football

Florida mailbag: Top RBs, LBs in state

Gjobvf4l8w6mlmnfdzed
MORE MAILBAGS: Southeast | West
Who are the top three running backs in the Sunshine State for 2012?
What are some of the positions of strength and weakness in Florida's 2012 class?
Who are some of the top linebackers in the state?
These questions and more are addressed by Rivals.com analyst Chris Nee in the Florida recruiting mailbag.
On the ground
If you had to pick the top three running backs in the Sunshine State for 2012, who would they be?
- Chris from Tallahassee, Fla.
Since you are making me pick, I'd say that honor belongs to Miami commitment Randy Johnson, Florida commitment Matt Jones and Florida State commitment Mario Pender.
The distance between those three and the next group is a pretty large gap.
Johnson doesn't possess great size, but he has outstanding speed and vision. Jones is the top power back in the state and also possesses good vision. He is a very good receiver downfield.
And Pender has great quickness and solid balance, allowing him to beat you inside or outside running the ball.
Latest on Blanks
Where will Travis Blanks play in college - safety or cornerback? Does he have any desire to go out-of-state?
- Matt from Leesburg, Ga.
The Tallahassee North Florida Christian athlete has the ability to play cornerback, safety or wide receiver at the next level, but I think he ultimately settles in at cornerback. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Blanks expressed a major interest in playing cornerback and being able to show his abilities in a man-to-man scenario. Also, schools such as Auburn and Georgia have told him previously that they are interested in him at the cornerback spot.
As for having a desire to go out-of-state, Blanks has recently stated that he is interested in leaving the Sunshine State for college. Auburn has held an early lead for a number of months and its combination of recent on-field success and needs at defensive back are extremely appealing to the Tallahassee native. The only in-state school seriously vying for his services is Florida State. His other top schools include Clemson, Georgia and Alabama.
Take a position
What are some of the positions of strength and weakness in the state of Florida for the 2012 class?
- Eric from Gainesville, Fla.
A position of strength would be wide receiver and defensive back, at least going into the spring evaluation period. As for weakness, I'd have to go with quarterbacks.
At wide receiver, the class is led by LSU commitment Avery Johnson, Florida commitment Latroy Pittman and uncommitted prospects such as Chris Black, Malcolm Lewis, Alton Howard, Dvario Montgomery, Justin Ferguson, and others. Athletes such as Nelson Agholor, Marvin Bracy and Ricardo Louis are also likely to contribute at wide receiver.
The defensive back class is led by uncommitted prospects Deon Bush, Tracey Howard, Brian Poole, Marcus Maye, T.J. Davis and Travis Blanks, but has seen some very talented defensive backs come off the board in Alabama commitment Eddie Williams, Florida State commitment P.J. Williams, Virginia Tech commitment Donaldven Manning and Miami commitments Amos Leggett and Willie Bailey.
The Sunshine State is still searching for a top-tier quarterback. There are some candidates such as Bennie Coney and Tyler Cameron, as well as others, but nobody has shown themselves to be an elite signal-caller at this point. A name may emerge at the upcoming Elite 11 Competition at UCF in mid-March.
Lack of respect?
Do you think South Florida quarterbacks will ever get enough credit for being polished or will they always have that question mark?
- Jon from Miami, Fla.
If a polished quarterback comes out of South Florida, they will get credit. The issue is that many schools in South Florida opt to run spread offensive systems or other systems that tend to lead to a lack of effective quarterback development. At this point, the top quarterback in the South Florida area is probably Jupiter (Fla.) prospect Tyler Cameron. Cameron possesses very good athleticism and has a big arm, but he still has to develop further before anyone would label him polished. Will that trend change in South Florida? Probably, but not overnight.
Linebacker alert
Who are some of the top linebackers in the state? Also, who are some of the Gators' top targets in-state?
- Stephen from Canton, Ga.
Early on, it appears some of the top linebackers in Florida are likely going to end up being Miami commitment Keith Brown, Florida commitment Jeremi Powell, as well as uncommitted prospects Joseph Jackson, James Burgess Jr., and Noor Davis, who have rapidly growing offer lists. Another player to keep an eye on is hybrid Eric Striker.
As for some of the Gators' top in-state targets, that list is pretty extensive. Some of the top names on offense include wide receiver Chris Black, tight end Kent Taylor and offensive tackles John Theus, Jessamen Dunker and Patrick Miller. Defensively, they are actively pursuing Florida State defensive end commitment Dante Fowler Jr. as well as other defensive ends such as Tyriq McCord, Pedro Sibiea, and Jelani Hamilton. Earl Moore is the top in-state target for Will Muschamp and staff at defensive tackle.
At linebacker, the Gators recently entered the race for Davis and have taken an early lead for Burgess Jr. In the secondary, they hold an early lead for Tracey Howard and are trying to also lure his close friend, Deon Bush, to campus. Athlete Marcus Maye currently has the Gators on top while other athletes such as Nelson Agholor, Ricardo Louis and Marvin Bracy are also on the radar.
Sooners in Florida?
Do you think Oklahoma will pull any recruits out of Florida, such as the kids it has already offered - offensive linemen Ty Darlington and Avery Young, linebacker Noor Davis and athlete Marvin Bracy?
- Matt from Oklahoma
While Sunshine State prospects are not afraid to leave the state's borders for college, if they have their pick of the nation's top programs they tend to leave for a school in the SEC or ACC simply due to the proximity to home.
With that being said, I do believe that the Sooners have a decent shot of landing at least one of the prospects you mentioned, with that being Darlington of Apopka. Darlington has a lot of family in the Norman and Oklahoma City area as well as major family ties to the schools. He has visited the campus in recent months and is very impressed with Bob Stoops and company.
Now, is it a done deal that he ends up in Norman? Not at all. Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and numerous others will try to keep him closer to home. He is showing a number of those schools, especially Auburn, a good bit of interest.
[rl]
Edit