South Florida Express players impress
TAMPA, Fla. -- Over a dozen teams from around the Sunshine State took part in the Badger Sport 7-on-7 tournament, but the team that gained the most attention was the South Florida Express, which features several big-name prospects.
Tracy Howard (Miramar, Fla./Miramar) is a player who impressed us on film and he is equally impressive in person. The ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect exhibits many of the physical and mental attributes needed in a cornerback. He is a confident player who has a physical style. He's not afraid to get into wide receivers faces and challenge them. He seems to carry himself on the field with that short memory and try-and-test-me swagger that you like to see in corners. He needs to continue to develop his frame, but he has a good build for a corner prospect. Howard had flashed his playmaking ability by running with a receiver, getting position and elevating to high point the ball and snatch an interception in the end zone. Howard sports several offers and said he has no timetable on a decision, but told me at this point Florida is sticking out to him.
Miami commit Randy "Duke" Johnson (Miami, Fla./Norland) is an exciting player. He's an extremely quick and fluid athlete and can be dangerous in space. It seems corner may be the best fit for him in college, but his ability to create plays and make defenders miss is tough to ignore.
An Express player not getting as much attention as many of his teammates, but is worth keeping an eye on is Amari Cooper (Miami, Fla./Northwestern). The wide receiver comes out of the well-known program, but only holds an offer from FIU at this point. A hip injury limited him to just five games last year, but said he is healthy now and as he plays more, his offer list should grow. In some ways he reminds us of former Bulls receiver Eli Rogers, who signed with Louisville, but had a slow start to his recruiting as well. Like Rogers, Cooper is a good a route runner and finds ways to make plays. Unlike Rogers, Cooper has more ideal size for a receiver and better straight-line speed.
Local team makes news
Team Tampa featured one of the more physically impressive looking prospects in the entire tournament in Tyriq McCord (Tampa, Fla./Jefferson), who passes the eye test with a long and fairly muscular build. He played mostly defensive end last year, but hopes to see some action at linebacker this season and some schools are interested in him at that position. McCord, who said he has offers from Florida, USF, South Carolina, and Rutgers, among others, was taking part in his first 7-on-7 action on Saturday. He has good size and size potential, and also possesses very good straight-line speed. A move to linebacker is possible, but while we need to study more film on him, early indications seem that he may be better suited to keeping his hand on the ground. He can run and is best suited to vertically attacking. He had some trouble in space and opening up and trying to run with backs. He admitted an area he wanted to improve on was his ability to change directions and that seemed like a fair self-assessment. McCord possesses some real positives as a prospect, but we are not sure that a move to linebacker at this point would be good fit.
The 2012 tight end class has not yet proved to be overly strong compared to some past classes, but we were looking forward to seeing Watch List TE Kent Taylor (Land O'Lakes, Fla./Land O'Lakes). Taylor possesses good height, but a lean build. He will need to add some significant bulk, though his frame might limit how much good size he can add. He is a physical player and, as we saw on film, he displayed good hands. He was competitive as a route runner, but displayed just solid speed and an adequate ability to win in transition. He came across as more of a short-to-intermediate target. Another talented tight end in attendance who lacks ideal bulk was Sean Price (Citra, Fla./North Marion). Price had a strong day and appeared to add some size. He looked a little thicker in person and displayed a frame that could support more size. Price made some tough and impressive grabs. He displayed good hands, concentration and a competitiveness to compete for the ball. The Watch List tight end said he had a top three of Florida, USF and Miami right now and hopes to enter college at about 230 pounds. Watching him on Saturday, he looked to be transitioning from a bigger wide receiver into more of a tight end, but also displayed the ability to make plays as a target in the passing game.
One of the teams was called BigTimers and one if its players showed some big-time ability. Alton "Pig" Howard (Orlando, Fla./Edgewater) is a smaller receiver, but he has a good wingspan for his size and displayed the ability to play bigger and go up for the ball. He also displayed good acceleration and the ability to make plays.
Notes from the field
Florida commit LaTroy Pittman (Citra, Fla./North Marion) showed some playmaking ability. He has good size for a receiver with long arms and big hands. As we saw on film, he displayed some awareness and body control with the ball in air and made some good catches. ... Florida State safety commit P.J. Williams (Ocala, Fla./Vanguard) was a consistent presence. He has a long and rangy frame and seems to always be around the football. ... It's a few years before we're really focusing on the Class of 2014, but it is hard to ignore running back Sony Michel (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage). Playing for the South Florida Express, Michel is so quick and fluid in space that he can present a tough match-up. He can also catch the ball as well as he runs it. ... Herb Waters (Homestead, Fla./Homestead), who had a strong showing at the Miami Under Armour combine a few weeks ago, has picked up a few offers. He didn't have any at the Miami combine, but since then has landed offers from Marshall, UCF and Louisville.
Badger linemen challenge
The Badger 7v7 event was the big draw, but there was some talent at the linemen challenge. While the numbers were low, the talent was strong.
The top offensive lineman was Reno Henderson (Lake Wales, Fla./Vanguard), who claimed an offer from South Florida. The 2012 tackle prospect is a long-limbed and high-waisted prospect who needs to add bulk. He said he last measured in at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, but said he has been as heavy as 270 pounds. He has the room to add size, but that will be something that needs to be addressed when he enters college. He displayed good bend in drills and moved his feet well. During 1-on-1's he used his good reach of his to deliver a nice punch and get his hands on rushers. He was able to mirror rushers when he sat back and kept good technique, but needs to work on not getting too top heavy and lunging. We would imagine USF won't remain his only offer for too long.
Two other offensive linemen who had good days were from Fort Pierce Westwood. Inuka Rhaheed took reps on both sides of the ball and claimed an offer from Buffalo for defensive tackle, but our initial impression was that he may be better suited for offensive guard. He was an aggressive kid who had a good punch and displayed the ability to mirror rushers in the short area. Zerrie Patterson has no offers and needs to work on his build and shift some weight, but he flashed some good athleticism for his size and was very consistent in 1-on-1's. If he keeps showing the effort and playing like he did on Saturday, he could see some offers come in.
The defensive side of the ball featured a familiar face in Dwayne Hoilett (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach), who tested well at the Miami Under Armour combine in February. At the time of the Miami event, Hoilett was still seeking his first offer, but told me he recently landed offer No. 1 from Southern Miss and is hearing from several other programs. He is a long-limbed prospect who needs to keep filling out his frame, but he flashed good burst and the ability to use his reach to keep blockers off of him and knock their hands down. ... A late but welcome addition to the event was Patrick Jean (Port St. Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast), who is flying under the radar. A physically good looking player who will likely end up at outside linebacker in college, Jean has caught the eyes of a few recruiters with offers from programs like Florida State, USF and Louisville. It's worth keeping an eye on Jean after his abbreviated, but good performance on Saturday and we are looking forward to studying his film. ... Mike Minns (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer) is a defensive tackle who has marginal height but a thick and stout build. He does not have any offers and his lack of height will be an obstacle, but for a kid who said he was a shade under 300 pounds he carries his weight well. In 1-on-1's, he did a good job of attacking half-a-man and when he played to his strengths, attacked the shoulder and used the rip move and power by getting under blockers, he was tough to handle. He can't get too cute as a pass rusher. He needs to make his lack of height work for him and utilize his short but powerful build. A good sign was that Minns offered up that he studies and molds his game some after Florida State and former No. 1 overall defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel and current USF DT Todd Chandler, who were undersized tackles who were able to still be successful.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has more than a decade of coaching experience. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
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