The west coast of Florida is often a forgotten part of the state but the stretch of Interstate 75 from Bradenton down to Naples has been responsible for some of the state’s most exciting performers.
Before Peter Warrick won a BCS championship at Florida State and became a top-5 NFL draft pick he won a state championship at Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast.
Former West Virginia running back Noel Devine, out of North Fort Myers, was one of the first stars of the “YouTube” era and his original highlight reel received well over a million views. The original link is down but the secondary link has over 800,000 views.
And more recently Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins was a star at South Fort Myers before becoming arguably the most exciting player in college football today. There have been many over the years and in the current era and while the west coast of Florida isn’t experiencing the same population boom as the other major markets in Florida, it remains a consistent area for top college football prospect.
West Coast prospects in the ESPN 300: 4
West Coast prospects rated by ESPN Scouts: 23
Highest rated prospect in the West Coast: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Immokalee
1) Alexander: The five-star cornerback has done a good job at keeping his recruitment somewhat of a mystery. Notre Dame and Clemson have both been named as favorites but Alexander doesn’t have official visits planned to either place yet. However, he will be heading to Nebraska on Oct. 27. Read more about Alexander on Blue Chip Battles.
2) Eric Mayes, DE, Sarasota (Fla.) Booker: The 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior has a top five of Kentucky, West Virginia, South Florida, Purdue and Illinois. He has taken officials to Kentucky and West Virginia.
3) Deadrin Senat, DT, Immokalee (Fla.): The 6-1, 311-pound senior committed to Florida State early in 2012 and backed out before the summer. There’s a good chance Senat returns to the FSU class but Missouri, Texas A&M and Miami are also possibilities.
4) T.J. Johnson, ATH, Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast: The speedy 5-8, 160-pound athlete is being heavily pursued by Arizona and could be a perfect fit in Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense. West Virginia and South Florida are also under consideration.
5) Derrick Calloway, DT, Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee: Calloway has repeatedly said he’s open and may be waiting on other offers. Texas Tech, Louisville, Arkansas and South Florida are the four most likely possibilities with USC still holding some interest in the 6-1, 300-pound senior.
GAME(S) OF THE WEEK
Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast vs. Yulee
A rematch of last year’s 36-16 victory by First Coast. The Buccaneers held Derrick Henry to 101 yards on 31 carries last season while De’Andre Johnson threw for over 300. Henry might not be in the wildcat this year but expect First Coast to put 8-9 players in the box to stop the Alabama commit.
Miami Columbus vs. Miami Northwestern
Columbus and Northwestern were district foes for much of the 2000s but now the game is just for ‘fun’. One of the more exciting matchups will be Columbus three-star wide receiver Jesus Wilson (FSU commit) lining up against Northwestern’s ESPN 150 defensive back Artie Burns (Miami commit).
Orlando (Fla.) Olympia at Altamonte Springs (Fla.) Lake Brantley
Olympia has an explosive offense between sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois and three-star athlete John Armstrong. Lake Brantley is a team of running and defense with Tennessee commit Dominic Zanca-McDonald intent on stopping Olympia’s attack.