Football: Rising seniors who could see their recruitment take off this spring
Spring football practices began Monday and a very important fixture is returning to the sidelines: college coaches.
For the first time since 2019, colleges can have their coaches on high school campuses.
The 2020 spring sessions were wiped out because of the coronavirus pandemic. While football returned last spring, colleges were still unable to do any in-person recruiting because of a dead period that didn’t lift until June 1.
That won’t be the case this spring — and its impact will be felt beyond the class of 2023.
Colleges being able to see younger players on high school campuses is invaluable, both for the coaches and the players.
With this being such an optimal time for players to get noticed, here is one rising senior athlete from each area around the state who could see their recruiting take off this spring.
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Rico Watkins (Rickards WR)
Watkins brings track speed to the Rickards offense, catching 23 passes for 563 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Watkins' athleticism allowed coaches to use him as a defensive weapon in the secondary, where he intercepted a pass. Those numbers came against Rickards' credible strength of schedule, which featured Pine Forest, Mosley and Madison County. He's a three-star prospect according to 247 Sports. — Eric J. Wallace, The Palm Beach Post
Andrew Rumph (Palmetto DL)
This defensive tackle had 47 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and four quarterback sacks last season for a Palmetto squad which won a district title and reached the second round of the FHSAA state tournament. Listed at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Rumph is no secret on the recruiting circuit as he has seven Division I offers, including Miami, Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana. He's only a three-star prospect, however, and could see more interest with a strong offseason. — Eric J. Wallace, The Palm Beach Post
Eli Campbell (Seabreeze DB)
Seabreeze made considerable strides last fall, winning its first district championship since 2007. The Sandcrabs' defense earned many of the plaudits, including All-Area selection Campbell.
The 5-foot-11, 183-pound ballhawk did things in threes as a junior. He had a trio of interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and, most impressively, defensive touchdowns.
Fordham and Florida International have already verbally offered Campbell since spring ball started. Pittsburgh, as of now, is his lone Power Five offer, but several other programs have sniffed around and liked what they have seen. — Chris Boyle, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Gemari Sands (St. Thomas Aquinas RB)
St. Thomas annually has a stable of backs that rivals any school in the country and 2022 doesn’t look to be much different. Colorado signee Anthony Hankerson leaves a 1,300 yard, 23 touchdown hole, but Sands has the potential to be that next great Raider ball carrier. A two-year varsity contributor who dominated in reserve duty last season (12.2 yard per carry average, scored a touchdown one in every 7.4 touches), Sands has been waiting patiently for his moment to become the work horse for this offense. He has steadily built hype this off-season sharpening his skills as a receiver in 7-on-7 tournaments. Sands has FBS pedigree, an elite frame to build out and a versatile skill set that should welcome double-digit offers this spring. — Frank Tucker, The Crib South Florida
Tyre Cunningham (Lehigh LB)
Cunningham led Southwest Florida with 144 tackles and provided a boost to the dominant Lightning defense. A smaller linebacker at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Cunningham nonetheless wreaked havoc in the backfield with 29 tackles-for-loss, 14 sacks, three forced fumbles and two blocked punts.— Eric J. Wallace, The Palm Beach Post
Jailen Ruth (Hawthorne EDGE/LB)
A multi-sport athlete, Ruth has been a big reason why the Hornets reached the Class 1A state championship game the past two seasons. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound edge rusher has recorded 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons. Last fall, he registered 17 sacks, six fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles. Ruth is long, can shed blockers and is relentless pursuing whoever has the ball. It took a while but colleges are starting to take notice. Coastal Carolina, Iowa State, Vanderbilt and Washington State are among the teams who have offered heading into the spring. — Jon Santucci, USA Today Network
