football Edit

Simmons: Big names shine in Florida state championship games

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The early signing period fell at an odd time in the state of Florida, as two state championship games were held on each day of the three-day period from Dec. 16-18.The final two state championship games, all contested at Florida State, were on Saturday, Dec. 19.

Here are the highlights and news from the four-day event.

MORE: Grading the early signing period in the SEC


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Lewis was top storyline

RELATED: Lewis gives the latest

Terrence Lewis has been in the recruiting news since he decommitted from Tennessee on Nov. 30. The four-star linebacker out of Miami (Fla.) Central took a visit to Auburn late in November, then re-opened his recruitment.

Maryland has popped up as a school in his final two, with Tennessee, but word is Auburn still cannot be ruled out even though it doesn't have a head coach, and there could be another school or two involved to some level that Lewis is not revealing.

The most buzz is around the Terps, but a lot of stock cannot be put into that. Auburn was viewed as the frontrunner before the coaching change, and the Tigers appear to be higher on his list than Lewis is letting on still.

He is set to announce Jan. 2, then he plans to enroll early at the school of his choice. This could still go a few different ways.

Top 2021 signees showed up

The state championship games I covered featured commits from Alabama, Arizona State, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Ole Miss, South Florida, Syracuse, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

It is almost impossible to highlight each player, but here are some thoughts on some that stood out.

Future Gators impressed

After signing Wednesday morning, four-star wide receiver Marcus Burke put on a show later that night helping Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian Academy to a last-minute 25-22 win over Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade-Madonna. Burke caught a diving touchdown pass with under a minute to go to put the Conquerers ahead and he finished the night with seven receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Burke is a long receiver who runs well and has great body control. He fights for the football and he will be a player Gator fans know in the Swamp.

At the time the game ended, offensive lineman Austin Barber thought he was going to sign Feb. 3. He was at one time committed to Minnesota, but backed off that pledge earlier in the fall. He was going to wait it out, but Florida, his dream school, came through with an offer Thursday, then he inked with the Gators Friday. He has a 5.5 rivals rating, but he played much better than that in this contest. He is a physical lineman who gets after it, and he flashed good agility too. This could be a steal for Florida when we look back four or five years from now.

The last game of the week was Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas against Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater. Top 100 defensive end Tyreak Sapp made his presence known early, and often. He is a gifted big athlete with a motor, power and versatility. He will be a player Florida can move around up front, and he will be tough to block. He set the edge at end, he can rush the passer and he is very mobile for a player his size. Expect to hear his name very early in Gainesville.


Hurricanes adding major leaders

Out of the five Hurricane signees I saw in action, running back Thaddeus Franklin, offensive lineman Laurence Seymore and safety James Williams stood out most. As much as their play caught my attention, their leadership stood out as well. All led from the start, all gave it their all on the field and I like what Manny Diaz and the Hurricanes are getting in these three.

Frankin finished with just over 100 yards on 26 tough runs and he scored two touchdowns in the loss to Trinity Christian. He is a tough, physical, downhill runner. He ran hard, got tough yards after contact and shows good lower-body strength and the ability to move the chains. He didn't show that second gear, but more of a strong, between the tackle type of running back. I loved his effort, how strong he played for four quarters and how continued to get the ball in crucial moments.

Seymore was one of the most impressive players I saw last week. He anchored the Miami Central offensive line at left tackle, and he was opening big holes and protecting his quarterback all game. He is not a tackle in Coral Gables, but he is one of the top offensive linemen in Florida. Seymore has violent hands, he played with good balance and he is a player who could challenge for early playing time as a Hurricane. His leadership showed all game and he is going to be a major contributor at Miami.

Williams was the highest rated prospect I saw all last week, and he did not disappoint. What stood out more about his game was his aggression and physicality. I have watched tape in the past, but seeing him live for the first time showed me something different. Yes, the size stands out, he is very athletic, and he covered a lot of ground in the secondary, but how tough and physical really jumped out to me. Not too much needs to be said about Williams — there just aren't many, if any, like him.


Clemson WR signee will fit right in

Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Cardinal Gibbons won another state title and wide receiver Troy Stellato was a big part of that. This is his second state title in high school and he is now ready to go win at Clemson. In the game against Bolles, Stellato finished with 69 yards on six receptions and scored two touchdowns. What stood out most about Stellato outside of being bigger than expected, was his hands, his blocking and how physical he was. He made the plays when the ball his way, but he was unselfish, always willing to block on the outside and the Tigers are getting a playmaker who plays hard regardless if the ball is coming his way or not.


Up and down for Alabama signees

There were two Crimson Tide signees in action, and the two went against one another Saturday night. Five-star linebacker Dallas Turner of St. Thomas Aquinas went out a winner when his team beat wide receiver Christian Leary and Edgewater.

It was different results for the future teammates in Tuscaloosa.

Leary struggled in this contest. He had a couple of fumbles, a high pass went off his hands that was intercepted, and it just wasn't a great night for the No. 7-ranked wide receiver in the country. He was involved, and showed his burst and speed on a couple of plays out of the backfield, but was held in check much of the night.

Turner was victorious, and the big rush end showed athleticism and the ability to get up the field. His stat sheet may not be filled, but he had a major impact in this game. He applied pressure on the quarterback, he chased the ball backside and he showed top athleticism. He is going to be a name to know at Alabama. He has all the traits to be another great pass rusher to come out of Tuscaloosa.

Sun Devils getting Mr. Consistency

Edgewater star Tommi Hill did play a lot of cornerback, but he looks like a future wide receiver at Arizona State. Hill looks bigger than 6-feet tall, he is a strong wide receiver, and he has strong, consistent hands. He didn't score a touchdown in a loss but had 111 yards on eight receptions. He was the go-to guy much of the night when his team needed to move the chains. Hill is a physical receiver who will make a lot of plays in the Pac-12.


