National Signing Day — the next big event in the college football season — is Feb. 6, and in South Florida, where talent oozes out of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, that’s almost an eternity.
Through Sunday, 47 high school seniors in the area have committed to Football Bowl Subdivision programs. Another 59, who are ranked either five-, four-, three- or two-star recruits by Rivals.com, remain undecided on their college choice.
That would be another 106 players from Dade and Broward who will likely sign on to play at the FBS level in 2013. That might be an eye-opening number for some, but that is par for the course in South Florida.
An examination of all 120 FBS programs in 2012 revealed a total of 466 athletes from Dade or Broward on 83 rosters.
That’s baby-faced true freshmen such as Hawaii safety Marrell Jackson, who led the Rainbows in tackles this season after leading Miramar High and the state in interceptions a year ago, to University of Central Florida fifth-year senior linebacker Ray Shipman, who went from earning the state’s Mr. Basketball Award in 2008 at Miami Monsignor Pace and spending two seasons playing hoops at the University of Florida to racking up 91 tackles and starting 12 games at linebacker for the Knights this past fall.
This year, The Miami Herald has decided to honor the accomplishments of the former hometown heroes at the college level with the first Dade-Broward All-FBS Team.
Although a total of 178 players from Dade and Broward were on the roster for the state’s seven FBS schools (FAU 39, FIU 38, UM 34, UCF 21, FSU 17, USF 17, UF 12), there were plenty of former local players who stood out across the country, earning all-conference honors and player of the year awards.
Here’s a position-by-position look at some of the best performances and stories of the 2012 season involving our hometown kids:
• Quarterback: The year began with Heisman expectations for former Deerfield Beach standout Denard Robinson at Michigan, but a month and a half into the season all anybody could talk about was what former Miramar star Geno Smith was doing at West Virginia. Robinson (1,266 yards rushing, 7 TDs; 1,19 yards passing 9 TDs, INTs), though, never got the Wolverines off and running and Smith (71.2% completion percentage, 4,205 yards, 42 TDs, 6 INTs) ended up being outshined by Kansas State’s Collin Klein in the Big 12 Conference when the Mountaineers season sputtered to six losses in their last eight games.
In the end, it was Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater (Miami Northwestern) and his rival from Miami Central, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, the Conference USA’s MVP, who had the biggest finishes. Bridgewater (68.5% completion percentage, 3,718 yards, 27 TDs, 8 INTs) won the Big East Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year award and was the hero of a Sugar Bowl upset.
In all, there were six starting quarterbacks from Dade and Broward at the FBS level and 15 overall on rosters.
• Running back: There were 25 former Dade or Broward players who took handoffs in 2012. Eight — North Carolina’s Giovanni Bernard (St. Thomas Aquinas); Bowling Green’s Anthon Samuel (Monsignor Pace); Miami’s Duke Johnson (Norland); Western Michigan’s Dareyon Chance (Cardinal Gibbons); Mississippi’s Jeff Scott (Archbishop Carroll); Buffalo’s Branden Oliver (Southridge); Marshall’s Kevin Grooms (South Broward); and FAU’s Jonathan Wallace (Boyd Anderson) — led their teams in rushing.
Bernard, considered the top available running back entering April’s NFL Draft, had an All-American season with 1,228 yards and 12 TDs rushing, 47 catches for 490 yards, 5 TDs and two punt returns for scores. He was one of five running backs from Aquinas on college rosters — by the far most of any local school. The only ACC back to produce more all-purpose yards than Bernard was Johnson, who rolled up 2,060 yards and became the first UM player since 2005 to be recognized as an All-American.
• Receivers: Of the 85 receivers from Dade and Broward on FBS rosters, nine — West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey (Miramar); Marshall’s Tommy Shuler (Central); Duke’s Conner Vernon (Gulliver); Alabama’s Amari Cooper (Northwestern), FAU’s William Dukes (Dillard), Miami’s Phillip Dorsett (Aquinas), UCF’s J.J. Worton (South Dade), FIU’s Wayne Times (Northwestern) and Florida State’s Rashad Greene (Florida State) — led their respective teams in receiving.
Times, a senior, and Cooper, a true freshman who helped lead the Crimson Tide to their third national title in four years with a 1,000-yard receiving season, were among eight former Bulls with a catch in 2012.
Northwestern tied Central (21 players) for the most players at the FBS level in Dade; Aquinas led Broward with 35.
• Offensive line: A total of 48 offensive lineman from South Florida were on FBS rosters, 16 of which were starters and 18 were backups. UCF center Jordan Rae (Cypress Bay) and Rutgers guard Antwan Lowery (Columbus) were the only two selected to their respective conference first teams.
• Defensive line: The second South Florida player projected to be taken behind Geno Smith in April’s NFL Draft, Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier (Hialeah) was one of just three defensive linemen from Dade or Broward to earn all-conference honors. The others? FIU’s Tourek Williams (Norland) and Wisconsin’s David Gilbert (Northeast). In all, there were 57 defensive linemen on FBS rosters — 19 were starters.
• Linebackers: Former Plantation standout Ryan Shazier led an undefeated Ohio State team in tackles and earned All-Big Ten second-team honors in the process. He was one of 20 starting linebackers from the area at the FBS level and 60 overall.
• Defensive backs: A total of 137 former area players (42 starters, 59 backups) roamed college secondaries in 2012 — by far the most loaded position. Florida State had two of the best in All-ACC safety Lamarcus Joyner (Aquinas) and All-ACC cornerback Xavier Rhodes (Norland).