ACC: Football Recruiting

Naples High has enjoyed tremendous success under head coach Bill Kramer. With two state titles and numerous deep playoff runs, the Southwest Florida 6A power has become a must stop for college coaches having produced a number of national recruited prospects over the past decade.

In the 2016 class, there are a trio of prospects who rank among the best in the area, state and country.

Fils-aime hot on the trail despite injury in 2014

Headed into the 2014 season, ESPNJr300 running back Carlin Fils-aime was a name known to college coaches, and had a handful of offers. After injuring his ankle in Game 4 caused him to miss the rest of the season, the quick and powerful back was unsure what would come of his recruitment.

That question was answered in February with offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, and Florida.

"After I got injured, I didn’t really expect to get any more offers," Said Fils-aime. "When those schools offered me I was pretty shocked because of my injury."

The Gators are one of several schools the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder plans to visit in the coming weeks.

"For now, we are trying to go up to Florida during spring break, but if not will get up there in the summer. We also want to visit Georgia, North Carolina, N.C. State if we can this summer. I’ll probably fly up to Ohio State, too. I was just at Miami, and had a great time. I was impressed with how they rotated their backs in practice, and the basketball game against North Carolina was fun."

If there is one program yet to offer that could be a game-changer in the physical back's recruitment, it would be Stanford.

"I’m a big Stanford fan. I have always liked them because they have a great law program, and if football doesn’t work out for me, I want to go into law. That is one of the schools that I do love."

Naples High head coach Bill Kramer has had some really good backs through the years, including former Ohio State star Carlos Hyde. In Fils-aime, Kramer has a talented athlete who brings a lunch-pail mentality.

"I love his competitive DNA," Said Kramer. "He works in the classroom, and is already qualified. He’s a guy that you can count on, and it matters to him every day. Our defensive players say hitting him is like hitting a light pole. He’s can make plays in really small spaces, understands leverage, and is really explosive."

Byrd one of the nation's best

The Miami Hurricanes' 2016 class is the best in the nation in the early going. One of the 10 ESPNJr 300 verbals is former Florida pledge Tyler Byrd. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound versatile prospect is blessed with rare talent according to Kramer.

"I think he’s a Top 50 wide receiver and Top 10 corner. He’s really strong physically, he’s almost 6-feet even, you are not going to outleap him, and if he gets his hands on you, you are negated. He’ll do something about every day that is just spectacular."

Though Byrd is solid with his commitment to the Hurricanes due to the love that Al Golden and staff showed throughout the entire process, programs such as Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and others remain under consideration. On Monday, Byrd said he planned to make all five of his official visits.

Riley the best on defense at Naples High

While Fils-aime and Byrd are names known both regionally and nationally on the recruiting radar, Naples High is home to one of the top sleepers in the Sunshine State in safety Chris Riley.

According to Kramer, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound talented all-around athlete is the team's best defensive player, which is saying something considering Byrd is on that same unit.

"Our best defensive player, and that’s saying something because we have some really good players. He was Southwest Florida Defensive Player of the Year for good reason. He has tremendous length, he’s physical, knows all of his run fits, and is a great tackler. We can’t count how many one-on-one tackles he’s made in space against really good players. He can also cover man, is terrific in zone, and understands how it all works and fits together."

Riley is receiving interest from North Carolina, Boston College, and a growing list of others.

"I’ve heard from North Carolina, Boston College, Purdue, Georgia Tech, Harvard and Yale," Said Riley. "North Carolina and Boston College are two I really want [offers]."

Riley had 103 tackles and two interceptions as a junior, taking home area Defensive Player of the Year honors, as well as being an all-area punter. Riley’s father, Chris Riley, played quarterback at Connecticut.

