KISSIMMEE, FLA. -- Florida is known for producing great college football players. It's a state that almost no school in the country can afford to ignore in recruiting. Elite defensive linemen, great cover corners, electric receivers, legendary running backs and hard-hitting linebackers. Everything but quarterback.
For whatever reason, the adage in recruiting has been "don't come to Florida for quarterbacks." And if the Elite 11 Orlando tour stop was representative of the quarterbacks in the state for the class of 2015, the adage holds true once again. No invites were extended to the Elite 11 finals, and from my vantage point, having covered many of these events in recent years, none were deserved.
Gibson is a no-show
The most disappointing news of the day was the absence of Torrance Gibson, the five-star athlete from Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage. He is insistent on playing quarterback in college, but the 6'4 speedster has predominantly played receiver at recent 7-on-7 events, and I was really looking forward to seeing the extremely raw prospect work with some excellent quarterback coaches and go through the drills.
Of the prospects who did show, there were several who had good days, but none who struck me as nationally elite. There were a lot of fringe prospects. Of course, this is just one event and it is important not to weight camps more than actual work in games.
Francois has the velo
Deondre Francois, of Orlando (Fla.) Olympia was probably the best on the day. He showed very good velocity and a smooth delivery. The issue with Francois, as it was in 2013 (48.8% completions), is that he doesn't always throw receivers a catchable ball. The velocity seems to be there on all throws, and that's not always a good thing. To take the next step, Francois will need to show the ability to throw the ball with the appropriate velocity, arc and position.
A number of schools believe he can do so, as evidenced by his scholarship offers from Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, Tennessee and others.
Auburn has been on the 6'1 QB quite a bit. He described his interest in the Tigers as "mid-level," indicating that he needs to take a visit and see more of the program, but added that the Tigers are high on his list and that they are telling him he can "easily" play in the SEC. Francois plans to visit Auburn, Tennessee, Ohio State, Florida State and others in the spring or summer.
Johnson performs well
Florida State commitment De'Andre Johnson of Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast had a good day as well. Questions about his height persist (he claims 6'1, but I'd estimate more of 6'0), but he has been a known commodity in the state for quite a while. Johnson doesn't have the arm that Francois has, but he does a better job with his accuracy, which is arguably more important.
I spoke with Johnson after the event. He said that the Elite 11 staff worked with him on opening up his chest and extending to get the max velocity possible on his throws. Johnson was one of four quarterbacks selected to the last drill known as the pressure cooker, and his performance was one of the better ones in the drill.
Johnson doesn't have plans to visit any other schools as of right now, but said that the schools other than Florida State who are recruiting him the hardest include Nebraska, Clemson and USF. Two west coast schools, Stanford and UCLA, are also getting in the picture, and Florida has recently begun contacting him again as well. Johnson plans to camp again at Florida State over the summer.
He is also recruiting William Sweet, his offensive tackle and a recent Seminoles offer, to come with him to Tallahassee.
Feleipe Franks, of Crawfordville (Fla.) Wakulla, probably has more potential than anyone at the event. While he did not have a great day, the 2016 prospect already holds offers from Alabama, Florida and Florida State. At 6'5 and 210 pounds, he has the frame to be a 240-pound monster and has a free and easy delivery. There is definitely some baseball in his stroke.
Dwayne Lawson, of Tampa (Fla.) Hillsborough County, was more raw than I expected. The 6'5, 210-pounder flashes a big arm, but he is several years away from being at the level at which he could be a starter for some of his top offers like Florida, Ohio State, Miami or Tennessee. He has added recent offers from Michigan State, Nebraska and West Virginia.
The other two quarterbacks who made the pressure cooker final round were Brad Mayes, of Tampa Berkely Prep, and Tanner Hearn, of Orlando (Fla.) East River. Mayes lists offers from Akron and UMass. I think both can play D1 football, but I am not sure if they will be BCS types at this point.
One quarterback I did like quite a bit was Brycen Lee, of Mayo (Fla.) Lafayette. Lee is the quarterback for Jacksonville's Pro Impact 7-on-7 team, and the 6'4, 175-pounder throws a nice, catchable ball with good accuracy. When he fills out, I would expect him to develop more arm strength. I would expect some more FBS schools to offer Lee, as he already claims an offer from Troy.
If I didn't already know that Tucker Israel, of Orlando's Lake Nona, was committed to Clemson, I would not have pegged the 6'0, 190-pounder as a player committed to a program that just played in the Orange bowl. Of course, the event does not favor dual-threat quarterbacks, as it is a passing camp. And Clemson's coaching staff has had an excellent hit rate of late, putting together its best run of seasons since the early '80's.
2016 prospect Rex Culpepper, of powerhouse program Tampa Plant, is one to watch. He showed good arm strength and is the son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Brad Culpepper.