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East Lake grad headlines local list of potential NFL picks

Bob Putnam

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Justin Strnad

The NFL draft starts Thursday and lasts through Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. The most likely candidate is Wake Forest linebacker Justin Strnad, a former star at East Lake who has been mentioned in nearly every mock draft. Below is the list of locals who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game or NFL Combine. 

Justin Strnad
Wake Forest’s Justin Strnad/Photo credit (including feature): Wake Forest Athletics

LB Justin Strnad, East Lake/Wake Forest

A team captain, Strnad was an all-ACC honorable mention selection this past season despite playing just eight games because of an arm injury. He still finished his senior season with 69 tackles, two sacks and an interception. Those helped Strnad land on the Bednarik Award watch list and get an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl. He showed significant progress throughout his college career. As a sophomore, Strnad picked off three passes. He followed that by recording 105 tackles as a junior. Strand is the only local that has been in nearly every mock draft. He is projected to go anywhere between rounds 4-7.   

Mitch Wilcox
USF’s Mitch Wilcox/Photo credit: USF Athletics

TE Mitch Wilcox, Tarpon Springs/USF

The four-year starter is regarded as the best tight end in Bulls history. He set nearly every school record at the position, including career marks for receiving yards (1,326), receptions (100) and receiving touchdowns (11). Those numbers helped him become a Mackey Award candidate each of the last three seasons. More than just a dependable receiver, Wilcox routinely showed off his blocking ability and helped three USF rushers to 1,000-yard seasons (2016-18). He played in three bowl games, winning two, and was a three-time all-AAC selection. Wilcox also earned invitations to play in the East-West Shrine Game and take part in the NFL Combine. 

RB Tony Jones Jr., St. Petersburg Catholic/IMG/Notre Dame

A heralded high school prospect, Jones played in the Army All-American Game before heading to South Bend. He improved his rushing total each of the last three seasons with the Irish. As a senior, Jones became the 10th player in school history to have at least five 100-yard rushing games in one season, including a career-high 176 yards in a win over rival Southern California. He followed that with a 135-yard performance in a win over Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl, including an 84-yard touchdown that set the school record for the longest run in a bowl game. He finished this past season with 857 yards rushing and six touchdowns.

Sterling Hofrichter
Syracuse’s Sterling Hofrichter/Photo credit: Syracuse University Athletics

P Sterling Hofrichter, Armwood/Syracuse

A first-team all-state selection in high school, Hofrichter continued to receive acclaim throughout his college career. He was the Orange’s punter for all 49 games from 2016-19 and was a four-time Ray Guy Award candidate as the nation’s top punter. This past season, Hofrichter was one of three finalists for the award. His senior season was filled with plenty of other accolades, too. Hofrichter was selected to seven different All-America teams, becoming the first punter at the school to reach All-America status since Pat O’Neill (1991, ‘93). Finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in punting yards (11,651) and second in gross average (43.27) and punts (270).  

Darius Williams
Carson-Newman’s Darius Williams

DB Darius Williams, Northside Christian/Carson-Newman

After recording 65 tackles and picking off two passes in the first 10 games of his senior season, Williams tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, sidelining him for the final two games. Even worse, the injury prevented him from playing in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. Still, that did not diminish the career he had at Carson-Newman. As a sophomore, Williams had 48 tackles and five interceptions, numbers that helped him become the school’s 122nd All-American. He followed that up by recording 55 tackles and an interception as a junior. 

OL Jake Fruhmorgen, Plant/Clemson/Baylor

A versatile lineman, Fruhmorgen can play just about any position in the trenches. At Plant, he was selected to play in the Army All-American Game. Fruhmorgen made a combined nine starts in his first two seasons at Clemson. He initially transferred to Florida and even enrolled in classes in 2017 before deciding to step away from football. Later that year, Fruhmorgen joined the Bears, where he played his final two seasons. His father, John, played at Alabama and for the Miami Dolphins.  

Brandon Walton
FAU’s Brandon Walton/Photo credit: FAU Athletics

OL Brandon Walton, Seminole/Florida Atlantic

The left tackle helped quarterback Chris Robison put up impressive stats thanks to solid protection.  Walton was a first-team All-Conference USA selection and the leader of a line that was a big reason the Owls and their high-octane offense won a conference title. In the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, Walton was part of a line that allowed just one sack and paved the way for 521 yards of offense. At least one publication had Walton going in the seventh round of the draft.  