Defensive tackle Colton Strickland and kicker Jerry Nunez are also expected to receive offers in the 2016 class.
While many of the nation's best in the Class of 2016 were known commodities headed into the 2014 season, prospects still develop at different rates and appear on the national radar at different times. This spring, there are a number of ultra-talented prospects who will bring out college coaches by the dozens:

Damion Dickens, DE
ESPN Junior 300 ranking: No. 93

The updated ESPN Junior 300 rankings saw several newcomers to the list. Here are a few new additions to keep an eye on:

DE Damion Dickens
Dickens is an elite athlete for his size.

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- A day after the 19th annual Nike Football The Opening Miami Regional featured some of the nation's best skill prospects, the Orlando Regional on Sunday offered up depth at a number of positions, with the offensive line and linebackers standing out. As expected, a number of commitments and top targets of Power 5 schools competed decked out in team gear and delivered high-quality performances.

Here are some of the best sights and sounds from Sunday's ultra-talented Orlando Regional.

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Nate Craig-Myers talks FSU visit 

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Nate Craig-Myers, the top-ranked receiver in the 2016 class, was in attendance at the Nike Football The Opening Orlando Regional on Sunday. Because of a leg injury suffered during his senior season, the 6-foot-2, 202-pound athlete did not participate. Craig-Myers did, however, take a few minutes to give an update on his recruitment.

Craig-Myers, the 10th-ranked player overall in the ESPN Junior 300, has been committed to Auburn since last July, but it is no secret that he continues to look at other programs. The talented pass-catcher took a visit to FSU on Saturday and came away impressed with his time in Tallahassee.

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Despite being overcast and rainy, the Orlando Nike regional camp had an incredible turnout of some of the top prospects in the ESPN Junior 300.

The impressive list of prospects in attendance was led by the 30th-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, No. 30 Isaac Nauta, No. 32 Feliepe Franks, No. 42 Demetris Robertson, No. 66 Rahshaun Smith and No. 92 Shaq Quarterman. The 10th-ranked player in the country, Nate Craig-Myers, was also in attendance but did not participate due to an injury.

While Saturday’s camp in Miami showcased many defensive top defensive back prospects, the offensive line was dominant on Sunday in Orlando.

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PLANTATION, Fla. -- The Nike football camp in Miami is generally regarded as one of the top camps, talent-wise, in the country every year and this year’s camp held at American Heritage School didn’t disappoint.

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The Nike Football Opening Regionals will officially begin on Saturday at American Heritage High in Plantation, Florida, with many of South Florida’s best scheduled to attend with hopes of earning invites to The Opening held in early July at the Nike World Headquarters.

Here are five things of many to know.

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It’s not easy to start at quarterback as a true freshman. College football is a fast-moving game with a lot of information to process quickly, not to mention the pressure of leading a program in front of up to and over 100,000 fans at times. In the Class of 2016, there are a few prospects who will have an opportunity to come in and compete from Day One.

Here are five who stand out above the rest.

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On The Trail Show: Saivion Smith commitment

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
Top-ranked athlete Saivion Smith, the No. 19 overall player in the ESPN Junior 300, joined RecruitingNation to announce his decision.

Malik Henry is the top-ranked quarterback in the 2016 class and the No. 3-overall recruit. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound dual-threat player committed to Florida State in November. Here is a look at what makes Henry the top-ranked signal-caller.

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Quarterbacks are committing earlier and earlier in the recruiting process. With 15 of the 27 signal-callers in the ESPN Junior 300 already having given verbal pledges, there is increased pressure to get a top quarterback in the fold early. Five programs are ahead of the curve headed into the spring evaluation period.

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Ultimate ESPN 300: Who's next? 

February, 20, 2015
Feb 20
It’s never too early to look ahead to next year. Here are seven prospects in the 2015 class who could make their mark in future editions of the Ultimate ESPN 300.

DT Daylon Mack (Texas A&M): Last year it was DE Myles Garrett who made a splash for the Aggies, and Mack is expected to do the same in 2015. While Texas A&M returns some quality young defensive tackles, none has Mack's combination of explosive power and quickness plus the ability to be a disruptive force in the backfield.

