- Jamie Newberg, RecruitingNation
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- After shocking many by beating the South Florida Express at the New Level Athletic 7 on 7 regional tournament on USF's campus, Footballers Fire won again at this weekend's regional tournament at Samford University.
"We played really well on both sides of the ball," Footballers Fire coach Dennis Marroquin said. "But defense wins championships. We have a lot of speed and some great athletes, and we created some turnovers."
Footballers Fire, comprised primarily of players from South Florida, easily beat Georgia 34-6 in the final at the New Level tournament, formerly known as Badger 7 on 7.
Their defense stymied the Georgia offense while Fire quarterback Ghierry Vanderkuyp (Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah) led them to scores with accurate passing, especially early on.
"Ghierry is perfect for what we do," Marroquin said. "He's not only a quarterback but a great athlete. He goes out there and leads the troops, and he throws the ball pretty well."
Defensively, the Fire secondary was deep and talented, led by the likes of Chris Bivins (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville), Dion Witty (Pompano Beach, Fla./Coral Glades) and Deshawn Lindsey (Pompano Beach, Fla./Ely), among others.
"We have a lot of chemistry," Lindsey said. "We are made up of a bunch of guys from a bunch of different schools but we are like a real team. We have come together and become a family. It shows in the way we play. We believe, and no one else does."
Another stalwart for the Fire defense is linebacker Andy Garcia (Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah). Garcia, who has scholarship offers from Vanderbilt, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois, made a ton of big plays this weekend.
"We have been together for almost five months now and we play well together," Garcia said. "The offense does and so does our defense. We all have different backgrounds and come from different schools but we play with a lot of teamwork. People always doubt us because we don't have the big names. But we have the talent and the heart. We wanted to come here and prove that winning in Tampa was no fluke. I think we did that."
The Fire dominated from the start against Georgia, which is a team that features many high-profile recruits, such as Jason Croom (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), C.J. Curry (Gainesville, Ga./North Hall), Kenyan Drake (Powder Springs, Ga./Hillgrove), Chaz Elder (College Park, Ga./Banneker), Ray Buchanan Jr. (Suwanee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge), and 2013 standouts in quarterback Eddie Printz (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter) and Darius Curry (Gainesville, Ga./North Hall).
It was the first time a team has won two different New Level Athletics 7 On 7 regional tournaments. Now they will advance to the New Level Athletics National Tournament at SMU in Dallas in early July.
The Fire dedicated their victory to the people of Alabama struck by the devastating tornadoes that hit the South last week.
Kimbrow leading talented Memphis squad
The West Tennessee Express team was loaded for this event, led by Memphis East star athlete Brian Kimbrow. But he wasn't alone. Quarterback Will Gross (Memphis, Tenn./Melrose), running back Jovon Robinson (Memphis, Tenn./Woodale), and receivers Nathan Cole (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell), Will Redmond (Memphis, Tenn./East) and Cory Batey (Nashville, Tenn./Ensworth) are all players with multiple scholarship offers.
"We have a lot of talent out there," Kimbrow said. "I expected us to do well whoever we play against. There's a lot of talent in Tennessee this year. We have bonded and come together quickly."
The guy that makes it happen is Gross, a talented athlete at the quarterback position who threw for 2,333 yards, 39 touchdowns and only six interceptions last season. Gross, who was just offered by Alabama last week, also has scholarship offers from Louisville, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Kentucky, UConn and Mississippi State.
"I have checked out a few schools like Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Middle Tennessee State, and I plan to see Notre Dame and Cincinnati soon," Kimbrow said. "I am pretty much open. More and more coaches talk with me to see where I stand. I will wait and take official visits and see how things play out."
Batey now with three offers
After the Nike camp in Athens a few weeks ago, Batey found himself still waiting on his first scholarship offer. Now he's sitting on a trio; Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Arkansas State have all offered him.
"It's a relief to get the offers," Batey said. "I was getting kind of stressed. Kentucky likes me as a receiver, and Vandy likes me as a safety. I am not sure about Arkansas State. They offered me last week, and I haven't talked with them yet. Just my coach has."
More are sure to come his way, especially with the May evaluation period ramping up. Batey said teams such as Cincinnati, Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi State are all coming to see him this month.
Gross names top five
Gross now has 11 scholarship offers, but his most recent one shocked even him.
"I now have 11 scholarship offers," Gross said. "The latest is Alabama. I got it last Thursday. That excited me a lot. My eyes got very big when that happened. Right now I like [in order] Louisville, Memphis, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Kentucky.
"I have seen Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Memphis. I am going to Arkansas State next Friday."
Gross is happy where things are headed with his recruitment and knows exactly what he's looking for.
"The first thing I'm looking at is good communication with the coaches," he said. "I want to make sure the players like me. I want to look at the play book and depth chart."
Sims is one to watch
Expect the recruitment of cornerback Greg Sims (Brookhaven, Miss./Brookhaven) to really pick up. He's a very talented defensive back who didn't allow a reception in six games at the New Level Athletics 7 on 7 tournament this weekend.
"Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Arkansas State and Memphis are some teams that are recruiting me," Sims said.
He is the cousin for former Mississippi State linebacker K.J. Wright, who was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks this past weekend.
"Getting that first offer from Louisville was really accomplishing," Zack Blaylock said. "All the coaches treat you like family. They are real cool. We liked everything about Kentucky. The campus is beautiful, and the coaches are hilarious."
Zack, who is 12 minutes older than Daron, says the two obviously would like to play together but it might not work out that way.
"If it happens, then great. But I would have to say it would be a little weird if we were not together."
Zack, 6-1 and 213 pounds, is a linebacker/safety prospect. Daron, 6-0 and 190 pounds, is a free safety. Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt could be close to offering these two.
Elder surprised with the attention
Elder is surprised by all the recruiting attention. The ESPNU 150 Watch List member has scholarship offers from some big-name teams such as Georgia, Auburn, Clemson and South Carolina and a handful of others.
"I didn't expect this," Elder said. "I had no idea. The biggest surprise is Nebraska because they are so far out there. I don't know too much about them."
Elder says everyone is chasing two schools at this point.
"Georgia and Clemson stand out," Elder said. "Georgia is nice, and it's the home school. My family would like me to go there. With Clemson, I like the coaches. They are real nice."
Sure the Dawgs and Tigers lead for Elder now, but that could change if a few more big-name schools offer.
"I am hoping to get offers from Alabama, FSU and Florida," Elder said. "If they did, it would make my decision harder."
• Jordan Batiste (Lutcher, La./Lutcher) has offers from Mississippi State, Tulane, Memphis, Southern Miss and North Texas
• Defensive back Chris Bivins received a scholarship offer from South Carolina last week. He also has scholarship offers from Memphis, USF, Florida International and Temple.
• Defensive back Adrian Burton (Pompano Beach, Fla./Ely) now has scholarship offers from Northern Illinois, SMU and Indiana.
• D'Arthur Cowan (Olive Brach, Miss./Olive Branch) is sitting on scholarship offers from Mississippi State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss. He has visited Memphis, Arkansas and Mississippi State.
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Footballers Fire won their second New Level Athletic 7 on 7 in Alabama.