Jeremiah Shack (Mandarin WR)
Shack is a physically imposing and athletic three-star rated receiver. He has the speed to torch opposing players and size to reach high over defenders and pluck passes out of the air. The 6-foot-3 wideout showed up as a major red zone target for Mandarin last season, scoring multiple times from inside the 20. He closed out the 2021 season with 25 receptions, 300 yards and four touchdowns. Going into his senior season he already has nearly a dozen offers and will likely see more throughout the spring. — Juston Lewis, Florida Times-Union
Shadarian Harrison (Kathleen DB)
Harrison has risen as a Power 5 recruit with a recent offer from Oregon State, adding to his total of 11 with Nebraska, Iowa State and West Virginia. He was a First Team All-County selection by The Lakeland Ledger after rushing 86 times for 844 yards and 6 TDs. He completed 30 of 57 passes for 370 yards. — Eric J. Wallace, The Palm Beach Post
Tyree Patterson (Eustis WR)
In Patterson's last two seasons with the Panthers — he gave up basketball to focus solely on football before the 2020 season — Patterson has 85 catches for 1,792 yards and 20 touchdown. Last season, he was one of the state’s most prolific pass catchers, with 53 receptions for 1,078 and 13 scores. Patterson has received offers from at least five colleges, including Florida, Florida International, Liberty, Massachusetts and North Texas. He received an official offer from Florida on April and verbally committed to the Gators on April 17. — Frank Jolley, Daily Commercial
Antwaan Mays (Gulliver Prep ATH)
The recent talent to flow through Gulliver Prep has been of notable names and the blue-chip variety. While not your household name in recruiting circles at the moment, Mays has the ability to rise to the level of predecessors and peers. On offense, he was one of the most productive wide receivers in Dade County despite playing alongside blue-chip prospects and 1,000 yard producers Jalen Brown and DeCarlo Donaldson. As a spot defender, a place where some say his potential is its highest, he had an interception and several pass breakups. When coaches come to see five-star wide receiver Jalen Brown this spring, they’re going to see his counterpart — a 6-foot-1, 190-pound two-way gem in Mays. Lock him in for several Power opportunities by the end of May. — Frank Tucker, The Crib South Florida
Kerry Brown (Naples DB)
A talented basketball player and track sprinter, Brown posted 86 tackles with 8.0 tackles for loss, three interceptions and a scoop-and-score touchdown on the gridiron last season. Listed at 6-foot, 175-pounds, Brown is a 3-star safety prospect and holds 17 total Division I offers, including Power 5 chances with Virginia, Vanderbilt and Duke. — Eric J. Wallace, The Palm Beach Post
Mike Mitchell (Middleburg RB)
Mitchell's recruiting has been picking up the past few months and with good reason. The 6-foot, 190 pound back has legitimate size and speed (he ran a 10.81-second 100-yard dash this spring). In addition to being able to just run past defenders, Mitchell also has good vision and balance. He rushed for 1,378 yards and 18 touchdowns in eight games in 2021. He already has offers from Iowa State, Louisville and several Group of 5 programs. — Jon Santucci, USA Today Network
Jayce Brown (Choctaw ATH)
Brown is a baller on the hardcourt, but isn't afraid to mix it up on the gridiron, finishing as Choctaw's leading receiver with 558 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 18.6 yards per reception and chipped in on defense, returning an interception for a touchdown against Pensacola Catholic. He holds a Division I offer from Army. — Eric J. Wallace, The Palm Beach Post
Tommy Kinsler (Trinity Catholic OT)
At 6-foot-6, 330 pounds, Kinsler is next in a recent run of Celtics’ offensive linemen with major Division I offers. Two years ago Trinity Catholic sent Jake Slaughter (UF), Garner Langlo (Auburn) and Caleb Johnson (Notre Dame) to Power 5 schools. Kinsler started on that line as a sophomore, and there are more than a few observers who have said he could end up the best of the group. Kinsler — nicknamed "Bruno" — said during the FHSAA playoffs that UF and FSU — both of whom have offered — have been in contact with him the most. Miami, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, UCF and West Virginia are others seeking his commitment. There could be more to come this summer. — John Patton, Ocala Star-Banner
Chrisdasson Saint-Jean (Evans OT)
