ORLANDO — The Nike Opening Regional tour rolled into Central Florida on Sunday, bringing with it more than 100 prospects who held Power 5 offers by late February.
When evaluating players at camps, I always go from position to position. Often, the QB position at camps in Florida is pretty weak. There have been years when not a single Florida QB prospect deserved a Power 5 offer. But even so, evaluators still have to take a look. And if there’s nothing there, just say hello to the coaches and move on.
But 2020 is different in the state of Florida. This Orlando camp featured a number of star QBs.
Florida State commit Jeff Sims, from Jacksonville Sandalwood, took home the QB MVP honors and received an invite to the Elite 11 finals. Sims is a wiry 6’3, 195 pounds, and has a lot of arm talent. But his ball placement was also good on Sunday. Sims has been rapidly improving, and FSU is extremely excited to have him as the leader of the class, as he has been actively recruiting for the Seminoles.
Sims is currently ranked the No. 666 player nationally on the 247Sports Composite. But February rankings are notoriously terrible, and behind the scenes, recruiting writers laugh about how bad they are this early in the cycle. Expect Sims to rise several hundred spots in the rankings. He received an invite to play in the Under Armour All-America Game last week as well.
On equal footing with Sims was Carson Beck, a fellow Jacksonville product. Beck was the most advanced QB at the event. He has a huge arm and knows where to go with the football. He’s also a good athlete, and led Mandarin to a state title in December. He earned an invite to the Elite 11 Finals.
Beck has had two major developments this February: he gave up playing baseball, and he decommitted from Alabama following the Tide’s massive turnover in the coaching staff ranks. While Alabama is still in it for Beck, and Miami has also made a strong impression, it is Florida which sits in the best spot.
It would not be a shock to see Beck become a Gator when he visits in March, though he is intent on giving all three schools a strong look. Like Sims, Beck is also underrated. There are a few “pro-style” QBs rated higher than him who are not even in the same ballpark. Expect that to change.
But the quality QB play did not stop there.
Anthony Richardson, of Gainesville Eastside, followed up a truly ridiculous day of combine testing (6’4, 222 pounds, 4.50 40-yard dash, and a 34.1-inch vertical) with a solid day of throwing. Richardson also earned an Elite 11 Finals invite. As a thrower, Richardson is not on the same level yet as Beck or Sims, but he is improving a lot. And with his running ability, defenses have to spend so much time worrying about who can catch him or who can actually bring him down, that if he can get continue to improve his throwing ability, he’s going to be dangerous in college.
Richardson decommitted from Florida a few weeks ago. The Gators are still in the race, but he is also hearing a lot from Georgia and Penn State. A visit to Georgia is on deck.
The event had depth, too. Tucker Gleason of Tampa Plant, Garrett Greene of Tallahassee Lawton Chiles, Devon Lingle of Neptune Beach Fletcher, Ethan Forrester of Land O’ Lakes, and Katravis Marsh of Miami Central all had strong days.
Not since 2011, when Jeff Driskel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jacoby Brissett were spinning the rock, has the state of Florida had multiple top QBs who legitimately belong on the national radar. The receivers at the event didn’t know how lucky they were to have on-target throws.
Six players earned invites to the exclusive Opening finals.
The Opening Finals is a collection of some of the best recruits in the nation, squaring off in drills and combine events every summer. The invites are based on a combination of film evaluation and in-camp performance.
Running back Demarkcus Bowman of Lakeland continued to show off the skills he used to carry the Dreadnaughts to a state title. Bowman is rated as a five-star and the No. 5 running back nationally. The 5’9, 191-pound speedster put up a Nike Rating (AKA SPARQ score) of 107, good for third in the event. Bowman said he has been working on running between the tackles more. As for his recruitment, three schools stand out: Clemson, Florida, and Georgia. Bowman did not tip his hand as to his recruitment, and is not in a rush to make a decision. But he did confirm that Georgia is now recruiting him hard, which is notable because there was thought that the Bulldogs had others higher on their board.
IMG Academy receiver Michael Redding III was excellent. He made highlight catches, checked out physically, and backed it up with excellent testing numbers.
Michael Redding was elite today at wr and backed it up with top testing numbers. From the panhandle, wishes he heard more from Seminoles and Gators. @ReddingIII pic.twitter.com/BCvbzwxxQV— SB Nation Recruiting (@SBNRecruiting) February 24, 2019
LSU and Notre Dame have shown Redding a lot of love, but as of Thursday afternoon, he did not hold offers from the in-state Gators or Seminoles. That changed several hours later, after FSU QB commit Jeff Sims learned the Noles hadn’t offered and told him that would change that night. Redding then got an offer from FSU.
Cornerback Fred Davis, from Trinity Christian in Jacksonville, continued to show why he is the top defensive back in the state. His transitions when shadowing receivers are effortless, and he has the size at 6’1, 182, and the mentality to be physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage. Clemson and Ohio State are looking strong here. I wrote about Davis a few weeks ago in my 2020 stars to know feature. Davis was my top player of this entire event.
Lake Wales defensive tackle Gervon Dexter was a beast for much of the day. Dexter is still very much learning how to play, but the Gators commitment has an elite blend of power and quickness. Dexter measured in at a legitimate 6’6, 273, and threw the powerball 47 feet, which he claimed was a record for The Opening. Dexter is a solid commitment to the Gators and actively recruits others to Gainesville, though he said he will be taking some visits, including to Florida State and Texas A&M, among others.
FSU linebacker commit Keyshawn Greene made his case to be the best LB in the state. He has the production at the high school level, the measurables, and the testing numbers (4.49 40-yard dash at 6’3, 210). Greene took home the linebacker MVP honors as well.
