Florida among nation's top talent producers

Originally Published: August 25, 2008
ESPNRISE.com

Which state annually produces the best high school football? ESPN Rise's editors have pared the field down to eight states. It's up to you to decide which is the last state standing.

 

Great State Debate

The Great State Debate poses a simple question: What state has the best high school football? We've edited the field down to eight. Check out our picks:

No. 1 seed Texas
No. 2 seed Florida
No. 3 seed California
No. 4 seed Ohio
No. 5 seed Pennsylvania
No. 6 seed Georgia
No. 7 seed Louisiana
No. 8 seed Virginia

Agree? Disagree? Join the debate.

No. 2 seed Florida

Population: 18.3 million

Number of high schools playing football: 700

Pro Football Hall of Famers: Five, including OL Larry Little, LB Ted Hendricks, WR Michael Irvin., DL Deacon Jones, DL Jack Youngblood. ( Editor's note: RB Emmitt Smith and DB Deion Sanders not yet eligible).

Heisman Trophy winners: Two: Tim Tebow last year, and Danny Wuerffel.

Top current NFL alums: LB Ray Lewis, DB Antonio Cromartie, KR-WR Devin Hester, RB Clinton Portis, WR Chad Johnson, RB Edgerrin James.

Great schools: Lakeland (2006 FAB 50 national champion won sixth state title and Dreadnaughts won 53 straight games); St. Thomas Aquinas of Ft. Lauderdale (state's top all-sports program has football stadium named for Chicago Bears' great Brian Piccolo); Bolles School of Jacksonville (Corky Rogers is state's all-time winningest coach); Miami Northwestern (2007 FAB 50 national champion beat top Texas team on the road).

Points of greatness:
• Talented is the word that best describes Florida's teams. Despite having half as many residents as California, Florida ranks higher than both California and Texas for players produced per capita on both the college and pro levels.

• High school spring football practice means teams get 20 practices plus one game in May. The extra workouts mean continued development and allow college recruiters a sneak peek.

• Florida players and fans are all about bragging rights and will show up and compete anywhere, anytime to prove to anyone that their state is the best.

• In the past 24 years of college football, 38 percent of the national titles have gone to Florida teams (Miami, FSU and Florida) that are predominantly fueled by Florida high school products.

• If Miami and FSU have fallen off the national radar in the past five years, blame the recruiters, who have poached the top Florida players for schools like Georgia, West Virginia, Clemson, Auburn and Illinois. Florida has placed at least one player on 22 of the preseason top 25 rosters, the best number for any state.

• Pound for pound, no state is as geographically balanced, with fewer deadspots, as Florida. While Dade and Broward Counties in the Southeast get most of the attention nationally, talent and great football is played in every corner of the state, from the Panhandle across through Tallahassee to Jacksonville in the north, down through Daytona Beach, Orlando and Tampa.

• Organized high school football in Florida hasn't put up as many Heisman winners and Hall of Famers, but due to the later start of organized high school football in the state, those numbers are bound to explode in the next 10-15 years. No state can match the seemingly surefire NFL Hall of Fame list Florida has going currently with names like Emmitt Smith, Ray Lewis, Warren Sapp, Edgerrin James, Derrick Brooks, Deion Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Isaac Bruce, Devin Hester and more.