Saint-Jean certainly fits the mold of a player who is about to see his recruiting take off. At 6-foot-7, 310 pounds, he absolutely passes the eyeball test. He's naturally gifted with his footwork and ability to bend. He's and very strong, evidenced by him qualifying for the state weightlifting tournament earlier this year. Maryland, Purdue and USF have offered. More should be coming. — Jon Santucci, USA Today Network
Isaac Paul (Mosley DB)
Mosley is a tough matchup under head coach Tommy Joe Whiddon and Paul will be a veteran in the Dolphins' secondary. He enters his final varsity spring with six Division I offers, including Appalachian State, Army, Arkansas State and Air Force. Listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Paul has 100 career tackles and returned two interceptions for touchdowns during his junior season.— Eric J. Wallace, The Palm Beach Post
CJ Johnson (American Heritage-Delray EDGE)
Johnson was a menace in the box last season, piling up 13.0 sacks as well as 16.0 tackles for loss for the Stallions. Listed at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Johnson is entering his fourth season with American Heritage's varsity program and should play a key role under new head coach Brian VanGorder, a former NFL and college football defensive coordinator who took the Stallions coaching job in December 2021. — Eric J. Wallace, The Palm Beach Post
Elijah Douglas (Pine Forest DL)
Douglas had a nice junior campaign with 69 total tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks in the Eagles' thrilling run to the Class 6A state final. Listed at 6-foot-4, 280 pounds, Douglas' recruiting interest includes 11 mid-major programs, though Douglas recently picked up his first Power 5 offer from Georgia Tech. With Pine Forest replacing stars like Rasheed Lovelace, Deontrez McLamb and Jaquan Fank from last year's stellar defensive unit, keep an eye on Douglas as a rising playmaker. — Eric J. Wallace, The Palm Beach Post
Layne Swafford (Ponte Vedra EDGE)
In truth, St. Johns' two prized recruits have already blown up. Bartram Trail's Sharif Denson has long been established as one of the top corners across the state, and Nease's Marcus Stokes capped a meteoric winter rise with a commitment to Penn State. So it's time to go a bit off the board and look at the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Swafford. In eight games, the hybrid linebacker/defensive end tied for the team lead with three sacks and made 15 solo tackles. Marshall was the first program to offer Swafford, doing so on Feb. 11. Several other Group of Five and FCS schools are likely to hop on board in the coming weeks. — Chris Boyle, St. Augustine Record
Kyon Calhoun (Cocoa WR)
Calhoun has only been playing football for a little over a year, but he has the size and raw ability that colleges like. Calhoun is 6-foot-5 and made many impressive catches over defensive backs in 7-on-7 tournaments this offseason. The combination of Cocoa having a lot of seniors receivers and playing one of the most challenging schedules in the state meant that Calhoun didn't get a lot of playing time. But he did catch nine passes for 144 yards and a score -- a 72-yard catch and run against Cardinal Gibbons in the Class 4A state championship game. Calhoun doesn't have any offers yet, but that should change once colleges see him in person. — Jon Santicci, USA Today Network
Murdolph Jones (Armwood QB)
With the exception of kicker and punter, quarterback is the most difficult position to earn a scholarship. Jones is the kind of player who will be able to grab the attention of coaches and get those all-important summer camp invites and offers. He has legitimate size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and a big arm. His deep throws look effortless and he can put the ball into tight windows. Toledo, USF and Fordham have offered. More should be coming. Jones threw for 1,941 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2021. — Jon Santucci, USA Today Network
Alex Woods (Treasure Coast OL)
The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Woods had an outstanding junior season, earning second-team all-state honors and helping pave the way for a rushing attack that led the Titans to the Final Four. Woods picked up his first FBS offer, Akron, earlier this month and should impress coaches this spring with his size and athleticism. Being able to go up against a legitimate Power 5 defensive line prospect in Corey McIntyre Jr. every day will help colleges get a solid handle on Woods' abilities. — Jon Santucci, USA Today Network