Larry Blustein

Larry Blustein: South Florida quarterbacks raise their profiles

Two years ago while watching some of the elite sophomores throw, passing instructor Ken Mastrole talked about how impressive the Class of 2014 would be — when it came to quarterbacks in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

At the start of the 2013 season, Mastrole not only speaks about this current senior class, but also sees a positive trend for the position coming from an area that had not been a quarterback hotbed in the past.

“We see the change because of the emphasis put on the position and the importance of producing top-flight quarterbacks,” said Mastrole, who worked with Buffalo Bills rookie EJ Manuel in the months leading up to the NFL Draft. “It is happening at every level.”

While Mastrole acknowledges what many believe are the top four prospects in the region in Miami Booker T. Washington’s Treon Harris (FSU), Davie University School’s Sean White (Auburn), Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons’ Peyton Bender (Washington State) and Winky Flowers from Miami Jackson, the talent pool goes far beyond that quartet.

The senior class also boasts quality prospects such as Alain Edouard (Hialeah), Keith Reed (Miami Central), Hunter Boyett (Miami Westminster Christrian), Khalil Render (South Dade), Kelly Benson (Miami Monsignor Pace), Joey McCain (Miami LaSalle), Eugene Sainterling (Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson), Miramar’s Nick Jeanty and Gernald Hawkins and Wade Freebeck of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

To illustrate how much the position has taken off, all you have to do is check out the underclassmen. Those prospects who have worked hard in the off season to elevate their status. Homestead’s Maurice Alexander is a perfect example. He showed a national TV audience that he is one of the elite Class of 2015 athletes earlier this year and hasn’t stopped since.

“The one thing really has made these athletes better and have given them more exposure is 7-on-7 events,” Mastrole said. “There wasn’t a weekend that one of these budding standout wasn’t out competing at a high level against top-flight competition.”

Other juniors who have jumped onto the radar include Plantation American Heritage’s versatile Torrance Gibson, Tucker Beirne (Miami Columbus), Cedric Wiggins (North Miami Beach), Deundre Pickett-White (Southwest Miami), Jovan Watson (Miami Gulliver Prep), Ryan Stanley (Pembroke Pines Flanagan) and Michael Harris of Coconut Creek Monarch, who has made huge strides in leading all of South Florida in passing.

Harris has used some of the elite underclassmen to throw to as well, but still remains as the biggest surprise around.

“Michael is one of those very talented football players who works hard and has put himself in a very positive position,” Monarch coach Calvin Davis explained. “He has continued to learn every week, which is why this offense has moved so well.”

There are a few sophomores who have made a major statement so far, but none have made the impact that Kato Nelson (Miami Champagnat Catholic), Tyler Huntley (Hallandale) or Jahkari Harrison (Coconut Creek) have.

All three have shown maturity way beyond their years.

“I have been around this game for a long time, but have never watched a quarterback bring so much to the table at a young age,” said Champagnat coach Mike Tunsil about Nelson, who transferred from McArthur. “He is a talented football player who happens to be a very smart young man.”