Rivals Camp Series Tampa: Thoughts from the sidelines
LAKELAND, Fla. - Central Florida played host to the Rivals Camp Series presented by adidas this past weekend. Here are some thoughts from the sideline by our analysts who covered the event.
ROB CASSIDY, FLORIDA RECRUITING ANALYST
The buzz about Nebraska wasn’t anywhere near as strong as it was at the Central Florida camp stop a year ago. Scott Frost’s name still carries weight in the region, sure, but it’s clear that the program’s 4-8 finish combined with the fact that the Huskers failed to land a single Florida-based player a year ago has taken its toll. That’s not to say Frost and his program won’t ever recruit well in the state. It’s just to say the Florida-based buzz that surrounded the program last year at this time has faded significantly.
Florida State commit Stephen Dix Jr. is wildly underrated as a low three-star prospect. That, of course, is my fault, but it’ll be rectified soon enough. Dix is more impressive in person than he is on film, as prospects with his build don’t often move so smoothly. The fact that Dix is decent in coverage downfield is a bonus. He wasn’t perfect on Sunday, sure, but most of his lapses came when he was asked to cover a running back deep down field, a situation in which he’ll never be in during a real game. Dix will be shooting up the rankings during the next update.
West Virginia quarterback commit Garrett Greene exceeded all expectations on Sunday. Mountaineer fans should be thrilled over his recent commitment. And while he lacks elite height at 5-foot-11, that shouldn’t limit him in WVU’s high-powered offense. Greene easily took home MVP honors at the event and seemed to be operating at a different level as the other prospects at his position. His touch on deep balls set him apart from the pack, but his shorter passes also had a zip.
ADAM FRIEDMAN, MID-ATLANTIC RECRUITING ANALYST
There were a number of elite athletes at the Tampa camp on Sunday but the best position was the defensive backs. Larry Smith, a 2021 defensive back out of Jacksonville (Fla.) Robert E. Lee, was a surprise winner of the MVP award. He was very physical with the receivers in press coverage, but that wasn’t a tactic to hide below average speed. Smith had the footwork and explosiveness to dominate in off-coverage. Rivals100 Oregon commit Avantae Williams played very well and earned an invitation to the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by adidas. The most unique skillset in the defensive back group belonged to Alabama commit Jahquez Robinson. He is about 6-foot-3 with a huge wingspan and can cover a ton of ground. Robinson looked more like a safety than a cornerback, but a defensive back with that skillset is a great fit in Nick Saban’s defense. Fenley Graham also caught the attention of a lot of people because of his numerous pass break-ups.
The hype train for some players can get out of control this time of year but Chantz Williams lived up to expectations on Sunday. He has a great build and is so fast out of his stance. There a few one-on-one reps when the offensive lineman could barely get a hand on Williams as he ran around the edge. Williams will face offensive linemen much better than he did on Sunday at the Five-Star Challenge later this offseason.
WOODY WOMMACK, SOUTHEAST RECRUITING ANALYST
One of the best things about camp season is the chance to compare some of the nation’s best prospects in person and I’ve had the chance to see three of the nation’s best running backs in back-to-back-to-back weekends. Things started with Zach Evans in Houston, followed by Jaylan Knighton in Miami and now Demarkcus Bowman in Tampa. After seeing all three and comparing them with Kendall Milton, who I’ve seen at other events in the past, I think it’s safe to say that the debate for the nation’s No. 1 running back is far from over. I forsee plenty of spirited debates during the next few rounds of rankings meetings.
Another takeaway from back-to-back weekends in Florida and three events (two Rivals Camps and the adidas 7-on-7 East Coast Invitational) is that Florida has quite a bit of momentum and buzz among the state’s recruits. Obviously Miami has made waves as well with the hire of Manny Diaz, but Dan Mullen and company have a nice head start on their two in-state rivals on the field and the gap might continue to widen if the Gators can beat both of them during the 2019 season.