S Derwin James (FSU):

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Rahshaun Smith raves about Clemson 

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Clemson Tigers inked the nation's No. 4 class for 2015, according to RecruitingNation, and are off to a terrific start in 2016 with seven verbals, including No. 13 Tavien Feaster and No. 128 Tavares Chase of IMG Academy.

Based on the comments of No. 66 Rahshaun Smith Monday, the Tigers may not be done at IMG Academy in 2016. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound outside linebacker prospect made a visit with his mom the last weekend in January, and Clemson knocked it out of the park.

“By far, without a doubt it’s Clemson that’s been recruiting me the hardest and was my best visit,” Smith said. “Since the day I had the scholarship, they have recruited me the hardest. Coach [Dabo] Swinney and I have a real strong relationship. When I took my mom down for a visit, my second time going, I got to meet the university president and he is from my hometown. We built a strong relationship, my mom loves him, he loves my family and I’ve not heard anybody say that they have had a meeting with the president of a school and I’m around a lot of top prospects. That was big."

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Within the Ultimate ESPN 300 are a number of players who were lightly recruited, overcame a multitude of injuries or had interesting stories behind their recruitments. Here are two with an ACC focus, plus a Pro Bowl safety from Texas who shared the field with an unheralded future NFL first-round draft choice on a Friday night in Southeast Texas.

Giovani Bernard, RB
Ultimate 300 ranking: No. 221

Bernard was one of 10 FBS prospects out of St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, FL) in the 2010 class and one of four eventual NFL selections from that nationally ranked high school team. While Bernard made it to the NFL, his path was different than those of 2013 second-round draft pick Lamarcus Joyner, 2014 third-round pick Brandon Linder and 2014 fourth-round pick James White in that Bernard battled injuries in high school, including a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of his senior season, and then tore his ACL as a true freshman at North Carolina in the Tar Heels' third practice of the season. The compactly built back proved that he could battle back from scarce playing time for two years to the tune of 21 starts, 2,481 yards rushing, 3,596 all-purpose yards and 33 touchdowns in the two seasons that followed. Bernard was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, becoming the first North Carolina running back to go in the first two rounds since Natrone Means in 1993. Bernard originally committed to Notre Dame before signing with the Tar Heels in 2010.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonDespite questions about his height, Russell Wilson has gone on to have great success in college and the pros.
Russell Wilson, QB
Ultimate 300 ranking: No. 187

Wilson had a number of things working against him on the recruiting trail. He was under 6 feet (5 feet, 10 5/8 inches) and was slight of build at 180 pounds as a senior. He was also a talented Major League Baseball draft prospect. Only NC State and Duke believed in Wilson's talents as an undersized signal-caller who produced on the biggest stage in high school. And the rest is history, as Wilson went on to star for the Wolfpack for nearly three years after a redshirt year, as well as a season for Wisconsin in 2011. While Bernard overcame injury setbacks and time away from the field, Wilson used detractors and questions about his height to become one of the top quarterbacks in college football and now the NFL. What Wilson had in terms of skill set for the position couldn’t be taught and height doesn’t provide: 10-inch hands, a quick release with arm power and terrific feet and feel for playing the position.

Earl Thomas, S
Ultimate 300 ranking: No. 240

While Thomas played at Texas and not in the ACC, this is one certainly worthy of mention. Living in Texas at the time, I attended the Southeast Texas rivalry game between West Orange-Stark and Jasper to watch then-Texas commitment Deon Beasley and the talented junior Thomas. As it turns out, the dynamic duo for West Orange-Stark weren’t the lone big-time players on the field. Jasper had an outside linebacker and wide receiver by the name of Sean Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon had one scholarship offer at the time as a senior (the University of Houston, where he was committed). That would all change after impressive senior season performances such as the one I was fortunate enough to witness. That meant the small town Class 3A game featured two future NFL first-round draft choices in Weatherspoon and Thomas. As for Thomas, he was a dominant Friday night player in high school as a jack-of-all-trades. He lined up at running back, cornerback, safety at times and returned kicks as a junior and senior.