Separately the Heartland (Polk County), Orlando (Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties) and Daytona (Volusia County) all hold up on their own as recruiting hotbeds.
Together, I have dubbed them the “I-4 East” area of recruiting named after Interstate-4 which runs from Tampa northeast to Daytona Beach. Since the focus was on Tampa Bay last week, the shift will be to the I-4 East area this week.
The Orlando area has grown significantly in the past decade thanks to a major population spurt. Elite prospects like Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty), Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips), Ty Darlington (Apopka, Fla./Apopka) and Demetrius Hart (Dr. Phillips) have come through the area recently and have made an impact on the national stage.
Polk County really peaked in the mid-2000s behind those powerful leads from Lakeland, led by Chris Rainey and the Pouncey brothers. But the area remains consistent thanks to a reputation of hard-nosed prospects that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Add that mentality with elite athleticism and a player like former five-star prospect Karlos Williams (Davenport, Fla./Ridge Community) emerges with the chance to transform the safety position.
Much like Polk County, the players in Volusia County are tough-as-nails and known for being physical up front. One of the most impressive players in the class of 2012 was defensive lineman Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland), who could play any position on the line thanks to his strength and pure work ethic.
I-4 East players in ESPN 300: 11
I-4 East players ranked by ESPN Scouts: 47
Highest ranked I-4 East prospect: Marcell Harris, DB, Dr. Phillips
1. Harris: The talented safety appears be primarily torn between Texas and Florida. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior also took an official to Florida State, but it appears like the Seminoles are the odd team out.
2. Tarean Folston, ATH, Cocoa (Fla.): Folston recently took an official visit to Notre Dame -- his first visit. He says South Florida, Penn State, Tennessee and a few other programs are on a short list of future visits. He might not make a decision before signing day.
3. Tony Stevens, WR, Orlando (Fla. ) Evans: The 6-foot-4, 180-pound receiver was committed to Florida State but recently backed off, and although he says FSU is under consideration, it’s likely the program will move on. Stevens is interested in Ohio State and Georgia but will also look at South Florida and Louisville.
4. Dominic Walker, WR, Evans: The 6-2, 190-pound senior was committed to Vanderbilt but backed off after taking a visit to Nebraska. Recently the wide receiver said that visits to Cincinnati and Missouri are likely.
5. A.J. Turman, RB, Orlando (Fla.) Boone: Tennessee is the school linked most with the 6-0, 200-pound senior, but Georgia and Florida State could also be in the mix depending on how their recruiting boards shake down. One darkhorse program to watch would be South Florida.
CAROL CITY STEPS UP: A few weeks back we took a look at the new threads Delray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic would be wearing for the rest of the season. Opinions varied on the uniforms, but after a 28-12 beating of once nationally-ranked rival Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Dwyer, maybe the bright colors did their jobs.
Miami Carol City is the next program that will wear some creative gear for the start of the 2013 season -- the school’s 50th anniversary. Recording artist Flo Rida will be picking up the tab and I’m sure the opinions on these uniforms will be wide ranging.
THURSDAY NIGHT THROWDOWNS: Thanks to the wave of Florida and Georgia fans invading Duval County this weekend there were several high school games played Thursday night.
Alton Meeks returns but Eric Harrell stars as Dr. Phillips stops Orlando (Fla.) Evans.
Four more touchdowns from Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield were not enough.
Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast stays undefeated, wins the battle of the Northside.
ESPN 150 athlete Ahmad Fulwood has three touchdown catches and a pick in blowout victory.
THANK YOU, SANDY: There’s never a good time for a hurricane and with just three weeks left in the regular season and several key district games scheduled for this weekend the timing couldn’t be worse.
But Hurricane Sandy doesn’t seem to be too concerned and her appearance on the east coast of the state has forced the postponement or cancelation of several games.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Palmetto at Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee
Manatee is the state’s top-ranked team in Class 7A while Palmetto is the state’s top-ranked team in Class 5A. With just five miles separating the schools it will be an emotional game but Palmetto needs super junior Joshua Hicks to play big against the best defensive line in the state.
Tampa (Fla.) Robinson at St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood
Two 8-0 teams face off with the winner earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Lakewood has all the big names with top wide receivers Rodney Adams and Marquez Valdes but Robinson has the defense and a three-year streak as district champions.
Fort Walton Beach at Navarre
This budding panhandle rivalry should decide a district championship and a few extra weeks of home field. The key matchup here is tight end Jordan Leggett (Clemson commit) against defensive back John Marvin (Georgia Tech commit).