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College Football

Seminole’s Chris Miller selected to coach in Tropical Bowl

Bob Putnam

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Seminole’s Chris Miller was named one of the head coaches for the Tropical Bowl, an all-star college football game featuring mostly FBS players who are potential NFL draft picks. 

Miller will coach the American team. He left Thursday to start practices for Sunday’s game, which kicks off at 11 a.m. at Kissimmee’s Celebration High. 

The staff Miller assembled includes Warhawks assistants Rob Ewing and Chris Parker and former Admiral Farragut standout Kreg Brown. 

After spending more than a decade as a player and a coach at Admiral Farragut, Miller left to become coach at Seminole in 2013. 

This is his third year coaching in a college all-star game. He was the receivers coach for the National Bowl in 2018 and was offensive coordinator for the game in 2019. 

Two locals are playing in this year’s Tropical Bowl — USF defensive back Mike Hampton (Hillsborough) and Florida International offensive lineman Shane McGough (Gaither).  

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College Football

National Signing Day: Local list of signees

Bob Putnam

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Armwood

DB Noah Biglow

College: Pittsburgh

DL Chris Davis Jr.

College: Georgia State

QB Cam’Ron Ransom

College: Georgia Southern

DL Desmond Watson

College: Florida

Berkeley Prep

DL/LB Austin Dean

College: Rutgers

WR RJ Garcia 

College: Kansas State

Boca Ciega

LB Evan Graham

College: Georgia State

Bloomingdale

DL Jordan Guerad

College: Florida International

WR Agiye Hall

College: Alabama

DB Briton Pascoe

College: North Dakota State

DB Philip Riley

College: Notre Dame

DB Jayden Williams

College: Florida Atlantic

Calvary Christian

WR Richie Ilarraza

College: Howard

S Makkah Jordan

College: Georgia State

WR Kellyn West

College: Davidson

Carrollwood Day

DL Desmond Mamudi

College: Virginia Tech

TE Michael Trigg

College: Southern California

Clearwater

WR Cardrece Mobley

College: USF

Clearwater Academy

RB Brendon Barrow

College: Stanford

DL/LB Nathan Carabatsakis

College: Robert Morris

DL Ebenezer Dibula

College: Bethune Cookman

DB Shakespeare Louis

College: Robert Morris

DL Yonatan Marmour

College: Youngstown State

DL Tristan Marois

College: Robert Morris

DB Cyrus McGarrell

College: Northern Illinois

LB Darius McKenzie

College: Maine

OL Albert Reese

College: Mississippi State

WR Nickolas Tshivuadi

College: USF

Durant

OL Wyatt Lawson

College: Florida International

East Lake

LB Dylan Rosiek

College: Illinois

Gaither

QB Kiael Kelly

College: Ball State

RB Ricky Parks

College: Utah

LB Hayden Reed

College: Army

DB Jordan Young

College: Florida

Jefferson

TE Gage Wilcox

College: Florida

Jesuit

QB Joe Pesansky

College: Holy Cross

Lakewood

WR Artez Hooker Jr.

College: Florida International

Lennard

DL Jhalin Hobbs

College: USF

Plant City

WR Mario Williams

College: Oklahoma

Tampa Bay Tech

DL Henry Hughes

College: Rutgers

DB Steven Parker

College: UNC Charlotte

Steinbrenner

DB Matthew Durrance

College: South Dakota State

RB Deon Silas

College: Iowa State

Tampa Catholic

DL/TE Cole Essek

College: Appalachian State

OL Jaden Sandlin

College: Florida Atlantic

OL Jordan Sandlin

College: Florida Atlantic

Wiregrass Ranch

TE Gabriel Thompson

College: Army

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College Football

Football: Live early signing day updates

Bob Putnam

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This football signing cycle has been unlike any other. A dead period that has lasted for more than eight months. No live evaluations from coaches. No personal visits to check out campuses. Just about everything was done in a virtual setting because of the coronavirus pandemic. Which all leads to today, the start of the early signing period. Most of the ceremonies will not have as much fanfare as year’s past, due largely to social distancing requirements. But for the players, after months of Zoom meetings and virtual tours, will finally get some relief knowing where they will go to college. Better still, they will soon get to see their new campus — in person as a member of the team.

Check here for updates throughout the day.

A local flip

USF lost one of its commitments when Carrollwood Day’s Desmond Mamudi, a three-star recruit, decided to attend Virginia Tech. Mamaudi had pledged his allegiance to the Bulls this summer and stuck with that commitment throughout most of the season. The Hokies became the first Power 5 school to offer in mid-November.

Two locals stay loyal to Illinois

East Lake’s Dylan Rosiek and Tampa Catholic’s DD Snyder both committed to Illinois this summer, in part because of their connection with head coach Lovie Smith.

Their devotion to the program was tested this week when Smith was relieved as coach. Still, it did not take long for the two to decide to stick with the Illini.

Rosiek made it official Wednesday morning.

Snyder, ranked among the nation’s top safeties, was not too far behind, making it official by late morning.

Nation’s top receiver is officially a Sooner

Plant City’s Mario Williams, the nation’s top-rated receiver according to ESPN, has officially signed with Oklahoma. Williams committed to the Sooners this summer. The two-sport star also plans to play baseball in college.

Florida’s class features plenty of area stars

Four local standouts — Armwood defensive lineman Desmond Watson, Armwood athlete Charles Montgomery, Jefferson tight end Gage Wilcox and Gaither defensive back Jordan Young — all made their commitments to Florida this summer and are expected to sign today.

Watson and Wilcox have already made it official.

Andrew Kilfoyl is the first local in USF’s class

Despite losing Carrollwood Day’s Desmond Mamudi, USF is expected to have plenty of area players in its early class. Gaither lineman Andrew Kilfoyl became the first, signing with the Bulls this morning. Kilfoyl’s older sister is former Academy at the Lakes softball star Lexi Kilfoyl, now at Alabama.

USF was not finished. Joining Kilfoyl as part of a strong contingent of locals was Clearwater receiver Cardrece Mobley and Clearwater Academy receiver Nickolas Tshivuadi. Both committed to the Bulls this summer and made it official on Wednesday.

Berkeley Prep’s RJ Garcia signs with Kansas State

RJ Garcia, a dynamic receiver for Berkeley Prep the past two seasons, made his college plans official by signing with Kansas State. He is the second Buccaneers player to join the Wildcats in the past two seasons. The other, Joshua Youngblood, had a stellar college debut as a kick returner last season before entering the transfer portal. Youngblood signed with Rutgers this morning.

Berkeley Prep ties pay off for Rutgers’ Greg Schiano

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano has plenty of connections to Berkeley Prep. After all, his son played at the private school . And Schiano spent two years volunteering with the football program following his departure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Those ties have paid off in recruiting. Two years ago, Schiano, then an assistant head coach at Ohio State, was instrumental in getting five-star Berkeley Prep offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere to commit to the Buckeyes. When Schiano began his second stint taking over the Scarlet Knights this offseason, he landed another former Berkeley Prep standout in Mayan Ahanotu, who transferred from Minnesota. 

Now, add Austin Dean and Joshua Youngblood to the list. 

Dean, a linebacker/defensive lineman who helped the Buccaneers reach the Class 3A state semifinals, made it official by signing with Rutgers. He picked the Scarlet Knights over offers from Florida Atlantic, Harvard and Yale. 

Youngblood, who transferred from Kansas State, led the nation with three kickoff returns for touchdowns as a freshman last season and was named an All-American by several publications. He signed Wednesday morning, too.

Rutgers’ early class is expected to add another local, Tampa Bay Tech defensive lineman Henry Hughes. But there were some misses. The Scarlet Knights lost out on Clearwater Academy offensive lineman Albert Reese, who committed to Rutgers this summer before signing with Mississippi State.

Isaiah Bolden becomes first local recruit for Deion Sanders at Jackson State

Former FSU star and NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders is filling out his first signing class at Jackson State by leaning heavily on transfers.

On Tuesday, Sanders’ son, Shilo, announced would be leaving South Carolina to play for his father.

Sanders added another prized prospect with former Wesley Chapel standout Isaiah Bolden signing with Jackson State on Wednesday. Bolden spent the past three years at FSU before entering the transfer portal in September. He announced his commitment to Jackson State in November.

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