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Friday, November 9, 2012
Weekend Primer finishes up Florida tour

By Corey Long

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Raphael Webb, RB, Gainesville: The three-star running back is hoping to join former teammates Chris Bivins and Tashon Whitehurst at South Florida but the Bulls haven’t offered yet. He is looking at mid-majors such as Troy and Middle Tennessee but is still hearing from BCS programs such as Oklahoma State and Rutgers.

Top Big Bend/Panhandle undecided:
  1. Taj Williams, ATH, Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln: Williams has had South Carolina in the lead for several months but still hasn’t committed. Florida State has shown interest in the local player and could make Williams’ decision tougher.
  2. Dillan Lawson, LB, Crestview (Fla.): Lawson was committed to Florida until the middle of the summer. The linebacker has hoped to work on some academic issues in hopes of re-joining the Florida class. He might spend a year at prep school or go the junior college route if things don’t work out.
  3. Sheddrick Williams, DB, Madison County (Fla.): Williams has had Arkansas ahead of South Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina for a while. May not make a move until signing day.
MAILBAG

I don’t get a lot of mail, but I try to answer the things that I do get and you can send me a question at coreyespn@gmail.com or through my Twitter account @CoreyLong.

Q: Big South Florida fan here and I’m wondering what’s happening with our recruiting right now. Is the roster going to get better? Why can’t Skip Holtz bring in a quality class?

Blake Brim, Sarasota, Fla.

A: Hello, Blake. I don’t see South Florida’s 2013 roster being better than what was expected from this year’s group. Several outlets picked the senior-laden Bulls to win the Big East this year and represent the conference in a BCS bowl. Instead they are likely headed for a second consecutive losing season. There are some good signs in the upcoming class with ESPN 150 quarterback Asiantii Woulard (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park) and a solid group of defensive players like Mitchell Wright (Tampa, Fla./Plant) and Bruce Hector (Tampa, Fla./Robinson), both of whom are a little underrated in my opinion.

The overall problem with the program is that they just can’t attract the big guns around their local area. There are 13 prospects rated at four stars or higher within a 40-mile radius of the USF campus and they have failed to make a dent with most of them. Fans seem to be split on whether Holtz will return in 2013 or not. Either way I expect some changes to be made within the program or there will be a better plan to recruit the top local prospects in the future.