Tag:South Florida Express
Posted on: February 5, 2012 12:02 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2012 12:08 pm
 

So. Florida Express tryout brings out top talent

Posted by Bryan Fischer

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- The ink on the class of 2012 letters of commitment was barely dry before the next crop of top recruits took to the field at Saturday's South Florida Express tryout as the recruiting cycle begins anew. One of the most popular 7-on-7 travel teams, the tryout brought nearly 200 players from all over the Miami-area to see if they could make the cut, led by a familiar face.

"It was exciting, there was a lot of competition and a lot of stuff that I saw last year cover-wise," Miami (Fla.) quarterback Akeem Jones, a member of last year's squad, said. "It's the same plays and same scheme so I felt comfortable."

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound signal-caller was a backup last year as the team traveled across the south to 7-on-7 tournaments. This year however, his heart is set on taking over and leading the team - and himself - to new heights.

"E.J. (Hilliard) was who I studied last year," said Jones. "I watched him as a youngster and studied under him. Now I can take over and become the nation's best. I want to prove a lot and prove a lot of people wrong. Most of all I want to do it for myself.

"I'm putting the work in."

Jones has bulked up slightly during the football season and brought his trademark canon of an arm. He's already drawing noticeable interest from colleges with two verbal scholarship offers already on the table.

"Right now I have two offers, Rutgers and Middle Tennessee," Jones said. "Florida State is close, South Florida is close, (Miami) is close."

With a smile always on his face when not laser-focused between the lines, Jones wasn't as sharp throwing the ball on a cloudy South Florida Saturday but was still the most advanced quarterback of those that showed up for the tryout. Though his talent will earn him a college scholarship, his mental makeup are what will drive him to making the best decision among what likely will be a double-digit offer list and Jones is already considering a few factors that he is looking for.

"Education and character," he said. "I want to surround myself with great coaches and get a good education. I also want to feel comfortable. Character is the biggest part, that will take you a long ways."

Though he projects at several different positions, the athletic Jones is looking to play the only one he's known the past few years: quarterback.

"That's what I want to play," he said. "I'm like (West Virginia quarterback) Geno (Smith)."

The comparison to Smith, who hails from nearby Miramar (Fla.) and is of similar build, is one reason why Jones has West Virginia at the top of his list.

"If they offer, I'm coming," he said. "I've already visited, it was very nice. If they offered, I'm signing.

"I think I can bring more excitement (to the offense) and ability with my legs. I would just carry on what Geno's doing basically and bring the program up. There's still a lot I can learn but it's a good fit."

Grace ready for what's next

One of the most impressive defenders at the event was Miramar (Fla.) linebacker Jermaine Grace. A fluid athlete with a great build, he was all over the field on Saturday and went out of his way to show coaches that was good enough to be an integral part of the team this year.

"I was out here last year but they told me I was too young to play so I came back this year and said I'm going to make it this time. The coaches basically told me I'm already on the team but I still have to go tryout," Grace said. "My coach had me playing different positions, like DB and receiver, just positions I don't normally play. I was able to experience new things and was able to do just as well."

The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has a good frame to add weight and the athleticism of a safety. Grace is already one of the most highly recruited athletes in South Florida and is a top 2013 prospect to watch.

"I've got (offers from) Florida, Florida State, Miami, South Florida, North Carolina, West Virginia," he said. "I think Alabama is close. I've talked to the coaches a lot so that's a school I've talked with that hasn't offered."

Grace has been part of a successful Miramar High program so he knows a lot of the ins and outs of the recruiting process and as such, is already beginning to figure out what he's looking for in a college football program and university.

"I want a good business program, good coaching staff, good teammates," he said. "I want to be able to learn and make it to the next level. I don't really mind (leaving home) but I don't want to get too far away from my family. If I have to I'll do it if it's best for me. But for right now, I'm not looking to go too far."

It's that time of year where Junior Days are quickly popping up on the calendar and Grace is receiving invites from several schools across the South. He won't venture outside of the state for one but did recently check out Miami's and enjoyed his time there.

"Yeah I went and it was a new experience for me," he said. "I talked with Al Golden one-on-one and with my family. It was cool. I was able to talk to players and different coaches. It was very exciting."

Grace could play at a variety of positions but appears set at playing linebacker for the South Florida Express and in college.

