- Gerry Hamilton, ESPN Staff Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Trinity Christian Academy has enjoyed its fair share of success and produced several Division I players under longtime coach Verlon Dorminey. This year, the Conquerors are off to a 2-0 start with a roster chock full of Division I prospects.
Junior class leads the way
The Class of 2015 in Jacksonville is loaded, and the junior class at Trinity Christian litters any and every list. Led by the No. 2 overall player in the ESPN Junior 300, Kevin Toliver II, and No. 17 Jeffery Holland, the uber-talented class of Conquerors is made up of as many as nine future FBS players.
Toliver, an LSU commitment, receives praise from every teammate when asked, including junior safety Ben Edwards.
“His work ethic -- he’s always going to outwork you,” Edwards said. “He works hard, is a good leader, a great player and a guy that lock down a side of the field.”
Speaking of Edwards, a hard-hitting safety with a GPA better than 4.0, the 6-foot, 190-pound prospect has a top four of North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Auburn.
Toliver, who plays quarterback and cornerback, remains committed to the Tigers. But he is taking a look at other programs with 19 months remaining until national signing day.
“I’m still solid, 100 percent with LSU,” Toliver said. “But I’m still visiting other schools and everything … seeing what they have to offer and seeing their atmosphere and how it compares to LSU,”
Holland, an outside linebacker, is a 6-foot-3, 230-pound pass-rushing terror on the high school level.
“Jeff is a beast. Unblockable. In the opener, he had like four sacks. He’s a kind of feeling good about himself right now,” Edwards said.
Toliver echoed Edwards’ thoughts on the athletic Holland.
“Animal. He’s crazy in a game, and gets in the other team's head. He talks trash the whole game.”
While Holland doesn’t have an official list of top schools, a trio always seems to be on the tip of his tongue.
“I really don’t have a top 10 right now, or top five. I’m just talking to my family about everything. I’ve been to two Florida games. Coach [Will] Muschamp says I can play all three of the linebacker positions, and he wants me close to home and down there in Gainesville. I do like Auburn. I like the new coaching staff; I like Coach [Ellis] Johnson and Coach [Rodney] Garner. My uncle played basketball at Auburn. I love Ohio State, too. I just love them. I like how they use Ryan Shazier, and he’s from Florida. I follow a lot of players from the state. Louisville has a lot of Florida guys up there, and they play early,” he said.
While Toliver and Holland have been on the recruiting radar for a while, two-way lineman Kendrick Norton burst onto the scene last spring and now has more than 15 offers. The 292-pound Norton has grown from 5-10 to 6-2½ in the last two years.
“That’s one of my best friends,” Holland said. “We have been hanging out since ninth grade. We he came out here [to the football field], we called him butter ball and pot roast. He’s had a growth spurt, and now he is about 6-2 and 280.”
Norton, who plays left guard and defensive tackle, is looking in-state as well, as programs are recruiting him as a defensive tackle.
“I’m still open right now,” Norton said. “I have a few schools that stand out. Like Florida, FSU, Auburn, North Carolina and those type of schools. I’m just looking at the players, the coaches and how their defensive tackles play. Florida offered me as a defensive tackle. Florida State said I could play either, but their defensive line coach really likes me.”
Two weeks ago, Norton picked up a big offer.
“[Alabama defensive coordinator] Kirby Smart offered me as a defensive tackle. I guess I was offered by Alabama. They talked to my coach [Gerard Ross] and said they wanted me,” Norton said.
Along with Toliver, Holland, Norton and Edwards, Trinity Christian features linebackers Andre Smith and Victor Alexander, safety Deontai Williams, speedster Chris Barr and offensive guard Deion Eakins. North Carolina has offered Smith and Williams; Alexander has offers from FAU and FIU and has been called the best Friday night football player on the team by more than one member of the coaching staff.
Ford and Harkless in 2014
Louisville has made Trinity Christian a key to their Sunshine State recruiting, and in the Class of 2014 has scored big with commitments from two-sport star Isaiah Ford and offensive tackle Kavaris Harkless. While the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Harkless is solid with his commitment, Charlie Strong and his staff have some work to do to keep Ford in the fold.
Ford, the No. 250 prospect in the ESPN 300, will officially visit Virginia Tech along with Louisville, with the basketball part of the recruiting equation being key in his final decision. The ability to come in and make an impact on the hardwood in Blacksburg, Va., has his attention.
A third prospect in the senior class is defensive back Ernest Gordon.
Top back in 2016
Sophomore running back Jalin Buie is yet another prospect at the North Florida power with FBS offers. The 5-foot-7, 184-pound prospect has Tennessee, Auburn and Louisville on top of his early list; all three have offered.
Never too early for 2018?
One more prospect of note at Trinity Christian is still in junior high. Cornerback Tyreke Johnson suited up on varsity as a seventh grader and is certain to be a top national prospect in a few years. He is the younger brother of Florida State quarterback commitment De'Andre Johnson (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast).
9dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough