More than 300 of the state's best players attended the Miami Nike Opening Regional Camp on Sunday. Here are my thoughts, observations and scoop. You'll see a lot of Florida, Florida State and Alabama mentioned, as expected.
I am only one person. I can only see only about 20 percent of all the reps the players take, as there are typically five stations operating simultaneously. It's entirely possible that someone could come away with very different observations than I did. To supplement them, I confer with coaches at the event to see if the talent I saw flashing during one drill carried over to a drill I didn't get to see.
I was not blown away by any of the quarterbacks and actually felt quite bad for the receivers who worked very had to get open against an elite crop of defensive backs, only to have balls bounce to them or sail over their heads (and on a few occasions, the fence).
Cade Weldon made the best throws of the day. I'll be watching the Tampa Jefferson QB more this year because he showed some good accuracy and zip. I did not get to watch him in footwork drills.
Florida commit Jake Allen of Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas earned an invite to the Elite 11 QB Camp semifinals, to be held in June in Los Angeles. I’ve sung Allen’s praises before, but the last few times I have seen him (in the state playoffs, and twice over the last few weeks in camp settings) I have not been as impressed. Allen was dealing with an injury during his 2015 season, so perhaps he is still getting over that.
In any case, I don’t believe that there is a clear-cut No. 1 pro-style QB in Florida at this point.
The running back group was strong, lead by Zaquandre White of North Fort Myers. I live by White and have seen him plenty, so I knew the FSU commitment had good size (6'0, 203), power and speed, but I did not know he could catch the ball in traffic like he did Sunday. His receiving display reminded me a bit of 2014 prospect Joe Mixon, and like Mixon, he earned an invite to The Opening. White told me that he'll probably take a visit to Auburn because the Tigers are staying on him about visiting, but he said he is 100-percent committed to Florida State, and backed up the talk by actively recruiting for FSU Sunday. White might be the best back in the state.
2019 prospect James Cook, the younger brother of Dalvin, showed the skills he used to lead Miami Central to yet another state title. Cook does not look like a prospect who has to play three more years of high school ball before he gets to college. Cook likes FSU and Miami in the early going.
Also of note were Miami Carol City's Nayquan Wright, a 2019 from Carol City, Maleek Williams of Charlotte and Kywan Smith, of Miami Central. Wright and Smith have great quickness, while Williams has nice size though is a bit stiff.
Receiver was not as deep as in previous years, but the top was quite good. As mentioned above, the QB play was poor throughout, making this a difficult evaluation.
Trevon Grimes, the five-star from Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas was the highest-rated prospect and he showed well, but was badly over- or under-thrown several times after getting open. Grimes told me Ohio State is still on top of his recruitment, with Florida lurking.
The receiver who had the best day until he hurt his foot was four-star Jerry Jeudy of Deerfield Beach. Jeudy isn't necessarily excellent in any one area, he's just very good at everything, and if he was 6'4 and not 6'1 he'd be a no-doubt five-star. Jeudy told me Alabama leads Miami.
After those two, the drop-off was steep. Clevan Thomas of Pembroke Pines Flanagan is physically limited but proficient at getting open and making catches. Carmoni Green of Miami Central is now up to eight offers and is a prospect with good size and hands who could continue to blow up entering his senior year. St. Thomas Aquinas' Mike Harley is a small speedster who gave everyone fits.
At tight end, Miami Southridge's Kemore Gamble stood out with athleticism and tough catches. He said he is solid in his commitment to the Hurricanes.
The offensive line group was awesome all day and dominated an underwhelming defensive line crop, which is not the norm in South Florida.
Kai-Leon Herbert of Plantation American Heritage had a strong day once he moved inside to guard. He likes Florida, but will take several visits and is in no rush to decide.
Kadeem Telfort, of Miami Norland is solid in his commitment to Florida and moved well throughout the day.
Jerry Drake Jr. of Palm Beach Gardens showed why he has added a number of top offers in recent weeks. Drake Jr. has excellent academics and wants offers from Iowa and Florida. He likes Florida State and Alabama among his current offer and is in no jury with his process.
The best prospect of the group is Tedarrell Slaton, of American Heritage. Slaton holds all the major offers and likes Michigan, FSU, Alabama Georgia Ole Miss, among others. The 6’4.5, 335-pounder played tackle, but might be the best guard in the country. Slaton loves basketball, but does not play soft on the football field like so many hoopers.
Navaughn Dolandson, of Miami Central is not necessarily build for the camp setting which doesn’t suit powerful blockers (nobody is wearing pads), but showed well and has already proven himself in games. Donaldson says he is solid to Miami.
A name to watch for 2018: Cody Bowes of St. Thomas Aquinas, who could be elite if he continues to add good size.
There wasn’t much to write home about along the defensive line. There were some bigger tackles who don’t move all that well, and a lot of short pass rushers who looked maxed out.
One player who caught my eye, however, was Jonathan Garvin, of Lake Worth. The 6’4 Garvin has good burst and a nice frame. A source told me he thinks Garvin is transferring to the Oxbridge Academy in Palm Beach, but I did not get a chance to speak with Gavin to confirm. NC State has offered, though, and won't be the last.
The story was much better at linebacker. Vandarius Cowan, of Palm Beach Gardens stood out at 6’4, 218. I’ve always believed the FSU commit would end up as an edge rusher, but he told me he wants to play inside linebacker, and he is built similarly to former Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. Cowan impressed, moving much better in coverage than I thought he would. He says he is solid in his FSU commitment, and he was actively recruiting for FSU Sunday, but he does plan to visit Alabama.
De'Andre Wilder, of Miami Carol City, was a blur on the day. Wilder is so aggressive and quick. He likes Miami, Alabama and a host of schools.
Tyler Dunning, a former Miami commitment of St. Thomas Aquinas looked a bit heavy at 6’0, 237, perhaps not all of it good. He does have a ability and is hearing from Alabama, Tennessee and LSU, along with Pitt and Kentucky.
Miami commitment Waymond Steed, of Miami Central showed very nice range and instincts on the day. I was happy for the 2017 prospect who missed last year with injury.
I love watching South Florida defensive backs because they have that dog in ‘em, constantly challenging receivers and showing no fear.
The defensive backs were dominant on the day. lead by Stanford Samuels III of Pembroke Pines Flanagan. Samuels has it all -- athleticism, length (6’1, 170), technique and competitiveness. I expect the FSU legacy to commit to Florida State this spring, though he will take some visits including Georgia and and a few other schools. Samuels got the best of Grimes on the day, clearly frustrating him.
Recent Oklahoma commitment Trajan Bandy of Miami Columbus had a great day, as well. Bandy is quite short (probably 5’8, but his hair is grown to the perfect length so that it helps him when being measured without being obvious), but he’s not small, and there is a difference. Bandy is a pest to receivers, with great quickness and toughness. I doubt Bandy’s recruitment is over, and Clemson is still pursuing hard.
Daniel Wright, the younger brother of Florida great Major Wright, said that FSU leads over LSU. The Ft. Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons star was wearing a gray jersey and was listed as a receiver on the day, which was odd.
Miami Columbus’ Christopher Henderson ran a blazing 4.35 40-yard dash, and says he is solid in his commitment to Miami. Henderson is still raw but has all the athleticism to be a good cornerback.
Safety Brian Edwards, of Miramar, has great size and moved well, showing why he has double-digit offers.
The best underclassman was Pat Surtain, Jr. of American Heritage. His father played a decade in the NFL and the son could follow in his footsteps. Surtain Jr. likes LSU, but is also a fan of Alabama and the Florida schools. He will take many visits this spring and summer.