Shelton's experience shines

There are not too many players committed in the class of 2013 but Plantation (Fla.) cornerback Sojourn Shelton is certainly one of them and he is already building bonds with several of his classmates to make sure they know all the virtues of Florida State.

"There's so many kids, every time I get around a good one I ask if Florida State is recruiting them and tell them to let me know," Shelton said. "It's good to build bonds with player, there are a lot of players that have a chance."

One of the top corners at the event on Saturday, Shelton was a marked man as others were looking to prove something against the big time commit. Though he is "solid" to the Seminoles, he's still keeping his options open with over a year before actually signing.

"I'm definitely going to take an official to LSU," he said. "I know that's a place I want to go to because they are producing DB's. Down the road I'll have my five (official visits) listed out.

"I just want to make sure it's the best fit for me. You only get one shot."

Shelton recently picked up an offer from Wisconsin and should have plenty more despite his verbal to Florida State. With Signing Day earlier in the week, having a chance to see what kind of talent Jimbo Fisher and staff were able to bring in made the 5-foot-9, 160-pound corner quite excited for the future of the program.

"With Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr., they picked up a great defensive line class," he said. "I think that gives the corners a lot more comfort because it starts with the pressure from those guys. As far as bringing in (Ronald) Darby, P.J. Williams and (Collin Blake), we did a great job as far as recruiting. I think all Noles fans should be pretty excited about the year coming up."

Michel rehab going well

The best player on the field at the tryout didn't even participate. That's because Plantation (Fla.) running back Sony Michel, one of the top 2014 prospects in the country, was still recovering from an ACL tear suffered early in the season last year. Though he wasn't able to be a part of the activities, he came to support several of his teammates at the event as he took a break from rehab.

"It's going good for me right now," Michel said. "I'm probably about 80%. I know I'll be 100% by the season, probably before it. I'm just getting prepared until then."

Michel expects to be released in March but will not take part in Plantation's spring practice. Although doctors have given him a solid timetable, the state's top running back appears well ahead of schedule.

"I'm doing some running right now," he said. "I've been lifting weights since day one. I didn't get out of the weight room even when I was hurt. I'm always lifting."

Because he still has two years before he ultimately has to decide where to go to school, Michel is taking the recruiting process slow while still doing his homework.

"I get a lot of interest from the Florida schools," he said. "I'm looking for a great program. I want a good head coach and coaching staff, especially the running backs coach since I'm going to spend a lot of time with him. Also the atmosphere."

With a bit of free time during the summer, Michel might take a few unofficial visits but is undecided as to where. He's leaning on a few of the upperclassmen who have committed to major programs to help guide him over the next few years.

"I ask for some people's opinions," he said. "I also ask for people that go to school there what their opinion is. I ask how they like it and stuff like that."

Michel mentioned that he grew up a Miami fan and has already visited the hometown program a few times and seen several games.

A few other standouts

Miami (Fla.) linebacker Wendell Dunn, Pompano Beach (Fla.) wide receiver Devante Peete, Winter Garden (Fla.) defensive back Roman Tatum, Opa Locka (Fla.) defensive back Anthony Walker Jr.


Posted on: June 21, 2011 11:22 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 11:27 pm
 

Heath Evans 7-on-7 Notebook

Posted by Bryan Fischer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Plenty of top players from high school teams all over the state of Florida were in action this past weekend at the 6<sup>th</sup> Annual Heath Evans Foundation 7-on-7 Tournament. Featuring two teams from MaxPreps' Preseason Top 25 for 2011 and several members from Tom Lemming's Top 100 for 2012, the fields at the King's Academy were filled with fast paced action and plenty of scoring.

One of the standouts was Tampa (Fla.) wide receiver Austin Aikens, who helped propel his team to the title and was one of the top players at the event.

"It felt real good,” Aikens said on Saturday. “I was out there making plays my team needed during the clutch."

While Plant High ended up taking the taking the title for the first time, it was just as satisfying toppling last year's state champion St. Thomas Aquinas, which beat Plant for the championship last fall. Aikens knows, however, that beating Aquinas in the summer is a different matter from beating them in the fall and he's trying to step his game up as a result.

"I'm looking to gain some more weight and polish off my route running and catching skills that I've got as a receiver so I can help my team,” he said. “We're pretty much getting there, we're starting to gel together and become one team and know what each other is thinking. Players are starting to step up when we need them to step up."

