As much as Gainesville and Tallahassee are known as meccas of the college football world, the contributions that high school programs in both areas often go unrecognized. Tallahassee has been a tremendous base of talented player over the years behind strong programs such as Lincoln, Godby and North Florida Christian. West of Tallahassee, the football has gotten considerably better in the last two decades. The Pensacola area has been good to Alabama in recent years, with running back Trent Richardson coming from Escambia High and current starting defensive lineman D.J. Pettway representing the Pensacola Catholic program.
The stretch of Interstate 75 that runs north from Hernando County (Brooksville) to Columbia County (Lake City) includes Gainesville and Ocala and has also been an area to find hidden gems. The players from the North Central region of the state don’t necessary have the flash and flare of the players from South Florida, but they are often considered to be tough as nails.
Today we look at both regions – the North Central area and the Big Bend/Panhandle on our final tour of the state.
North Central prospects in the ESPN 300: 4
North Central prospects rated by ESPN Scouts: 11
Highest ranked North Central prospect: Laremy Tunsil, OL, Lake City (Fla.) Columbia
Big Bend/Panhandle prospects in the ESPN 300: 6
Big Bend/Panhandle prospects rated by ESPN Scouts: 24
Highest ranked Big Bend/Panhandle prospect: Ira Denson, OL, Madison County (Fla.)
Top North Central undecided:
Tunsil: For the most part, Tunsil remains steady in saying this is a two-team race between Georgia and Alabama and will likely stay that way until he makes a final decision on national signing day. Both Florida and FSU continue to stay on the outside looking in.
Keith Kelsey Jr., LB, Gainesville: Kelsey has been a tug-of-war between South Florida and Louisville for several months but keep an eye on South Carolina, which appears to have some interest and could offer late.