Close call in Great State Debate

October, 7, 2008

The semifinals of the Great State Debate are in full swing with a terrific matchup between California and Florida. Carter Gaddis breaks down the Sunshine State's case while ESPN RISE's own Mark Tennis expands on the virtues of the Golden State.

I think there are legit cases here for each state in this hypothetical semifinal battle (winner gets Texas next week in the finals). After spending the past eight years traveling across the country putting on the Nike Camps and combines, there is no doubt in my mind that the players in Florida are the most competitive and most athletic in the country. These guys will show up to an event whether they have zero offers or 20 and take on anyone because that is the competitive environment that exists in the Sunshine State. Those kids are always working and competing to stay on top (or to get to the top) because they know that if they're sitting at home, someone else is working hard and can potentially take their spot. Gotta love the competitiveness of the Florida athlete.

On the flip side, it's tough to compete with the history and overall résumé of California. The Golden State dominates in terms of history and notable NFL hall of famers, quarterbacks, etc., and the coaching in California is really second to none. While the state has a bigger population to pull from and there are certainly more hot spots in terms of talent production and highly competitive football, you can take the teams from the Pac-5 in the Southern Section and match them against any top section or region across the country. To sum up, if I was a college coach trying to recruit top players for the next level, I'd probably go to Florida first. But if I was looking for a top team that is well-coached and balanced, I'd probably start in California.

• Two prominent defensive players at FAB 50 No. 5 ranked Byrnes (S.C.) have been charged with assault and battery, according to The Spartanburg Herald-Journal. This seems out of character for student-athletes playing for Byrnes' coaching staff, based on my previous experiences with them this summer at the Nike 7ON tourney in Portland, Ore. Byrnes superintendent Dr. Scott Turner issued the following statement:

"I do not know all the details that caused this confrontation. It is sad and unfortunate that teens become involved in off campus incidents that reflect poorly on the team and the school. When a program reaches the status and notoriety of the Byrnes Football program, individuals associated with the program are held to a higher standard of conduct on and off the field. They remain on the team. Being consistent with prior practice and with expectations for proper representation of the athletic program, they will probably face suspension from the team. The length of the suspension will be determined by the principal and head coach."

• An update of the high school football revival in Barrow, Alaska, where Barrow High won the first ever high school football game played north of the Arctic Circle on Saturday, 46-18 over Houston High.'s Wayne Drehs traveled to Barrow to report on the team's start two years ago. Last year, Barrow High was struggling to field a team and playing on a dirt field before Cathy Parker, a bank exec and football mom from Florida, got involved. Parker helped the school raise more than $500,000 and install this beautiful blue turf field, according to the St. Augustine Record. Read more about Parker's efforts here. Parker is the mother of Clemson freshman Kyle Parker, an Elite 11 QB in the Class of 2008 who also starred for the Tigers' baseball team this fall and has a tremendous future ahead of him.

• Standout University High (St. Louis) running back Ronnie Wingo, Scouts Inc.'s No. 32 ranked RB in the Class of 2009, had a career night Friday against Vianney, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Wingo, who will visit Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois and Kansas later this year before making his college decision, rumbled for 403 yards and six TDs on the ground and also caught a TD pass in a wild 63-42 win. In the process, Wingo set school marks for rushing yards in a single game, career points scored (247 and counting) and single-game scoring (44 points -- seven TDs plus a two-point conversion).

• Class of 2010 ESPNU 150 Watchlist QB Chandler Whitmer, a 6-foot, 190-pounder out of Downers Grove South (Illinois), has picked up his first offer from the Fighting Illini. An Elite 11 ball boy this summer, the junior is also getting early interest from Arizona, Stanford, Iowa and Notre Dame, where he took an unofficial this past weekend to watch the Irish defeat Stanford. Through six games so far this fall, Whitmer has led Downers Grove South to a 4-2 record, passing for 827 yards and seven TDs and rushing for two scores.

• Another Elite 11 ball boy, Inkster (Michigan) dual-threat standout Devin Gardner, continued his torrid junior season this past Friday, rushing for two scores and throwing for two more in a 49-7 rout of Ypsilanti. Gardner, a 6-4, 200-pounder who already has 10 early offers, now has totaled 23 touchdowns through six games, 14 passing and nine rushing. The Vikings are 5-1.

• The L.A. Times' Eric Sondheimer takes a look at the interesting case of new Agoura standout Lucky Radley, who's now at his third school in about four months. There certainly are a lot of suspect elements to this story, including Radley saying "my scholarship was pulled" from Crespi for failing to pass a summer school class, when it is of course illegal for Crespi -- which has become a Southern California powerhouse in the past five-plus years -- or any other high school to offer athletic scholarships. But as Sondheimer notes, nothing Radley has done is against CIF Southern Section rules, one reason perhaps that there were a reported 1,016 transfers in the month of September alone in the area.

• Former North Bend (Ore.) football coach Howard Johnson was killed in a car wreck while driving to North Bend's football game at Sutherlin on Friday night, reports The Oregonian. North Bend athletic director Boyd Bjorkquist was also in the car and suffered minor injuries and was later released from the hospital.

• Eight-man football, which is quite popular in many smaller states, could be coming to Michigan soon, according to The Grand Rapids Press.



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