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Road Report: Florida

MORE: Miami NFTC: 2015’s best | Miami NFTC: 2014’s best | Orlando NFTC top performers

The talent at Miami Central includes Joseph Yearby, Da'Vante Phillips and Dalvin Cook.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Starting on Wednesday and going through the conclusion of the Miami Nike NFTC Sunday afternoon, 247Sports was on the road in central and South Florida. While the NFTC’s over the weekend took center stage, it was a number of school stops prior that shaped what became information overload covering five days.

Today, we take a look at the highlights of the week in the Sunshine State.

1. Miami Central simply loaded on “O”
Watching Sunday’s Nike NFTC at Barry College in Miami left a lasting impression. The amount of top talent on offense that the Central Rockets will take into the 2013 season as they look to repeat as the 6A state champions, and make a run to a fourth straight state appearance is impressive. While the other-worldly running back tandem of Miami commitment Joseph Yearby and Clemson commitment Dalvin Cook get the lion share of the headlines, and for good reason, the offensive line for Central is also very impressive. Center Raul Diaz (Kentucky offer) and guard Trevor Darling (Miami commitment) were standouts Sunday, and are joined by FBS prospects Michael Smith and Johnathan Harris up front. Throw in 2015 standout wide receiver Da’Vante Phillips and others, and the Rockets have a collection of offensive talent that not many have been able to claim in recent years.

2. Sharpe a big-time talent
One of the school stops during my trip to the Sunshine State was Providence School of Jacksonville. The school is not only home to nationally recruited 2014 basketball guard Grayson Allen (6-3, 180), but also fast rising offensive tackle David Sharpe. The nearly 6-foot-7, 275-pound left tackle with the baseline skill set for which many lineman just dream about having, has gone from little known to having offers from Florida, Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State and others in just a few weeks. While Sharpe is already beginning to make strides under the direction of head coach Bobby Raulerson, the basketball player that averages 15 points and eight rebounds, will also be working full time with former NFL star tackle Tony Boselli. Boselli will serve as the Providence School offensive line coach full time starting in the spring, and that will include coaching his son, Andrew, who is a 6-foot-3, 260-pound freshman offensive lineman.

3. Apopka not resting on the 8A title
On Friday, a stop at Apopka High was very telling. For some, winning a state title can create a sense of entitlement or time for continued celebration. If the weight room workout on Friday afternoon was any indication, an Apopka team that returns 17 starters is very serious about making another run in 2013. What was very evident during the two hours spent at the school with an enrollment around 3,000 is that there is very strong leadership in the program led by junior quarterback Zack Darlington and sophomore jack-of-all-trades Chandler Cox. The Blue Darters also feature one of the top young offensive line prospects in the country in class of 2015’s Martez Ivey (6-5, 271 with a coaches dream frame).

4. Scary speed at Booker T. Washington
Whether it be attending a game in person, watching on television or seeing prospects individually at camps and combines, the pure speed of the Miami Booker T. Washington team is a jaw-dropping experience. Quarterback Treon Harris, defensive back Nigel Patten, slot wide receiver Lamar Parker and running back Krondis Larry have all put up impressive testing times at various camps and combines in recent months, that just covers the four headliners. The quartet averaged a 4.47 forty-yard dash at the Jan. 5 Nike SPARQ Combine. And that was an average laser time for the four skill players, which is a key differentiator when talking about legitimate speed.

5. The view from Orlando Jones
Upon touching down in Orlando Wednesday and picking up the rental car, a trip to Jones High was first up. While the stop was to see 2013 ultra athletic shooting guard Demarcus Croaker and check out the young football prospects, what stood out most was the fact that Jones High sits about five or six football fields from a clear view of the Citrus Bowl, where Jones has played many a home game. While at Jones High, the fact that Wesley Snipes and Nate Newton are graduates was brought to my attention.

6. Cole drawing comparisons
Whether it be at the early February South Florida Express 7-on-7 tryout or Sunday’s Nike NFTC in Miami, class of 2015 cornerback Tyrek Cole (Miramar) has been a cut above the rest due to a pure and natural coverage ability with terrific feel and finishing ball skills. Because he is so natural and smooth at a young age, and he plays at Miramar, the 5-foot-10.5, 170-pounder is drawing comparisons to Miami corner Tracy Howard. Cole is an early lean to the Florida Gators with Miami, Florida State and others giving chase.

Poona Ford is a physically impressive defensive tackle prospect.

7. Poona Ford and his wingspan
Among the most impressive physical characteristics seen during my travels through Florida was the wingspan of 2014 defensive tackle and fullback Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C.) Saturday at the Orlando Nike NFTC. While the very explosive and strong Ford stands only 6-feet even, he has a wingspan of 80-inches or 6’8”. And what makes that even more impressive is just how strong he is considering his arm length, as longer arm prospects normally have to build that strength over time at the next level. Not Ford, who has offers from South Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Arkansas, Louisville and a growing list of others.

8. Baltimore/DC kids compete in Miami
As impressive as the talent on hand was Sunday in Miami, it was even more impressive that a number of prospects with Next level Nation out of the Baltimore area came down to Miami to test themselves against the best in South Florida. Class of 2015 cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick (Jersey City, NJ/St. Peter’s Prep) was the headliner, and was joined by jet quick slot wide receiver prospect Russell Neverdon (Towson, Md./Calvert Hall), 2014 quarterback Colar Kuhns (Towson, Md./Calvert Hall) and others.

9. Sousa wins the hands award
The Nike NFTC’s in Orlando and Miami featured too many wide receiver prospects to name with quickness and pure speed being a common theme. With that said, the award for the best hands at the position over the two days was Ryan Sousa (Lake Nona). The 5-foot-10.5, 180-pounder may not be as fast or elusive as others on hand, but his natural hands, body control and ability to snatch the ball out of the air while playing through contact were uber impressive. Wake Forest, UCLA, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Boston College, Missouri, South Florida, UCF and others have offered.

10. One note on hoops
On Thursday night, I made my way over to the Dr. Smith Neighborhood Center off Bruton Blvd. in Orlando to watch some pick-up basketball games. For those that like to venture out and watch some top prospects in hoops, this is the place in the area. On a given Thursday night around 7 p.m., one can see 2014 North Carolina point guard commitment Joel Berry (Orlando/Lake Highland), 2013 high riser Demarcus Croaker (Orlando/Jones), 2013 Stanford big man signee Schuyler Rimmer (Orlando/Boone) and the very athletic Memphis point guard signee RaShawn Powell (Orlando/Dr. Phillips) among many others play in a competitive environment.

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