Welcome to high school football’s offseason, where Friday night games have been replaced by weekend exposure combines and 7-on-7 competition.
The days of putting equipment away after December, taking it out briefly for spring practice in May and then once again for the hot, summer month of August has ended.
The race for a college scholarship has raised the stakes in an area of the country that simply has no equal. The talent that South Florida offers up annually is better than anywhere in the country — and every college coach knows that very well.
The gates were lifted and the NCAA deemed it was safe for its member schools to hit the road this past week — and while the recruiting dark period came to an end — schools flocked to this area in huge numbers.
No matter where you looked, schools such as Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska, Louisville, Cincinnati and Minnesota headed to Miami, Fort Lauderdale — and in every community in between — to talk with coaches, see players, check grades and see if there were any athletes missed out.
“This is how it’s been down here for as long as I can remember,” said Champagnat Catholic coach Mike Tunsil. “All the major colleges come here because we provide something no other area can give all these schools — top-flight athletes.”
In areas such as California, Georgia, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, there are always going to be plenty of talented football players. But when it comes to South Florida, stellar football prospects have the opportunity to show up 12 months a year.
Last weekend kicked off what appeared to be a very busy next seven months. The South Florida Express 7-on-7 tryout took place Saturday and Sunday — with over 200 athletes showing up for one of many teams that will be competing this offseason.
The tryout at McArthur High brought football talent in from as far away as West Palm Beach, Naples and as near as Hollywood and Miami. It was a showcase event that thrust many athletes into the spotlight for the first time. For others, like St. Thomas Aquinas sophomore standout Sam Bruce, it was just another step in what has been a successful process.
“Coming here and getting the chance to compete against the best of the best is what this all about,” Bruce said. “This sets the stage for the offseason, which should be interesting.”
With well over 200 participants — many we will have the chance to see throughout the offseason — it’s hard to single out every performance. But if you go around and watch, you see a few who deserved to get some recognition.
Here are a few that caught the eye:Class of 2015 - Damon Arnette, DB, St. Thomas Aquinas: Class of 2016 - Chris Cotto, WR, Hallandale: Class of 2015 - Rashad Fenton, DB, Carol City: