I can remember when concentrating on the senior class was enough for college football coaches, but times have changed when it comes to recruiting, and to stay in the game, you have to follow the leader.
It isn’t enough to wrap up every talented 2014 (rising senior) prospects these days so colleges across the country want more from their recruiting visits. To see 2015 players being offered is amazing to some, but it doesn’t stop there.
When University School receiver Sam Bruce was offered by USC and Arkansas on the same day, the rising sophomore entered an arena that used to be just for upperclassmen.
Recruiting has taken off to the point that everyone who wears a uniform is fair game. Trips to Florida that used to include filling out the roster with rising seniors is now backed up with a train load of underclassmen.
There was a day that being a freshman or sophomore at the high school level was a chance to get it done at the junior varsity level. These days, if you come off the competitive youth football fields of South Florida, you are ready for the challenge.
It was Bruce who, for the first time last summer, had the opportunity to showcase his skills as an incoming ninth-grader with the Suns. From the first event he took part in, he was an automatic success.
Bruce is not the only phenom that has started to receive attention before the end of their ninth-grade year. Nick Bosa, a starter for the defending 7A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders, was turning heads at the varsity level before he was ready to shave — one year after making his way from youth football.
Bosa, Bruce, Miami Gulliver Prep receiver/defensive back Dionte Mullins and Booker T. Washington running back Mark Walton are prospects people look at and have to believe the only thing stopping any of these gems from being a first-night NFL Draft selection is injury. They are all too talented and have a sound support system around them.
Having watched Bosa’s father, John, and older brother, Joey, play, the younger version may be the best yet to come. John was a very athletic football player in high school and at Boston College before heading to the NFL. Joey is very physical and will outwork you.
While the 2016 class has been about Bruce, Bosa and Mullins over the past year, they are not alone. This rising group of sophomores is elite — just like the two classes ahead of them.
Mullins, out of the famed Florida City youth program, has the chance to be the next Ermon Lane, and Walton could end up being more gifted than anyone nationally.
Some of the other class of 2016 prospects to keep an eye on this summer include McArthur quarterback Kato Nelson and Hallandale’s Tyler Huntley. Both began last summer and have progressed.
Receivers Steven Newbold (Miami Carol City) and Darnell Solomon (Hollywood Hills), as well as tight end Jamal Smith (American) have already attracted collegiate attention. So has offensive lineman Roodney Leon (Deerfield Beach).
As good as Bosa was last year, there are others who will impact the defensive line as sophomores this year. Gulliver Prep’s Joseph Jackson (6-4, 240) is one of those players who really had a huge spring. Northwestern’s Keir Thomas is another.
When it comes to linebackers, there may not be a better one than Shakur Cooper (6-3, 210, Coral Gables). He is one of the true elite prospects who started for the Cavaliers last season.
The rising sophomore class also boasts Homestead defensive back Cedrick Wright, who also used a strong youth football background to make a difference as a ninth-grader.
We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current classes of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. All you have to do is send a You Tube or link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.