Once again several top prospects reside in Tallahassee
Although Tallahassee's population is only around 200,000 some of the best high school football in the nation is played in the area. In fact if you count Madison County, which is a mere 20 minutes away, Tallahassee area high schools accounted for three of the six state titles in 2001. The North Florida city also produced over a dozen division one prospects last year. This year should be no different.
You can't talk about high school football in Tallahassee without mentioning Lincoln High School. The Trojans, state champions two of the last three years, will send five players to Division I schools this fall, including two high school All-Americans, Pat Watkins (FSU) and Gavin Dickey (Florida). In 2003 Lincoln should come close to those numbers.
Leading the way is super athlete Antonio "Cro" Cromartie. The 6'3", 200-pound wide receiver/defensive back has blazing speed and athleticism. Not surprisingly every top school in the Southeast is pursuing him. Although it looked the hometown Seminoles had the inside track early on, that doesn't appear to be the case any longer. New Florida coach Ron Zook as made quite and impression and as of last week the Gators held a slight lead. In addition to the 'Noles and Gators, Miami is also a serious contender. Other schools: Texas, Georgia, Georgia Tech, USC.
Another Lincoln prospect being flooded with scholarship offers is Ryan "Bird" Gilliam. As with Cromartie, Gilliam has excellent speed and could play a variety of positions at the next level. He also has a lot of scholarship offers (13 at last check) and will likely stay in Florida or Georgia. Gilliam has a brother who plays for Georgia but admitted that the Dawgs weren't in his early top three. Schools: FSU, Miami, Ga Tech, UF and UGA.
The sleeper at Lincoln may be running back Terry Arnold. The six-foot, 210-pound tailback has drawn comparisons to LSU's LaBrandon Toefield. He has been overshadowed a bit because of all the All-Americans around him but is getting noticed by some big-name schools. Alabama, Clemson, South Carolina and LSU have already tendered scholarship offers and more schools may follow shortly. Other schools: Tennessee, Illinois, FSU, Florida and Miami.
Punter Brent Moody is also drawing attention from schools in the Southeast. As a junior the 6'2", 190-pounder punted the ball 43 times for an average of 42.7 and 12 of his kicks ended up within the 10-yard line. Florida State appears to be the early leader followed by Florida, Georgia, Miami and East Carolina.
Other possible Lincoln DI prospects: Todd Brigman - WR, Jeffrey Williams - LB, and Brandon Bennett - WR/DB
When you talk about recruiting in Tallahassee the name that usually comes to mind is North Florida Christian's Ernie Sims III. The six-foot, 225-pound running back/linebacker is the consensus top player in the state, and could easily by the top recruit in the nation. Comparisons have been made Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson and Ray Lewis, and pretty much every NFL all-pro tailback and linebacker. Both of Sims' parents attended Florida State and both participated in sports (father - football & mother - track). Despite the close ties to FSU the high school All-American insists he is not leaning the the Seminoles and is wide open. Sims recently disclosed his top ten schools but the names heard most often are FSU, Auburn, Miami, and now Florida. Look for the talented recruit to sign with one of those four programs come signing day. Other schools: Georgia, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Michigan.
Despite being only a 1A school, Sims isn't the only DI prospect at North Florida Christian. Quarterback Roger Heinz' stock is on the rise and he he getting attention from a few heavy hitters including Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, Purdue and Georgia. During his junior season Heinz completed over 60 percent of his passes for 2,400 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions. Other schools: Maryland, Ga Tech and Wake Forest.
Just up the road at Godby the Cougars have plenty of D1 talent. Cornerback Marcus Clayton, son of former NFL player William Evers, could be the fastest player in the state (4.31). If not for being a bit undersized at 5'8", he might be considered one of the top corners in the nation. Even though he doesn't have ideal height, several top schools including Clemson, Iowa, Indiana, LSU and others are recruiting him. Marcus Clayton scouting Video
Probably the second best linebacker in the area, behind Ernie Sims III, is Godby's Ed Butler. The 6'1", 190-pounder combines excellent speed, instincts and tackling ability. He should leave the Cougars as the team's all-time leading tackler. Butler has early offers from North Carolina and Wisconsin. Don't be surprised if the Florida and Georgia schools join the battle for the talented linebacker in the near future.
Finally, wide receiver Landel Bembo is garnering attention from several schools. Last season Bembo finished 5th in race for 4A Player of the Year honors. He holds the school record for receiving yards. Schools showing interest include North Carolina, Maryland, FSU, Florida, and Miami.
Other Godby D1 prospects: Trey Gibson and Jarrett Dillard.
The talent pool is just as thick over at Tallahassee Rickards. Lining up behind center for the Raiders is one of the most athletic players in North Florida, William Gay (6-0/165 4.4). The speedy athlete will start as the Raiders quarterback this season but his future is likely at wide receiver or safety at the next level. As a junior he racked up over 1,200 all-purpose yards. Early scholarship offers have come from Georgia Tech, Auburn, Purdue and Iowa. As with Smith, the Dawgs might have the inside track if they tender an offer. Other schools: Florida and Miami.
One of the fastest rising prospects is slashing tailback Kolby Smith (6-1/195 4.45). Filling for an injured Michael Fisher last season, he racked up 947 yards and 10 touchdowns. Meanwhile as an outside linebacker on defense he had over 100 tackles. The MVP of the recently held Nike Camp in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has an impressive list of suitors including Clemson, Notre Dame, Auburn, Alabama, and Kentucky (all offered), plus Georgia, Miami, FSU and Florida. If the Dawgs offer a scholarship they might be the team to beat.
Finally, Kevin "BTO" Lockhart is a player to watch. Although a bit undersized at 6'1", and 260-pounds, Lockhart is a tenacious defender from the noseguard spot. Although he only has offers from Kentucky and Tennessee State at this point, a few of the big name Southeastern school are starting to take notice. Other schools: Alabama, Georgia Tech, Miami, Tulane and UCF.
Other Rickards Prospects: Kenny Robinson - WR/DB.
Leon High School generally is a feeding ground for college bound talent. Last year the Lions sent quarterback Wyatt Sexton to Florida State and wide receiver Josh Rayam to North Alabama. It may be a down year for the Lions in terms of college-bound players but kicker Nathan Scott, at 6'2" and 180-pounds, should end up at a Division I school. As a junior Scott booted nine field goals and was a perfect 35 of 35 on extra points.
Other Leon Prospects to watch: Adam Jackson - LB, Jontae Sanders - LB, Chris Smith - DE, Pete Sands - OL.
Although the school has only been in existance for a couple years, Chiles is starting to make a name for itself both with their play on the field and in recruiting talent. Last year hard-hitting linebacker Brian Rackley signed with North Carolina. This year the Timberwolves might double their number of D1 signees.
The hot prospect here may be kicker Paul Johnson. The six-foot, 180-pound kicker turned the heads of everyone in attendance at last month's Spring Jamboree. Johnson knocked all three of his kickoffs out of the endzone, including one that nailed the field goal cross bar. He was equally impressive on field goals and extra points booting all of them into the parking lot. So far Georgia is showing the most interest in the strong-legged kicker but look for several big-name Southeastern schools jump in the fray in the near future.
Other Chiles Prospects to watch: Gerrod Condry - S, Ezujuan Mathis - Ath, Chase Yarborough - DB, Bryan Seaborn - DT.
Prospects on the outskirts of Tallahassee: Ian Moore - QB (Quincy Shanks), DeCody Fagg - WR (Quincy Shanks), Cornelius Dixon - DL (Marianna), Henry Roberson - LB (Madison), Demaris Sapp (Wakulla).
Tallahassee Juniors to watch (class of 2004): Lamar Hughes - WR (NFC) & Calvin Darity - OL (Lincoln)
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