Events like Heath Evans are designed not only to give players an outlet to compete but also to showcase their skills. With the spring evaluation period over and the summer camp schedule picking up, Aikens already holds several scholarship offers and is starting to see plenty of attention from college coaches.

"It's going good,” he said. “I have offers from Missouri, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, Western Kentucky, Temple, Boston College. So it's going pretty well for me. I'm still wide open."

While the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is still sorting out his offer list, he maintains he'll likely make a decision after the football season is over. He recently took an unofficial visit to several schools in North Carolina and could be leaning towards heading out of state for college.

"About four weeks ago I went up and visited Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest,” Aikens said. “It was good, I really liked North Carolina's campus and facilities. North Carolina has some interest in me too."

Bauta shines in race to become starter

Palm Beach (Fla.) athlete Faton Bauta is trying to shed the label of “athlete” and get people used to calling him a quarterback. The dual-threat signal caller certainly impressed on the field during the tournament, showing off a strong arm and hitting some tight windows on some of his throws. The transfer from New York is not assured of the starting job just yet so the extra time with his teammates leading up to the season was crucial to developing some chemistry before the pads come on in August.

"It's going very well just being out here with them and competing with them,” Bauta said. “I like the way these guys play and I enjoy throwing the ball to them.

"I usually throw with them a lot on weekends or whenever we get the chance during the week. But out here, it's definitely good to work on the timing, there's more real game situations because you have
defenders."

Dwyer High, ranked 17<sup>th</sup> in the country by MaxPreps, is breaking in several new players into the mix and face the added challenge of moving into a new classification this season. Bauta knows the team needs to gel in the offseason if they want to go from good to great during the regular season.

"We look great but obviously we have a lot to work on,” he said. “We're working towards perfection and we still have a lot of work to do but hopefully we'll be a great team this season. Hopefully we'll win that state championship."

Bauta already holds offers from Alabama, Louisville, Miami and West Virginia among others and a few recent unofficial visits netted him some more.

"Georgia and UCF, that's about it,” he said. “(Georgia) was huge, I went on a pretty big SEC tour and went there and threw for them. They like be a lot and they offered me, I sat down with coach (Mark) Richt and he's a great guy. All of the coaches were great. They're a great school and have top of the line everything. It was great to go out there and see what they're all about."

While several schools continue to recruit Bauta as an athlete, he's a quarterback at heart and that's what he wants to play at the next level.

“That's why I went on the tour, just to show these guys I can throw the ball,” he said. “Hopefully I can show the guys out here that I can throw the ball."

Bauta participated at the Florida State camp on Sunday after wrapping up things in Palm Beach at the Heath Evans tournament. While he doesn't have an offer from the Seminoles at the moment, it's possible they could break into his recruiting with one. Right now however, he's starting to narrow down his list based on a few of his big offers.

"I have a top seven and if you looked at the offers I have, you'd be able to figure it out,” Bauta said. “I'm really just keeping my options open right now in case something pops up with a school. I'm just seeing who likes me and who has the best chance of winning and having the most success during the four years I'm there. I want to get the best connection to the coaches and the players."

Howard makes plays on both sides of the ball

Cornerback Tracey Howard of Miramar (Fla.) knows he doesn't have much left to prove after a stellar junior year and a very good offseason on the all-star travel team South Florida Express. But there he was out in the heat, running routes on offense and playing receivers tight on defense.

"I think it's good because I'm out here with my team rather than as an individual,” Howard said. “I'm on my team getting better, developing chemistry on my team is a good feeling."

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound corner is working on getting stronger in the offseason and wants to improve his tackling before the season begins. At the same time he's looking to get better as an individual, Howard constantly has to fight off college recruiters looking to land his services.

"It's picking up,” he said. “It's getting kind of crazy right now but I try to stay humble about it and stay focused about it. I get help from my coaches and my family.

"I'm just staying open with the process. I won't say I have a long time to think about it like a year but I'm just trying to stay open.”

Howard plans on visiting Miami and Florida State soon and has already visited the other in-state power, Florida, for a spring practice. He plans on committing during the middle of the season or on Signing Day, depending on how his visits work out and if he's comfortable with a certain school. In the mean time, he's just doing what's asked of him to help his team win.

"It was good to play some receiver and make plays for my team,” Howard said. “I don't really play offense but I'm out here with my team having fun."

