Back for another round of notes and going into detail this week on the spotlight area of the state: Palm Beach County and the surrounding Treasure Coast area.
Palm Beach/Treasure Coast prospects rated by ESPN Scouts: 21
Palm Beach/Treasure Coast players in ESPN 300: 6
Highest-rated Palm Beach/Treasure Coast prospect: RB Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Day)
The best way to describe the Palm Beach/Treasure Coast area of the state is “down, but not out.” In the last couple of years, Palm Beach/Treasure Coast has lost ground on areas like Tampa and Orlando. It’s hard to say whether this will be a permanent trend (although the Tampa area is clearly the third-best talent-producing spot in the state now) but it will take a major comeback from the area of the county that hugs Lake Okeechobee, affectionately known as “The Muck.”
Over the last decade, the three main programs in “The Muck” -- Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Day, Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central and Pahokee (Fla.) – were among the state’s best. The area was loaded with players like Antone Smith, Janoris Jenkins, Deonte Thompson, Micanor Regis, Vincent Smith, Nu’Keese Richardson, Damien Berry and Johnnie Lee Dixon. Add that group to a rising powerhouse like Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Dwyer, and Palm Beach County was as competitive as any area in the state.
However, all three programs are going through major rebuilding efforts right now, and it’s hard to predict if and when the cycle will flip back in favor of “The Muck.” There are still some solid players in the area -- Taylor is the nation’s top running back and Will Likely III (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Central) is a ESPN 300 prospect. The quality depth, however, is nowhere near what it was five years ago.
Will “The Muck” return to prominence? It’s hard to say because the area’s population has shrunk with the job market. The area has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and recently saw a loss of over 250 jobs with the closure of the area’s correctional facility at the end of 2011. With the decline of “The Muck” there’s been a small bump in the quality of prospects at other competing schools like Wellington (Fla.) Palm Beach Central, Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) and Loxhatchee (Fla.) Seminole Ridge.
Top 5 Uncommitted
1. Greg Bryant, RB, Delray Beach American Heritage: Bryant was committed to Oklahoma for much of the offseason but backed away from the program near the beginning of his senior year. After a season-opening loss to Cocoa (Fla.), Bryant said that he wanted to play in the SEC and closer to home. It was believed that Auburn was the frontrunner for 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior with Georgia and South Carolina in the mix, but recently he opened the door for a return to Oklahoma. The depth chart is important to Bryant, as he would like to play early and often.
2. Jay-nard Bostwick, DT, Port St. Lucie Centennial: Miami has been the clear leader for Bostwick over the last several months. He’s probably not making a decision until he takes some official visits. If programs like LSU or Oregon find room for him on their board, the Hurricanes will have a challenge.
3. Likely III, ATH, Belle Glade Glades Central: Likely’s top three has been LSU, Stanford and Wake Forest. He took an official to Wake Forest last month and will take the others in November, as he is planning on graduating early.
4. Roderick Johnson, OL, Delray Beach American Heritage: The 6-6, 316-pound senior was a commit to Florida for several months. The Gators are still in contention for the huge prospect, but they join a group that includes West Virginia, Florida State and Auburn.
5. Sean Paul, DB, Vero Beach: The four-star prospect took an official visit to Wake Forest last month and will take officials to Louisville and Northern Illinois as well. Right now it appears to be a Wake Forest-Louisville battle.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Winter Haven (Fla.) at Lakeland (Fla.) Lake Gibson
In this battle of unbeatens, the winner will likely be decided by play in the trenches. ESPN 300 RB Adam Lane will face his toughest test to date, as he tries to find running room against a Lake Gibson front that features LSU commit Kennard Swanson and Cincinnati commit Anthony Green.
Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast at Fleming Island
First Coast knocked off Fleming Island twice in 2011, both comeback victories. A strong Fleming Island defense led by linebacker Donal Elam (Louisville commit) will look to stop a strong First Coast offense led by class of 2015 quarterback De’Andre Johnson (FSU commit).
Tampa (Fla.) Plant at Tampa (Fla.) Wharton
Plant, already without ESPN 300 offensive lineman Richy Klepal, will play Friday’s game without starting QB Aaron Banks (shoulder). If five-star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III can have the game of his life on both sides of the ball, an upset will be brewing.