PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- William T. Dwyer High celebrated its first state championship (Florida, Class 4A) this past season and one look at the talented roster explains why.
Not only did the Panthers have players like ESPNU 150 athlete Matt Elam, cornerback Robert Clark and tight end Gerald Christian in the 2010 class, they featured multiple Division I prospects for the Class of 2011.
Tight end Nick O'Leary, defensive end/linebacker Curt Maggitt and quarterback/athlete Jacoby Brissett are the headliners. O'Leary is one of the nation's top prospects at his position, Maggitt has an impressive national offer list and Brissett, a two-sport athlete, has a ton of upside.
"I think  is one of the best classes we've had," Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels said. "But we have a good nucleus of players coming back. I don't know if I will ever have as good of a team as I had last year. But we are excited about the upcoming year."
O'Leary is a national prospect
O'Leary, the grandson of golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, first emerged on the national scene last March at the Miami Nike Football Training Camp in Coral Gables, Fla. During one-on-one drills, O'Leary caught everything that was thrown to him, reinforcing a big local reputation for having great hands.
O'Leary has started to collect scholarship offers. Florida, Florida State, Miami, Georgia, Ohio State, Tennessee, West Virginia, Boston College and others have stepped up with offers during the early stages of the process.
"If the ball gets near him, he's going to catch it," Daniels said. "He's got the best hands that I've seen in 20 years of coaching high school football. He's physical, he runs good routes and he's a competitor. I think he's got the chance to be one of the best players in the country."
There are family ties to two programs. Nick's father, Bill O'Leary, played at Georgia, while Nicklaus is an Ohio State alum.
"I've always liked Georgia growing up," O'Leary said. "I liked Georgia and Ohio State. Now that I am being recruited and getting a lot of offers, I am open to everybody."
For now, O'Leary is finishing out a season in another sport before the focus shifts back to finding a college.
"I am waiting until lacrosse season is over before I even think about it," he said. "We won state [in lacrosse] last year, but we aren't as good as we were last year. It's fun to go out there and hit people and stuff like that."
O'Leary is taking all of the attention in stride.
"You've just got to keep your head on straight," O'Leary said. "I've got to keep playing the way I've been playing and get better."
As for Nicklaus, the Golden Bear is a fixture around Dwyer athletics.
"I don't think he missed a game this season," Daniels said. "He was at our basketball game [Thursday night] to see [Brissett] play. The kids love him and he's a fan of the whole program here."
Maggitt a tough, big-time prospect
Curt Maggitt played most of last season with a torn labrum, yet he still finished as one of the best players on a championship-winning team.
"Every time he steps on the field, he brings hustle to the whistle," Daniels said. "He's so hard to block off the edge, but he also can line up down inside for us. He hurt his shoulder and he still had a great season."
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Maggitt had surgery to repair the injury and is planning to start his rehabilitation in the next few weeks.
"I got injured the third game of the season," he said. "It hurt pretty bad sometimes, but we won state, so it was a great accomplishment."
Texas Tech and LSU are the most recent offers for Maggitt. Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, South Florida, Florida International, Iowa, Iowa State, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin all have stepped up with a scholarship offer. He plans to take unofficial visits to Florida and Miami in the near future.
"I am going to be looking at the history of the school and the academic level," he said.
Maggitt said most schools are looking at him as a defensive end, but some, like Alabama, are talking to him about playing outside linebacker.
Brissett's best days ahead of him
It's clear that there is a lot of upside where Brissett is concerned. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder is a two-sport standout (he is a talented basketball player), so it will be interesting to see what happens when he devotes his entire time to football. His coach already is sold, and rightfully so given the events of last season.
"As a quarterback, he's a leader in the huddle, but more importantly, he can make all the throws from his position," Daniels said. "He can throw the deep ball, the deep out, he's got touch on the ball and can make all of those throws. Plus, he's underrated as far as running the football. He had a couple of 80-yard runs this year, he can make people miss and he's strong."
Brissett claims early offers from Miami, Tennessee, Florida State, Rutgers, Marshall, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Boston College.
"I just take [recruiting] day by day and I don't really think about it," he said. "I am just going to go where I am comfortable."
Miller is one to watch
Class of 2012 jumbo athlete Patrick Miller is one to watch. The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder transferred into Dwyer from nearby Benjamin High and has the potential to play defensive end, tight end or offensive tackle in college.
Daniels plans to work him at defensive end and perhaps some offensive tackle.
"He seems like he is going to be a good player for us," he said.
Florida, Florida State, Miami, Ole Miss and Tennessee are just some of the programs Miller has early interest in. He may remind some of Class of 2011 tackles Jordan Prestwood (Plant City, Fla./Plant City) and Zach DeBell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./Tarpon Springs).
" Cornerback Darrell Hunter says that he hopes to camp at Tennessee, Miami and Florida. He had three interceptions last season and had a solid outing at the Jacksonville Under Armour Combine last weekend.
" Cornerback Shawn McClaine says that Louisville and Wisconsin both are showing him strong interest.
" Linebacker Jimelle James had 70 tackles, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and a blocked extra point last year. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder says that he has gotten some interest from Nebraska.
" A pair of two-way linemen, DaeVonte Barnett and Keith Bowers, could have a chance. Barnett is a 6-foot-4, 238-pounder with a good frame. He needs to obviously fill out, but could do so. Bowers is a 6-foot-2, 250-pounder who could play on either side of the ball.
" Linebacker Leroy Kelson is another prospect to watch for the 2011 class, as is offensive tackle/defensive end Shubert Bastien.
J.C. Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.