Notes

- One of the underclassmen who had an intriguing blend of size and speed was Tampa (Fla.) linebacker Paris Bostick of Plant High. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder looks like a big safety but he could continue to grow into an outside linebacker. Schools are already interested with him playing safety and while he doesn't have any offers yet, is looking to have a big season after concentrating on getting better this offseason.

"Just get faster and bigger,” Bostick said. “I'm in the weight room a lot with the team but I like to work harder than everybody else. I see people trying to up their game so I'm going to try and up my game more than them and keep my head on and not get into any trouble."

- Virginia Tech commit Donaldven Manning was sporting his future college's logos on some eye black.

- Booker T. Washington was a team full of underclassmen who impressed. They made it to the championship game against Plant but fell just short. Former Miami director of football operations “IceHarris is the head coach at the school now.

Posted on: May 3, 2011 3:22 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 3:39 pm
 

Alabama Badger Sports 7-on-7 Notebook

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."

Notes

- 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.

Posted on: March 16, 2011 7:42 pm
 

South Florida Express Highlights from USF

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Several of the top players' highlights from the USF Badger Sports 7-on-7 tournament have already been posted on the blog but we also shot some highlights of elite travel team South Florida Express. The all-star team has some of the top talent from the Miami area and they finished as the runner up after losing a close game in the final.



Posted on: March 13, 2011 7:04 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2011 7:05 pm
 

USF Badger Sports 7-on-7 ends in upset

Posted by Bryan Fischer

TAMPA, Fla. - You could tell how happy the Footballers Fire team was to win the Badger Sports Elite 7-on-7 tournament when the players kept asking when they would head to California for the national 7-on-7 finals.

And kept asking 30 minutes after the field cleared. And probably asked a few more times on the ride home.

The Footballers Fire had extra motivation to upset all-star team and number two overall seed South Florida Express. After holding an open try out in Miami for the team, many of the top players who were not chosen were selected to play with the Fire.

"We're a first year team and coming in and beating the defending champions is great," said Pompano Beach (Fla.) cornerback Adrian Burton. "They said we were rejects from their team and we showed them that we're just as good. I say we're better because we beat them."

"We just wanted to win," Plantation (Fla.) athlete Deshawn Lindsay said. "I came in to this game ready to play my heart out and give it everything. I was hoping we'd beat South Florida Express. I went to their tryout and didn't make their team. I was grateful to be picked up by Footballers Fire."

Footballers Fire and South Florida Express played each other in the very first game of the event on Saturday, with the Express pulling out a close game. The rematch in the title game had a key difference however, a more focused and expereinced team taking on the top dog.

"It kind of woke us up," Burton said of the first game. "We talked and said you might beat us once but you're not going to beat us twice. We were a lot more confident this game. The first game I felt we should have won too because we only lost 18-13. It was the first game (in the tournament) so we still had to get our jitters out."

In the end though, it was the repetitions and hard work the team put in before the the tournament that several players credited as the reason they were hoisting the Badger Sports Trophy.

"We practiced every other day for this," Lindsay said. "We just did our thing out here."

Posted on: March 13, 2011 7:06 am
 

Elite 11/Badger Sports 7-on-7 Notebook

Posted by Bryan Fischer

TAMPA, Fla. - To play against a team of all-stars, bringing your “A game” is a must. Sometimes, even an “A+ game” isn’t enough.

Such was the case at the Badger Sports Elite 7-on-7 tournament Saturday night. Despite several terrific - some would even say ridiculous - catches by Citra (Fla.) tight end Sean Price, Team Showtime narrowly lost to all-star travel team South Florida Express in one of the most exciting games in day one round-robin play.

Price nearly pulled off the upset single-handedly, slightly misjudging a deep pass that would have given Showtime a two-score advantage late in the game. Though he didn’t make that play, the talented tight end used it as motivation.

“I’m used to making plays, that’s nothing new,” Price said. “On the last play, I felt kind of disappointed in myself though because I kind of underestimated the ball and what was going to happen. I can’t hold my head on it, it happens. I just have to play better the next game.

The 6-foot-4, 210 pound Price put on a show for much of the evening, bringing down several one-handed catches and showing off his vertical leap by out-jumping more athletic defensive backs. His best quality was the ability to attack the ball in the air and snatch it away from just about everybody. Though the Showtime team was at times relying exclusively on Price for offense, the young tight end said the team was starting to gel as the night progressed.

