of high caliber quarterbacks in Birmingham but Memphis (Tenn.) signal caller Will Gross was one of the top two or three at the event, throwing a good spiral and really showing some velocity on throws. He's already received offers from Louisville, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt and picked up a big one last week after a few schools stopped by during the evaluation period.
"Memphis, Wake Forest, Alabama and UConn," Gross said of the schools that came by Melrose High. "Alabama offered Thursday. I'm blessed. I'm glad the coaches see something in me. They have a good program and get you ready for the NFL. They have a great staff. I'm going to visit next month."
While some schools are recruiting him as an athlete, Alabama is recruiting him as quarterback. The 6-foot-1, 175 pound Gross wants to play quarterback in college and that will be an issue he'll bring up to those schools pursuing him.
"Mississippi State and Arkansas State," he said of schools that are recruiting him the hardest. "It doesn't matter where I go. I'm very patient and want to take my time. I might commit during the season."
Gross has already taken a few unofficial visits and will take some time over the next few weeks to plan where he'll go next. He won't limit his planning to just unofficial visits though, he plans on taking all five of his official visits and is already trying to figure out when and where to go.
"I don't know them all," he said. "I know three, Louisville, Kentucky and Alabama. Those are my top three right now."
Alabama's recent offer appears to make them the co-leader along with Louisville for Gross but he remains open until taking his visits.
Recruitment of Kimbrow heating up
A few miles away from Gross, running back Brian Kimbrow is becoming a hot name for recruiters. The city of Memphis is always a must stop for coaches on their way around the south and Memphis East is becoming the first destination in the city thanks in large part to Kimbrow.
"Duke stopped by, Western Kentucky, Tennessee and some more coaches are supposed to come by next week," Kimbrow said. "Notre Dame has come by. Lots of people."
The 5-foot-9, 170 pound scat-back recently picked up offers from Maryland and Wake Forest to put his total number of offers at close to 30. With so much attention being shown at this point in the recruiting process, Kimbrow is just taking everything as it comes and keeping a level head.
"It's hard to say right now because I'm being patient. I don't want to rush into recruiting and end up going somewhere that doesn't fit me," he said.
So far Kimbrow is taking unofficial visits like most top recruits and is starting out local before heading out to schools outside of the region this summer.
"I've been to Tennessee, Memphis and I have plans to go to Cincinnati and Vanderbilt," he said. "I have plans to go to Notre Dame. I've also been to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss."
Kimbrow has no set timetable for when he makes his commitment but the talented athlete, who also could be a slot receiver in college, is looking to stay focused on his high school team before worrying about where he'll end up in college.
"More than likely it will be after the season so I can focus on that during the season," he said of a commitment date. "Right now though, I'd say Tennessee and Vanderbilt and Cincinnati are standing out though.
"It doesn't matter where I go, I just want a place that fits me."
- Talented Lemming Top 100 linebacker Deaysean Rippy didn't play too much this weekend due to nagging injuries but did mention he was hearing a lot from Florida and that the Gators are at the top of his list at the moment. He was planning on taking more unofficial visits over the next few months so that might change.
- Marietta (Ga.) sophomore quarterback Eddie Printz did not have a very good first day, struggling to throw a spiral and get things going for Team Georgia. He came back much sharper on day two however, really spinning the ball well while leading his team to the championship game. He had some serious talent to throw to at wide out and while they saved him on day one, Printz made them look good on day two with some very nice deep balls.
- One of Printz's wide outs was Norcross (Ga.) athlete Jason Croom. He was the top receiver at the event and was a nightmare to cover with his 6-foot-5, 230 pound frame. At this point, he's a bit of a hybrid receiver/tight end until he fills out but he certainly has some very good pass catching skills. Georgia might be close to offering which might change things in his recruitment but it looks like Miami might be the team to beat at the moment. Georgia commit C.J. Curry was also on the team and played well but it was Croom who was the best receiver at the event.
- Justin Combs, son of Sean "Diddy" Combs, picked up offers Middle Tennessee and Wyoming recently and took an unofficial to UAB after the tournament. He has family in Alabama and one of his coaches said he is looking to step out from his dad's shadow but doesn't mind going to a smaller school to play football.
- Memphis (Tenn.) running back Jovon Robinson has a bit of a rivalry with Kimbrow in terms of who will be the top running back in the city and certainly showed he was capable of the top spot in terms of pass catching and quickness. His most recent offer was from Penn State and he said several SEC schools who have already offered stopped by to evaluate him further last week.
- Olive Branch (Miss.) wide receiver De'Arthur Cowan was one player who impressed from the Mississippi team. He said he had five offers, including ones from Arkansas and Mississippi State. Ole Miss visited his school last week and could be the next to offer. Cowan displayed good hands and ran nice routes but he needs to add some weight to his very skinny frame.
- Footballers Fire quarterback Ghierry Van der Kuyp has a very unusual sidearm throwing motion but he managed to be the most accurate quarterback at the event. He is being recruited by several programs as a wide receiver and the Hialeah (Fla.) athlete is close to getting offers from Miami and Florida. A commitment to Miami might follow if they offer because both of his parents are Miami fans. When Footballers Fire went up big on Team Georgia in the championship game, Van deer Kuyp played some wide receiver but badly injured his ankle and had to be taken off the field.