The pressure is on and wide receiver LaTroy Pittman (Citra, Fla./North Marion) is definitely feeling it.
The Southeast is the only region to win a Gridiron Kings event. In 2009 it was current UCF quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey and West Virginia wide receiver Ivan McCartney leading the Southeast to a close win.
Last year, a stacked Southeast squad led by Nick O'Leary, Karlos Williams and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix steamrolled the competition and was only seriously challenged by its own expectations of dominance.
Now it's time for Pittman, Randy "Duke" Johnson (Miami/Norland), Travis Blanks (Tallahassee, Fla./North Florida Christian), Chris Bivins (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) and the rest of the 16-man squad to keep the streak alive.
"I think a lot of people are sleeping on the Southeast team this year for whatever reason," Pittman said. "They probably think this is their year to make it happen but we are going to win.
"We have to win."
This is where Gridiron Kings differs from The Opening. During the early July event teams were selected via draft and the players had little time to figure out how to complement each other's skill sets.
Gridiron Kings is about regional supremacy, and there are plenty of familiar faces. Pittman and USF commit TE Sean Price have been high school teammates for several years. They also have teamed up with Bivins and P.J. Williams (Ocala, Fla./Vanguard) in some of the all-star 7-on-7 events.
Johnson and linebacker Keith Brown are teammates at Miami Norland and both are committed to the Miami Hurricanes. Wide receivers Angelo Jean-Louis (Wellington, Fla./Palm Beach Central) and Jamie Wilson (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Central) were teammates on the 7-on-7 South Florida Blur team.
"There are a lot of familiar faces and I think we have a good idea about each other's games," Pittman said. "It's going to be comfortable on offense with Sean because I know what he's going to do and he knows my game."
Still Pittman, a Florida commit, looks beyond the competition and is excited to be participating in another national showcase.
"Between this and The Opening it's just been a great experience and a blessing, to be honest," Pittman said. "It's really an honor to be part of these events and meet other student-athletes from other parts of the country.
"It's a lot of fun to share those moments and really it's nice that there are people that will put on events like these for high school athletes. It's all positive, and even though the competition is fierce, once the whistle blows, it's a lot of fun."
Pittman paused for a second then busted out in laughter.
"We've got to win man ... it's time to show these people what's up," Pittman said.
Young linemen shine at FSU camp
Thursday afternoon's session at the Jimbo Fisher Football Camp featured a strong group of defensive linemen from the Class of 2013.
Demarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) said he's up to 6-foot-3, 248 pounds and looked explosive and powerful on every drill.
"I really enjoyed the coaches and the intensity of each drill," Walker said. "I feel like I performed well."
Defensive tackle Keith Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./Atlantic) has been coming to the FSU camps for a few years now, and each time his improvement is marked.
"I love working with Coach [Odell] Haggins because he'll stay on me and really make sure that I finish each drill," Bryant said. "When I first started coming here before I was a freshman, I had a hard time, but every year he tells me I'm getting better."
Another junior prospect to keep an eye on is defensive end Joey Bosa (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), who should have a strong senior year lined up next to Miami commit Jelani Hamilton.
• Massive offensive lineman Jordan Swindle (St. Augustine, Fla./Creekside) has added West Virginia to his top group of schools after a recent visit. The 6-7, 301-pounder has previously stated Kentucky and Louisville as his leaders.
• Defensive tackle Teko Powell (Miami/Norland) has been at FSU the last few days, and word got around his very soft commitment to Louisville is now officially a noncommitment.
• Class of 2013 wide receiver Richard Benjamin (Tampa, Fla./Middleton) said via Twitter that his top schools are (in order) Miami, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, FSU and South Florida.
• People have asked about Derrick Henry's (Yulee, Fla./Yulee) commitment to Georgia last week, and I have to admit it was a surprise, given how much Henry talked about Florida during The Opening. His recruitment is far from over.
Hey Richard, thanks for the question. I definitely worry a little about Taylor's workload as he approaches his last two seasons. He had over 130 carries last year in the postseason and he doesn't shy away from contact, either. Bryant is physically as impressive as it gets for a running back. He looks as though he could play in college right now. While I wouldn't be shocked if Bryant has a better college career, I'll give a slight nod to Taylor because he has been producing for several years.
Hey Corey, with Storm Johnson transferring to UCF will the Hurricanes look for another running back?
Freddy Marc, Homestead, Fla.
Hey Freddy, I think the Hurricanes would be open to taking another back if a big name fell into their lap. Otherwise the coaching staff has told a few players it is happy with just bringing in Duke Johnson.
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at email@example.com.