“We just started and have only had a few practices,” Price said. “End of the night, we’re starting to get our swag and chemistry up. Things started to click. We know we’re just as good as that team and one of the best out here.”

Price and Team Tampa/Land O’Lakes (Fla.) tight end Kent Taylor were both impressive at the position and will likely battle for the title of best in the state at the position throughout the upcoming season. Price already holds scholarship offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Florida State and others.

“Recent offers are Tennessee, Clemson, LSU, Miami and USF,” he said. “Most are looking at me on offense at tight end. A few have said I could play at defensive end if I want to because I play that in high school too.”

Given Price’s frame, adding weight and playing linebacker at the next level could be something for college coaches to consider, especially considering how well he moved in coverage in limited time on defense during the competition. With multiple schools after his services, Price plans on committing after his senior season and has already scheduled an unofficial visit to Miami next week to give a close look at one of his favorites.

“My top four would be Florida, USF, Miami and possibly Alabama,” he said. “I’m going to go wherever they give me love. If it’s out of state, doesn’t matter, I’ll go there too.”

Fuller tries his hand at safety

Another player who caught the eye of several observers with stellar play Saturday was Fort Myers (Fla.) linebacker/safety Tajarvis Fuller. Playing at both linebacker and safety, the junior used the Badger Sports 7-on-7 competition to adjust to his new position in the secondary after playing mostly linebacker in high school.

“I’m working on trying to be a better safety,” Fuller said. “All of the colleges recruiting me are recruiting me as a strong safety. I’ve never played it before so I’m working on my feet, turning my hips and getting my body right. I just want to show everybody that I’m capable of playing the safety position and showing them what I’m capable of doing.”

The 6-foot-2, 185 pound athlete displayed good quickness but was timid at times while in coverage. Thin for a linebacker, Fuller readily admitted that he would try to add some weight despite changing positions.

“I’ll be playing safety in the spring,” he said. “I still want to get bigger and bulk up 10, 15 pounds. I don’t want to get up to like 230 though.”

Holding scholarship offers from Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, UCF and UCLA, Fuller wore a Miami hat most of the afternoon and did not shy away from expressing his excitement over his most recent offer from the Hurricanes.

“We went down there last Saturday and again on Thursday,” he said. “That’s two times in one week and we talked with Coach (Al) Golden and (defensive backs coach Paul Williams). I was really excited about it. We went down there for the first spring practice.

“Illinois is recruiting me very, very heavily. Top five, Miami is number one, Clemson number two. Alabama is number three but I don’t have an offer. Georgia Tech maybe and then Illinois.”

Although Miami is firmly in the lead, Fuller’s recruitment also has one other factor that will have an effect on where he plays college football.

“Me and Christian Brown, a defensive tackle at my school, we’re going to go to the same college,” Fuller said. “The plan is to commit, maybe, after spring or right at the beginning of the fall.”

Brown’s offer list doesn’t quite match up with Fuller’s but the two do share several offers and both figure to pick up several more over the next few months.

Crow solid throwing and in commitment

The Elite 11 competition in Orlando featured a spirited competition among many of the top quarterbacks from the region and Miami commit Gray Crow was one of several that stood out from the pack. Although he might not have been the top guy at the event, he did turn in a solid performance even if he thought it wasn’t that great.

“Personally, I’m a perfectionist, so I felt like I left a little out here,” Crow said. “I felt like I could have done better. I’m going to take these drills I learned out here and use them to try and improve every single time I put my cleats on.”

Though several schools have reached out and continued to recruit him, Crow remains firmly committed to the Hurricanes for a number of reasons.

“It was my favorite school as a little kid and the combination of academics and the relationship with Coach (Jedd) Fisch and Coach Golden,” he said. “The type of people they are, match my personality. I really like that and having a pro-style offense. Then you get to play at a school like Miami also.”

“I’m set on Miami, no doubt about it.”

The Clearwater (Fla.) product recently traveled down to see Miami go through spring practice and was impressed with the new direction of the program under Golden.

“The practices are very different, very fast paced,” Crow said. “He just brings the attitude that we want to win. He has very good character like myself and he’s going in there and picking everybody back up.”

News and notes

- In addition to Crow and the other quarterbacks mentioned in an earlier update, Tampa (Fla.) quarterback Greg Windham stood out. Earning a coveted yellow jersey as one of the most accurate passers, Windham was very fluid when throwing the ball and has decent size at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.

