SEFFNER, Fla. -- With the quarterbacks in the state of Florida thought to be solid but not spectacular, it was important for someone to emerge.
After Sunday's impressive passing display at the Tampa Elite Scouting Services combine at Armwood High School, it appears that guy could be Plant City (Fla.) High School's Bennie Coney.
There has been little question of Coney's talent. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is a gifted natural athlete. But after a fallout with Plant City coach Wayne Ward ended Coney's junior season early, he has had to carry about a label of being a potential disciplinary problem.
Coney hears the criticism and although Ward says he's happy with the progress his quarterback has made in the last six months, Coney still feels the need to prove that he's not the person people think he is based on reports from last season.
"This offseason means a lot to me and I'm coming out here with a chip on my shoulder," Coney said. "People think this and that but they don't know the real me. So I'm just out here to prove to everyone that I'm a good kid but I was in a maturing stage. I could have done things a different way but I did things the way I did and I had to pay for it. I'm over it now and I'm ready to move on."
Coney has had an extremely busy schedule during the offseason and it will continue up until spring football. He will be in Miami on Friday and in Tallahassee for the Nike camp on Sunday. He does have a social life, however, and that will keep him from attending the Florida State spring game Saturday.
"I have prom Saturday but I'm going to FSU on Sunday so I'll be able to talk to them," Coney added.
Louisville has been Coney's most recent offer but the Seminoles, Notre Dame, Michigan, Cincinnati and LSU are his top five schools. He's going to try to make his official visits this summer.
"I'd like to take my officials and commit before the season if I can," Coney said. "I'd love to have everything set up."
Dees eyes new offers
After spending much of the camp season on the sidelines with a broken bone in his right foot, offensive lineman Cameron Dees (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) has finally chucked the crutches and is ready for action.
The 6-1, 275-pounder showed he was no stranger to the weight room when he did 30 reps on the 185-pound bench press.
Western Michigan, Ohio and Florida International have already offered and more schools appear to be on the verge but they would like to see Dees go through a healthy spring first.
"Some of the bigger schools are interesting but they have cold feet because of the injury," Dees said. "But I'm feeling good going into spring football and I know this is a real important evaluation period for me."
Dees said he's been walking on his foot for about a week and a half and would consider himself at 100 percent for the spring.
He will be joining teammates Cody Waldrop, Kevin McCoy and assistant coach Evan Davis on trips to South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati next week on spring break.
"I believe Cincinnati is going to be the next school to jump on," Dees added. "I talk to Coach [Jahmile] Addae quite a bit and he's from this area so he's very familiar with me and our program."
McCord enjoys time at Florida
A day after attending Florida's spring game, Tyriq McCord (Tampa, Fla./Jefferson) was back at it on the camp circuit and competing hard with his good friend Dante Fowler (St. Petersburg, Fla./Lakewood), a FSU commit.
"I love going against Dante in everything," McCord said. "He's big time and I'm big time so we go out there to see who the biggest man is on that day."
McCord's visit to Florida was the second for the 6-3, 240-pounder.
"It was a pretty awesome experience, it was hot though," McCord said. "I fell in love with the campus the first time I saw it and I had a lot of fun there on my second visit. I want to go to a real game because this was just a spring game. I want to feel the vibe of a real game day."
The Gators are recruiting McCord as an outside linebacker and are one of around 30 major programs eyeing McCord.
"If I did have a top list, Florida would be in the top for sure," McCord said. "I really don't have a top list, I know Florida is in the lead but I still have time and I have places I need to see. I'm definitely going to see South Carolina."
McCord says his trip to South Carolina and any future trips will happen after spring football.
Doing their part
Miami signee and 2011 Under Armour All-America Game MVP Anthony Chickillo (Tampa, Fla./Alonso) joined his good friend Joshua Grady (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) to be part of the speaking session at the camp.
Chickillo and Grady, a Vanderbilt signee, talked about the recruiting process while former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke discussed the year-round evaluation process that today's prospects deal with on and off the field.
"I just loved my recruiting process last year and I wanted to let these guys know that if you are in control of things it can be a lot of fun," Chickillo said. "Everyone at this camp has aspirations of doing something great and anything is possible."
Chickillo is headed to Miami in June and while he is eager to begin the next part of his life, he will never forget how his high school career ended.
"The Under Armour Game will always stay with me," Chickillo said. "Playing in front of my family and friends in my hometown and winning the MVP was the greatest experience in my life."
• Watch list athlete Marcus Maye (Melbourne, Fla./Holy Trinity Episcopal) took home overall MVP honors from the camp. Fowler was the defensive MVP and wide receiver James Brooks (Groveland, Fla./South Lake) was the offensive MVP.
• Defensive lineman Sheldon Lewinson (Seffner, Fla.) was one of the most impressive looking prospects of the camp. At 6-2, 230 pounds Lewinson will be playing interior defensive line this season but projects as a defensive end at the next level. Lewinson had a camp-high 35 reps on the bench press. Western Michigan is currently his only offer.
• Running back Dazmond Patterson (Plant City, Fla./Plant City) was tops among non-lineman with 20 reps on the bench. The 5-7, 180-pounder was also solid in the one-on-one drills.
• There were several family connections on hand Sunday. Wide receiver Trey Griffey (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips), son of future MLB Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., participated. Class of 2013 defensive back Jayron Kearse (Fort Myers, Fla./Cypress Lake), a nephew of Javon Kearse, is an impressive-looking prospect at 6-3, 190 pounds.
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.