- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
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The state of Florida consistently produces top football recruits, and this year is no different, as it features a strong and deep group of offensive players. Known for players with great speed, it is once again a place for recruiters to find players at the skill positions. For the Class of 2011, there are 18 projected offensive prospects ranked in the ESPNU 150 from this state, and if we add athlete prospects who we think could, or should, land on the list for offense then that number jumps to 21. It is impressive that one state can produce that many ESPNU 150 prospects on one side of the ball.
Outside of interior offensive line talent, which is not deep this year, Florida offers good talent at all positions, highlighted by a pair of five-star prospects -- quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty) and tight end Nick O'Leary (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer).
As usual, it's a good year for receiver prospects like the big Ja'Juan Story (Brookville, Fla./Nature Coast Tech) and the speedy Tacoi Sumler (Miami/Columbus). There is also a good batch of running backs led by Mike Bellamy (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte). Quarterback is the position that stands out most, as this year's group is the state's best offering at the position since the 2007 class. Three Florida quarterbacks are in the ESPNU 150, including Driskel, Oregon commit Jerrard Randall and Miami commit Teddy Bridgewater (Miami, Fla./Northwestern). There is a good group of high- and mid-three-star prospects like Iowa commit Jake Rudock (Weston, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) in this group, too.
QB Jeff Driskel
Driskel, a Florida commit, reached five-star status with an impressive combination of size (6-foot-4, 224 pounds), ability and athleticism. Driskel can run, is physically developed and, most importantly, has a terrific arm. Coming from a newer high school (Hagerty opened in 2005), he does not have an impressive résumé of wins and there is work to be done to develop his skills in areas like going through his progressions, but overall Driskel has a wealth of tools. He can play in a spread attack, and cam challenge defenses with his arm and legs. He shows the ability to be fit into a pro-set and thrive, too. He is not bad when he stays in the pocket, and has the arm strength to make every throw and stretch the field, but he is at his most dangerous on the move. He presents a running threat and can make throws downfield on the run or even off balance. This Under Armour All-American can be looked at as the total package when it comes to measurables and physical tool,s and could develop into one dangerous weapon in Florida's offense. He is a talented baseball player, too. We will need to see how that plays into his career and development, but the bottom line is Driskel is an exciting prospect, and has all the tools to be one of college football's next great QBs.
Remember this name
Better know as "Buck," Allen had his junior season cut short after suffering a broken leg in the season opener. A healthier, more complete junior season would have likely seen Allen mentioned with the top backs in the state, if not the country, this offseason. Instead, the lack of time on the field seems to have regulated him to more of an under-the-radar status, and while he is currently sitting just outside the ESPNU 150 a healthy Allen has the ability to be a 150 prospect. He is a big (6-foot-1, 205 pounds), slashing back who runs fast and with authority. For a younger back, he has displayed good vision and patience, and for his size he can cut back and change directions well. A healthy Allen is tough to bring down, and is capable of carrying the pile. In addition to his promise as a runner, he can also be a productive part of an offense's passing game. Whether coming out of the backfield or splitting out, Allen has good hands, and is an effective route runner. In the opener last season, before he was hurt, he flashed his ability as a receiving target by racking up over 100 yards in the passing game. Currently uncommitted, Allen has several options, but it seems Alabama will be the team to beat. Allen is certainly a name to remember, and if he can remain healthy this season and show what he can do -- he already has close to 300 yards rushing, 167 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns in a little over two games -- his stock could rise.
Taking up residence
Here are the colleges doing the best with offensive prospects from Florida.
The Gators in-state offensive class boasts one of the state's five-star prospects in Driskel. Landing the talented QB was big, and he should be a great fit in Urban Meyer's offense. The Gators have four of the state's top 10 offensive prospects, if you include athletes A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, Fla./University Christian), who will almost definitely play tight end, and De'Ante Saunders (DeLand, Fla./DeLand), who could be a dangerous weapon offensively as a receiver.
The Seminoles, which at No. 6 in the Top 25 currently have the highest-ranked class among the Florida schools (Florida is No. 7 and Miami is No. 21), are doing a good job of securing offensive talent from the state. Their top-rated player is athlete James Wilder Jr. (Tampa, Fla./Plant). While many would argue Wilder is a better fit at linebacker in college, it looks like he will start out as a running back in Tallahassee, and he could be a productive and physical load carrying back. The class also features a pair of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas teammates in promising offensive tackle prospect Bobby Hart and the speedy wide receiver Rashad Greene.
The Hurricanes have a fairly small class at this time, but it is packed with quality prospects. Of the four offensive prospects in the class, all of them are from Florida. Miami has a strong pipeline to nearby power Miami Northwestern and has tapped into that talent pool again by landing quarterback Bridgewater and wide receiver Eli Rogers. The class also features the top-rated interior offensive lineman from the state in the physical and aggressive guard Marcus Jackson (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach).
The Ducks have flown south to land two ESPNU 150 offensive prospects -- Sumler and Randall. Sumler may be small in stature (5-8, 157 pounds), but is extremely fast, has soft hands and the ability to get up in the air and play bigger. Randall, a dual-threat QB, is a good overall football player and impressive athlete. Both players are great fits for Oregon's offense.
The Tigers dipped into Florida to land a pair of promising running back prospects. Bellamy, an Under Armour All-American, is a back with game-breaking type ability. Marlin Lane (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) is a back with a coveted size-to-speed ratio, but he is battling back from an injury suffered last season.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has more than a decade of coaching experience.