- Orlando (Fla.) quarterback Nick Patti surprised with a great arm despite being about 5-foot-10. A quick release and an accurate arm normally gets attention at Elite 11 competitions and Patti earned a yellow jersey as well on top of being named one of the best at the event. The only knock seems to be his height but he is a player and showed his competitiveness off at the event. He was scheduled to throw at the Badger Sports 7-on-7 later in the day but pulled a muscle according to the Orlando Sentinel.

- Class of 2013 quarterback Akeem Jones displayed a cannon of an arm in both events Saturday. He has great size at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and gets the ball to the receiver in a hurry. Jones is still raw as a passer but making the elite travel team as a sophomore is an indication of just how talented he is. He might end up playing wide receiver in college but he’s got a good head on his shoulders and a great work ethic so it wouldn’t be too surprising if he ended up getting a shot to play quarterback first.

- Former Colorado coach Dan Hawkins is an instructor at the Elite 11 this year. The always enthusiastic Hawkins said he will be attending several spring practices, starting with BYU next week, and instructing at the Elite 11 camps on the weekend. His son, former Colorado quarterback and Elite 11 counselor Cody Hawkins, is in Sweden preparing to play quarterback for a team there.

- Teams from South Florida dominated the Badger Sports event, with three going undefeated in round-robin play. Elite travel team South Florida Express went a perfect 4-0 and had an unbelievable collection of talent at wide receiver, led by LSU commit Avery Johnson and Herb Waters. The South Florida Blur were led by several good performances from wide out Jamie Wilson.

- Florida commit Matt Jones did not play with an undisclosed injury.

- Orlando (Fla.) defensive back Ty Law said he recently picked up offers from N.C. State and West Virginia.

Posted on: February 24, 2011 9:37 am
 

2/24 Recruiting Roundup

Posted by Bryan Fischer

- West Virginia has extended an offer to 2012 linebacker Josh Witt.

- Offers are going out for select 2013 guys and South Florida Express cornerback Sojourn Shelton has offers from Florida and Florida State.

-Detroit (Mich.) wide receiver Ron Thompson was one of the stars the Best of the Midwest event at Michigan.

- Southern California offensive tackle Cyrus Cyburt has picked up a Colorado offer.

- Texas is not the only Big 12 school to get a head start on their 2012 class.

- Despite an NCAA investigation circling around the program, North Carolina's brought in a very good class of 2011. 
Posted on: February 21, 2011 12:48 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2011 1:11 pm
 

Miami Nike Combine/Ft. Lauderdale NUC Notebook

Posted by Bryan Fischer

FORT LAUDERDALE - Once again, the South Florida region continues to amaze with the sheer amount of skill position talent available. Although it’s a particularly good year for Florida linemen, several unknown skill position players from the region jumped into the spotlight after the Nike Sparq Combine in Miami on Saturday and the National Underclassman Combine (NUC) in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

Coming from out of nowhere, outside linebacker Justin Horton posted the best Sparq score in the nation on Saturday with a 115.95. The Clermont (Fla.) defender ran a 4.58 in the 40 yard dash at 6-foot-2, 207 pounds and was easily the talk of the combine.

“I had gone to a previous combine and I just wanted to come out here and grab a better score,” Horton said. “I didn’t think much of it until I came over and everybody started getting excited. I really didn’t know what to expect today.”

The impressive Sparq score is an indicator of Horton’s athleticism and he certainly looks the part of an outside linebacker at the next level. Although he played mostly at defensive end last year, he racked up 65 tackles and hopes to have an even bigger season in 2011 by playing some linebacker. With only a little interest from schools such as Louisville and USF, expect coaches from around the South to be asking for Horton’s highlight tape this week.

Coral Springs (Fla.) defensive end/linebacker Cameron Smith posted a slightly lower 94.50 Sparq score but certainly looked the part of a Division I player. Although he doesn’t have any offers, several schools are showing interest.

“I want to play (defensive) end,” he said. “Most schools are looking at me as defensive end or outside linebacker. I’ve got a couple of letters, a lot actually, from Boston College. I’ve had some from Iowa State, USF, awhile ago I had some from Miami, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Duke.”

Smith displayed nice side-to-side movement and after racking up double-digit sacks as a junior, could be primed for a breakout senior year if the combine is any indication.

