Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast High School made a run at the state title in 2011 on the strength of a tremendous defense. The stars of that defense include linebackers Daniel McMillian, a Florida commitment, and Tyrell Lyons, a Florida State commitment. McMillian surprisingly came to the Jimbo Fisher Camp over the weekend, and I had the opportunity to interview the pair together.
"I just came out here to show off my talent and game. It's the off-season, so come out here and work out," McMillian said when asked about his surprising decision to attend the camp.
One of the draws of the Florida State camp is working with linebacker coach Greg Hudson. "It's a lot more college stuff, like get ready for college. The game of college football is much faster and the stuff coach Hudson is doing is for college football," Lyons said.
Both players are focusing on improving specific aspects of their games. "I have to work on my balance," Lyons said. "I have to work on my strength, and my footwork and hand placement," McMillian said. They both said that they love working together as a group.
Lyons said that Jimbo Fisher told him that FSU's staff isn't sure where they will play him, be it safety or corner, but from looking at Lyons, he quite clearly has the body of a linebacker. Lyons has added a lot of muscle since last season, and said he is now around 225 pounds. McMillian checks in at 215 pounds and has the frame to add more.
The camp offered the chance to face off against some of the state's top running backs including Sony Michel and Ryan Green. "It was fun. We love competition, we don't run away from competition. You win some, you lose some. It's just about getting better," Lyons and McMillian said.
The conversation turned to recruiting, and McMillian was asked about his decision to attend Florida. It's an usual decision for a player from First Coast, since most Buccaneers who are able have elected to go to Florida State.
"They always give me grief. My locker is way over in the corner by myself now," McMillian said. "We joke around and are like 'you going to Florida, you going to Florida State'," Lyons said. "We joke around about it, but I don't know if it gets to a serious point yet. It may get to a serious time later on in the year," Lyons added.
Asked of his impressions of Florida State and Tallahassee, McMillian was low key.
"It's just another day to me. Another day of working out. Just out here having fun," McMillian said. "I've been here so many times it's like another home. Same old, same old," McMillian said about not really having an impression of Florida State and Tallahassee.
McMillian plans to camp at Florida soon and Lyons may join him. Clemson may also be an option for the pair.
I asked about new offers for the pair, and they laughed, indicating new offers wouldn't matter. "Keep it," they said of schools that have not yet offered.
McMillian and Lyons both indicated that it was unlikely they would take official visits to either school, since both are so close to their home in Jacksonville. This isn't unusual, as recruits often use official visits to travel to far away schools since the trips are paid for by the school.
"I'll take a visit to Oregon, Alabama and Ohio State," McMillian said. He also joked that he would take an official to Hawaii. "I'd like to go to Auburn and Clemson," Lyons added.
One pleasant surprise of the camp was the discovery of 2015 linebacker recruit Sherrod Pittman, also of First Coast (see photo at left).
That's right, First Coast has three top BCS linebacker prospects on a single high school team. "He going to be good, hanging out with us. He picks it up fast. We'll tell him and he's like 'OK, I gotcha, I gotcha'. When we make mistakes we all try to correct each other," they said.
When asked if First Coast has the best group of linebackers in the country, Lyons initially hesitated, but McMillian jumped in. "Yeah, we're the best. We gotta be confident, man, we the best," McMillian said.
Last year's dream season ended with a blowout loss to Manatee in the state title game.
Manatee 40, First Coast 0
The Hurricanes, rated #18 nationally by USA Today, blew away the previously unbeaten Buccaneers with a stifling defensive effort. First Coast managed just 108 total yards, and freshman DeAndre Johnson was sacked five times while throwing two costly interceptions in the end zone. They also had plenty of self-inflicted mistakes -- among others, three fumbles, a penalty that wiped out a missed Manatee field goal on the last play of the half (the Hurricanes made the second attempt), a punt that was blocked and recovered for a touchdown by Manatee, and a sequence where they had a 1st and 10 at the Manatee 11-yard line and ended up punting. First Coast set a dubious state championship record because of all the sacks and recovered fumbles, rushing for minus-71 yards.
Cord Sandberg led the Hurricanes with 180 yards passing and 78 yards rushing. He ran for one score and threw for another, to Anthony Lauro. Lauro also had a touchdown run to go with 58 rushing yards and 77 receiving yards. Leon Allen chipped in 73 yards on the ground and made six catches for 64 yards.
Manatee's championship is their fifth in school history, but the first since 1992. Coach Joe Kinnan has been there for all five titles.
"It motivates me to work harder and be better than I was," McMillian said. "We more humble. It's not like last year. We make sure to do everything right and finish everything," Lyons said. Both players think about the game often and are hoping for a rematch. Manatee brings back the bulk of its roster, so the trio just might get their wish.
SB Nation Recruiting will continue to closely follow the progress of Lyons, McMillian and the other talent at First Coast.
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