Wolverines adding talented defenders

Jaydon Hood is listed as an athlete, and he likely could project at other positions, but in the updated, and final rankings, he will move to inside linebacker. The Michigan commits is a strong linebacker with good instincts and he made a big impact in this game. He had a big hit early, he was always around the ball, and he will move to Ann Arbor looking to compete for early playing time.

Ja'Den McBurrows was out early before the game working on ball drills and it paid off. He had a big interception in the second half that he returned for a touchdown. Outside his hands, McBurrows flashed confidence good short-space quickness and physicality.


Aggies getting two athletes

Yulkeith Brown had one touchdown, another was called back and the talented wide receiver also was strong at cornerback in this contest. He is a fun receiver to watch because of the quickness he has, how he is able to change direction on a dime, and he is a physical wideout with confidence. His quickness will make his an ideal slot receiver for the Aggies.

Running back Amari Daniels was the talk of the day offensively. His team put on a show, and Daniels was the leader of that show with 172 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He was tough to tackle in space, but showed some power as well when breaking arm tackles. He has good vision and he will be a versatile back in College Station.


South Florida commits

Timmy McClain to Jimmy Horn. Sanford (Fla.) Seminole fans heard that a lot this season, and Jeff Scott hopes to hear that often at South Florida. This quarterback-wide receiver tandem signed with the Bulls last week and they played a big role in Seminoles' 12-0, state championship season.

Horn had one touchdown reception and 71 yards receiving for the game. He is a quick, slender wideout with big play ability on the next level.

McClain is a left-handed quarterback, and dual-threat that scored a touchdown on the ground and threw one as well. He finished with 169 yards passing.

Talented underclassmen everywhere

Bain was strong at defensive end. He was around the ball a lot. He applied pressure and was strong against the run. Already has offers from Georgia, LSU and Miami and will be a 2023 player to know in south Florida.

Baxter is committed to the Florida State, and the running back had over 100 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. He played some linebacker as well and he has a good frame with upside.


Bissainthe was coming off the edge as a stand-up linebacker a lot, and he flashed quickness off the ball and the ability to close. He is one of the most athletic linebackers in the south, and already has Alabama, Florida, LSU, Miami and Oregon in pursuit.

Florida, Indiana, Miami and others have offered Brown already and he was very active in the win for Cardinal Gibbons. He had an interception late in the game, he had a sack and he was active against the run. He has good size for an inside linebacker. He is a downhill player and he can rush the passer.

Campbell was a little heavier than expected. It was the first time seeing him live, and he is a big defensive end. He could end up sliding down to defensive tackle down the road. He is a versatile defensive lineman now with over a dozen offers. Georgia Tech and Cincinnati are the two favorites.

Fagan looks to be next in line when it comes to top defensive backs to come out of American Heritage. He has the frame schools covet at the cornerback position and he has early offers from major programs. He likes Georgia, Miami and Pittsburgh early on.

Fletcher is another 2023 prospect to know at American Heritage. He is a powerful back with size, great strength, and the talented sophomore rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown. Offers are already in from Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee.

Hankerson is running back that runs low to the ground, runs with good authority and great balance. He had a 182 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries in St Thomas Aquinas' win. He has early offers from Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Miami.

Henderson is one of twins that star in football and basketball at Seminole. He and his brother have football offers from Florida A&M, Florida State, Penn State and UCF. He is a versatile athlete and will have major decisions to make.

Henderson has the same football offers as his brother. He is a cornerback with length and athleticism. He is a player who will be recruited more once schools see him in person. He and his brother have basketball offers from Florida, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Troy.

Over three dozen schools have offered Jackson, one of the top rush ends in the country. It was an easy to see why schools covet him. He is very athletic, he gets off the ball quickly and he is a nightmare coming off the edge. He had a big sack and numerous quarterback pressures. It is early, but schools like Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State and Oklahoma are schools he likes.

Jones is a very intriguing prospect. He is a very long defensive end with the frame to add good weight. He bends well and can really close on the quarterback. He is a Florida State legacy, so the Seminoles could be tough to beat, plenty of others will give it a shot. Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Oklahoma and others are in pursuit.

Leblanc is part of a strong 2023 defensive line unit for Osceola. He was a sack and a handful of tackles in the loss to Seminole. It will be interesting to see how much he grows in the coming years. He has a great frame and a long list of offers, including ones from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami and Notre Dame.

Little is a Miami legacy, so the Hurricanes are considered the leader by most. He is a top 100 player, and another elite defensive back coming out of American Heritage. He can line up anywhere on the field due to his athleticism. His offer list is long.

Schwartz is a versatile defensive linemen. Looks best at strongside end, but could eventually slide inside to defensive tackle. A strong kid at the point of attack and high motor. Indiana offered recently and he has two dozen offers total.

Spells is listed as a wide receiver, but likely will be listed as an athlete moving forward. He actually may have the most upside at cornerback, but that is a position he is still working on. He is a natural athlete with length and quickness. Syracuse stands out to him early out of the schools that have offered. He also mentioned Georgia and West Virginia as schools of interest.

Thomas is a defensive end that can set the edge and get up the field to pressure the quarterback. He is a bigger end that has agility. Florida State offered early and the Seminoles are recruiting Thomas as hard, if not harder than anyone. Others showing heavy interest are LSU, Miami, Penn State and South Carolina.

Walker was one of the most impressive players I saw all week. He is a quick defensive tackle with over 30 offers, If I was ranking the top performers from all the games, Walker would be in the top five, maybe top three. He said schools like Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and Oregon stand out early.