Jones impresses

Sophomore quarterback Akeem Jones stood out from the crowd of skill position players on both Saturday and Sunday. Already receiving interest from the likes Miami, Florida State, Florida and Rutgers, Jones has been a hot name in recruiting circles after making the 7-on-7 travel team South Florida Express two weeks ago.

Recording an 81.12 Sparq score at the Nike Combine, the 6-foot-3, 190 pound Jones showed off his arm at the NUC, throwing a very catchable ball with good accuracy on short to intermediate throws. Jones didn’t play much during the season due to injury so he’s using camps over the summer to get better on the field for his upcoming season.

“I got hurt the fourth game of the season, broke my ankle in three places. I wasn’t able to play the rest of the season,” Jones said. “Right now my mindset is I just want to win a state championship. I want to get my team to that next level and see how I’m going to lead them there. I want people to say, ‘look at how he set an example for a lot of kids.’ That’s my goal.”

Jones looks like a taller version of former Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor with his throwing motion and strong arm. He won the NUC Leadership Award and was almost like another coach on the field by helping out his receivers and correcting their alignment on plays during the one-on-one portion of the combine. Expect to keep hearing Jones’ name as he travels around the country to other camps and competitions.

Speed is the name of the game

South Florida produces some of the fastest players in the country and both camps had two players turn in blazing 40 yard dash times.

At the NUC combine, Hollandale (Fla.) running back Jared Sanders blazed a 4.37 and 4.40 (hand-timed) in the 40 yard dash to grab the fastest man award. A bit small at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Sanders could be a slot receiver in college despite playing running back in high school. He was a terror to cover in one-on-one drills and had better hands than most, if not all, the wide receivers competing.

Sanders has had some interest from Miami, Illinois and FIU and could see even more schools start to take a look as the summer goes on.

Miami (Fla.) receiver John Green was the fastest man at the Nike camp, running a 4.46 (electronically-timed) 40 yard dash, which was the fastest time in the nation among all Nike combines this year.

“My fastest 40 is a 4.33,” he said. “I play slot receiver, kick returner and this year I’ll be the starting safety.”

Also a track star, Green has no offers but is being shown interest from coaches at Florida State, Kansas, Kansas State and Duke but says he hopes to hear from Miami soon. He plans on attending camps at Florida State and Kansas among others.

Burton takes Overall MVP award at NUC

2012 cornerback Adrian Burton attended both combines and made his name known at both of them. Posting a 98.46 Sparq rating at the Nike combine, Burton was hampered by a bit of fatigue from being in the sun all day and still managed to run a 4.67 in the 40 yard dash. He did much better on Sunday at the NUC, running a 4.51 and showing off impressive coverage skills in one-on-ones.

“It felt good to come out here after recovering and show that I am a D-1 prospect,” Burton said.

Burton was very fluid and excelled in press coverage against the top competition at the NUC. He took home Overall MVP honors and is seeing his recruiting pick up as of late. In-state programs like Florida and Florida State have shown interest but Miami is recruiting Burton the hardest. He recently went to the Hurricanes’ Junior Day and expects an offer to come from the staff shortly.

“I went to the one versus North Carolina,” Burton said. “I loved it, it felt just like home. Coach (Al) Golden is a real good coach, he’s really interactive with the players. I feel real comfortable there.”

As one of the top corners in Miami, expect to keep hearing Burton’s name pop up during the summer.

NUC Awards

2012 Quarterback MVP: Chase Bender from Cardinal Gibbons HS.
Running back MVP: Bo Ellis, a 2013 running back from Miami Gulliver Prep who ran a 4.57 in the 40 yard dash.
Defensive back MVP: Deshawd Tucker from Hollandale HS, he has interest from Miami, Oregon, Wisconsin and FIU but no offers at this time.
Wide Receiver MVP: Davaunte Robbins, who ran a 4.55 40 yard dash.
Combine King and Fastest Man: Jared Sanders.
Overall MVP: Adrian Burton.

Top Nike Sparq Scores

Top Sparq Rating: Justin Horton
Top 40 Yard Dash: John Green
Top Vertical Jump: Billy Crook (QB, Naples, Fla.)
Top Agility Shuttle: Kevon Caffey (RB, Miami, Fla.) 
Top Power Ball Toss: Pedro Sibiea (DE, Homestead, Fla.)
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com