Defensive end Chantz Williams, of Jacksonville Oakleaf, posted a blistering 4.56 40-yard time and was rarely blocked in 1v1s. More on him below.
There may be more players invited from this event.
Meet six four-stars who justified their ratings.
Chantz Williams (see above) and offensive tackle Jalen Rivers, both of Jacksonville Oakleaf, were standouts. Rivers checked in at 6’6, 331, and looks to be in the best shape of his life. He rarely lost reps in 1v1s, and was focused on performing better after an underwhelming Under Armour performance. Rivers said he had worked hard on staying within himself, being balanced, trusting his positioning and not lunging or reaching. It showed.
Williams and Rivers are intent on attending the same school and have the same top five: Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, and Miami. A trip to Auburn is next, a visit which was planned for the pair before they released their top five. When pressed, both said the Gators are the school they know would have a hat on their table come decision day.
Cocoa athlete Caziah Holmes opened my eyes about his ability to play the running back position. I previously thought he should play defensive back, which he can also do adeptly. Holmes ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, made several defenders miss in 1v1s, and showed true breakaway speed in winning both of the day’s fastest-man races. Holmes is being recruited by Florida State, Miami, and Ohio State, and has a strong preference for playing running back. His uncle was J.T. Thomas, the first African-American player for the Seminoles.
Receiver Bryan Robinson of Palm Beach Central, was strong on the day. The 6’ receiver has good toughness and fights for the football. He was one of only two receivers to beat Fred Davis on the day (Redding was the other). Robinson posted a 37-inch vertical and a 4.30-second shuttle time. Robinson is a Miami commitment, but he is being recruited heavily by Florida and Florida State, who are going to make it tough on Miami.
Demorie Tate, an athlete from Orlando Freedom, had an excellent day as well. Tate plays defensive back and easily blankets receivers thanks to his athleticism and length (6’2). The Florida State commitment is hearing a lot from Alabama, Georgia, and some others as his stock continues to rise.
DB Avantae Williams, of Deland, had yet another impressive performance. Williams is listed as a safety on many websites, but he showed the ability to cover receivers like a cornerback. Williams is an explosive player. He is committed to Oregon, though Florida, LSU, and many other schools are trying for the flip. It has traditionally been tough for Oregon to hold on to the commitments of players from Florida.
Keyvone Lee, a running back from Clearwater Superior Collegiate, looked like a million bucks. At 6’, 220, he was still plenty explosive. Lee recently decommitted from Florida, but is still very open to the Gators. He simply wants to go through the recruiting process and take visits, and he felt that he committed too early. Lee mentioned Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, and LSU as programs he’d like to visit. This is the second time in about 10 weeks that Lee has looked good at an all-star-type event; he also carried the West team to the title in the c/o 2020 Florida Legends Game.
And meet eight players who looked better than their early rankings and offers might suggest.
At about 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday, a receiver with red, white, and blue cleats had made yet another play. I had no idea who he was. He was not on my roster. After he sprinted to the end zone where I was filming, I asked him who he was. “Tehrenzo Turner,” he told me. “I’m not on the list because I showed up late.”
He may have been late, but the Pensacola Pine Forest receiver made the most of it, winning almost every 1v1 rep I saw him take, including against some of the better defensive backs in the state, winning the receiver MVP on a day that was strong at the position. Turner has no offers, but that should change given how college coaches from Tennessee, Toledo, Iowa State, South Alabama, Penn State, and others followed his Twitter account on Sunday. He was extremely quick in and out of his cuts, and is 5’11, 165. Turner is also a good punt returner. He’s a cool story to come out of a camp and a good example of how players can be discovered at any time.
Running back Marvin Scott, of Port Orange Spruce Creek, is beyond jacked. Players as muscled as he is typically do not shine in non-padded camps, but the 5’9, 205-pound workout warrior showed some legitimate moves and burst. Scott claims offers from Kentucky, Wake Forest, and Louisville, but has no star rating. His is a highlight tape I’ll be pulling up later this week.
Richie Leonard, an offensive guard or center from Cocoa, was arguably the best offensive lineman on the day. Leonard has gotten into better shape, and his confidence shows with his increased body control. He is committed to Kentucky, but his offer list is growing. Leonard is ranked outside the top 700 players nationally, and that’s obviously too low.
Offensive lineman Zach Perkins, of Tampa Berkeley Prep, has zero stars, but looked strong on Sunday, blocking a number of the better players at the event. Perkins is 6’5, 310, with a wide frame and strong weighlifting numbers. He was undefeated in 1v1 drills until very late in the day. Perkins has a few Power 5 offers, including Purdue and Georgia Tech, but more should be on the way. If he can show that he can play tackle, as opposed to guard, his stock could really shoot up.
JeJuan Sparks, defensive tackle from Clearwater Academy International, had a strong day. He has some reshaping of his body to do (6’2, 325ish), but showed flashes of quickness, blend and power. Sparks has no star rating and no Power 5 offers.
Venice offensive tackle Thomas Shrader is a lean 6’4, 275 and moves well. He drew some tough matchups on Sunday and held his own. It will be interesting to see how he develops as he adds the necessary 30-40 pounds in the coming years. While he has zero stars as of this writing, Shrader has added offers from Duke, Boston College, Syracuse, Florida State, and Indiana in recent weeks.
Safety Donovan Thomas, of Jacksonville Oakleaf had a good day as well. Thomas is currently rated outside the top 1,000 players nationally, but I like his instincts and length, and believe he might be able to grow into a hybrid linebacker. Thomas holds offers from Kentucky and Boston College.
Defensive back Manny Stokes of Orlando Lake Nona has no star rating and no offers on his various recruit profiles, yet won the DB MVP Sunday. He showed good footwork and patience in sticking with receivers.