Wednesday, May 14, 2014
States of strength: Florida athletes
By Derek Tyson
The state of Florida has always been known for producing some of the top athletes in the country. The term "athlete" is sometimes looked at as a negative term, but it really means our scouts believe these talented prospects could play more than one position in college. Here is a closer look at some of the top athletes from the Sunshine State in the 2015 class.
No. 8 Torrance Gibson: Gibson is a skilled athlete who can make plays on offense. The five-star athlete led his high school, Plantation American Heritage, to the state championship game. In the game, he had a touchdown run of 80 yards and also a long touchdown pass that was among the "SportsCenter" Top 10 plays. He wants to play quarterback on the next level, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on his South Florida Express 7-on-7 team. Whatever position he chooses, Gibson has a bright future ahead of him.
Versatility is a strength for Auburn pledge D'Anfernee McGriff.
No. 11 George Campbell: Like Gibson, Campbell's combination of size, speed and ridiculous athleticism make him a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. On his Tarpon Springs East Lake team, Campbell plays receiver, safety and even some defensive end, and he excels at all of the positions. Though he’ll likely end up at wide receiver on the next level, Campbell has the ability to play a few positions.
No. 57 Deon Cain: Cain plays quarterback for Tampa Bay Tech and is a true playmaker for his team. He has good passing skills, but his elusiveness and smooth route-running make him a prime candidate to move to receiver in college. Cain has shot up the rankings this spring with strong performances at several different events.
No. 167 Jaquan Johnson: Johnson plays cornerback and wide receiver for Miami Killian and could play either position on the next level. His tenacity on defense and propensity to cause turnovers make him a likely candidate to stay on the defensive side of the ball. Whatever he decides to do in college, his superior athletic ability will help him make a smooth transition.
No. 205 D’Anfernee McGriff: McGriff, an Auburn commit, has ideal size (6 feet, 228 pounds) to play several positions, including running back, linebacker, safety and H-back. He is used primarily as a Wildcat quarterback in his high school offense. His skills in a Gus Malzahn offense could be scary for the rest of the SEC.
No. 232 Ray-Ray McCloud: At 5-foot-10 and 178 pounds, McCloud doesn’t have ideal size, but what he lacks in bulk he makes up for in playmaking ability. He is an electric running back for Sickles High in Tampa and a dynamic cornerback who excels in man-to-man coverage. Florida and Clemson appear to be the top two schools battling over McCloud, and some school will be lucky to have him.
No. 261 Jaylin Hayward: Like McCloud, Hayward doesn’t have ideal size, but he has natural playmaking abilities. He plays receiver, running back and defensive back for his high school and could play any of those positions on the next level. Hayward has offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State and LSU, among others.
No. 266 Ryan Davis: Davis plays quarterback for his high school, but at 5-10 and 157 pounds he will most certainly change positions on the next level -- likely to slot receiver or defensive back. Davis has performed well in camps at receiver, and that is likely where he will end up. Davis has multiple offers, including from Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Ole Miss and Nebraska.
No. 268 Jordan Cronkrite: This Miami commit plays running back and safety for his high school team. At 5-11 and 200 pounds, he has ideal size to play either position in college. The Hurricanes are recruiting Cronkite as a running back. He could be a nice change-of-pace runner for Miami, which also has Joseph Yearby, one of the most electric backs in the 2014 class.
Other athletes to know
Tim Irvin: A cousin of Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, he plays wide receiver and cornerback for Westminster Christian in Palmetto. He has offers from Arkansas, Florida, Florida State and Cincinnati.
Von Davis: This four-star recruit plays both wide receiver and defensive back in high school. At 5-11 and 171 pounds, he has good size to play either position in college. Davis has offers from Arizona, Kentucky, Louisville and Wisconsin, among others.
Javarius Davis: Davis plays running back and defensive back for Ed White High School in Jacksonville, but he will likely play cornerback on the next level because of his size (5-9, 173 pounds). Davis has offers from Georgia Tech, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois and many others.
Key recruiting battles
Gibson recently released a top 15, which included a top five of Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Ohio State and Clemson. The South Florida native said he’s about 85 percent sure he will leave the state of Florida for college. His strong desire to play quarterback is a big reason the schools listed in his top five are there. Other than LSU, all of the schools in his top five run spread offenses that use the quarterback in multiple ways. If he decides to play receiver in college, his list of schools could change.
Campbell hasn’t released a list of top schools after backing off his pledge to Michigan several months ago. He continues to mention schools such as Florida, Alabama, Florida State, Clemson, Auburn, Georgia and LSU. All of these schools could utilize his talents on offense, and the five-star athlete will make his decision at the Under Armour All-America game.
School that needs a 2015 athlete
Tennessee coach Butch Jones has done a remarkable job of recruiting in his short time in Knoxville, but to compete with schools like Alabama, Georgia and Florida year in and year out, the Vols could use more athletes. Landing a prospect like Gibson would certainly grab the attention of recruits. From the facilities to the academics to the coaching staff, Tennessee looks to have everything in place to do well in recruiting. Having success on the field could take the Vols' recruiting to another level and help the them land several more athletes in the future.
At 6-2 and 200 pounds, Byrd already has the size to play wide receiver or defensive back at the next level. Byrd has been committed to Florida for almost a year. He has excelled at wide receiver for his high school team, but he has also done very well at cornerback in some of the big events during the spring, including at the Miami Nike Football Training Camp. Where he ends up playing on the field could depend on just how big he gets.