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Do area pass-catchers stay in state? Depends on their position



Larry Hodges

The Tampa Bay area has plenty of premier pass-catching targets in the Class of 2021. Five players — Armwood’s Charles Montgomery, Bloomingdale’s Agiye Hall, Jefferson’s Gage Wilcox, Plant City’s Mario Williams and Seffner Christian’s Mike Trigg — are all ranked among the top 15 nationally at their position. 

They each have offers from every Division I-A program in the state. How many of those standouts end up staying in Florida? That depends on their position, at least according to the most recent trends. 

Wide receivers

Hall and Williams (above), both receivers, are the top overall rated players nationally among this year’s stellar group of area recruits. Yet when it came time to make their college decisions, they went elsewhere.

In April, Hall committed to Alabama. Last week, Williams picked Oklahoma.

RELATED: Plant City’s Mario Williams picks Oklahoma

RELATED: Agiye Hall picks Alabama

Their choices should not come as much of a surprise. After all, receivers want to play in pass-happy offenses. And only one Division I-A program in the state (UCF) has ranked among the top 10 nationally in passing yards in the past 10 years.

State passing leaders

2019: UCF, 347 yards per game, No. 8 nationally

2018: FSU, 270.1 yards, No. 28

2017: UCF, 331.8 yards, No. 10

2016: Miami, 274.2 yards, No. 27

2015: Miami, 277.1 yards, No. 29

2014: FSU, 303.3 yards, No. 14

2013: FSU, 315.9 yards, No. 15

2012: Miami, 295.4 yards, No. 25

2011: FSU, 257 yards, No. 33

2010: Miami, 238.8 yards, No. 43

Playing in a high-octane passing offense also allows receivers to put up lofty numbers that usually help them move near the top of the NFL Draft board.

The state falls short in that category, too. No receiver from a Division I-A college in Florida has been selected in the first round in the past five years.

Passed over

Here are the last three receivers from state schools taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.


Kelvin Benjamin

College: FSU

NFL team: Panthers (28th overall)


Breshad Perriman

College: UCF

NFL team: Ravens (26th overall)

Phillip Dorsett

College: Miami

NFL team: Colts (29th overall)

Locally, there have been two receivers selected in the first round: Plant’s Mike Williams (10th overall to Lions in 2005) and Berkeley Prep’s Nelson Agholor (20th overall to Eagles in 2015). Both played in college at Southern California.

All those factors are leading to top-end receivers in the area finding college homes outside the state. Hall and Williams just continued the trend. Of the 10 area receivers ranked among the top 100 nationally at their position in 247 Sports composite list the past five recruiting classes, seven committed to non-state schools.

It’s not just with receivers. 247 Sports analyzed where the top 100 overall prospects in the state went in the last 15 years. From 2005-08, 66 percent of Florida’s top 100 players stayed in the state. From 2017-20, that number dropped to 44 percent.

Fleeing Florida

Here is where is the area’s top wide receiver recruits have committed to in the past five years.

Class of 2021

Mario Williams, Plant City

247 rank: 4

College: Oklahoma

Agiye Hall, Bloomingdale

247 rank: 13

College: Alabama

Class of 2020

Ajou Ajou, Clearwater Academy

247 rank: 65

College: Clemson

Class of 2019

Ahmarean Brown, Jefferson

247 rank: 86

College: Georgia Tech

Class of 2018

Warren Thompson, Armwood

247 rank: 28

College: FSU

Jalynn Williams, St. Petersburg

247 rank: 97

College: Toledo

Zion Roland, Admiral Farragut

247 rank: 98

College: USF (currently in transfer portal)

Class of 2017

Daquon Green, Tampa Bay Tech

247 rank: 33

College: Florida (transferred to Murray State)

Antoine Thompson, Plant City

247 rank: 82

College: North Carolina State (transferred to Highlands CC)

Matt Landers, St. Petersburg

247 rank: 98

College: Georgia


There are athletes everywhere in the state but only a select few are categorized that way when it comes to recruiting. These are the multidimensional forces who can make big plays in a variety of ways.

Only three locals have been ranked among the top 100 athletes in the nation the past five years. Two among that group left the state. This past weekend, Armwood’s Charles Montgomery (above) bucked the trend by committing to Florida.

RELATED: Armwood’s Charles Montgomery commits to Florida

Athletic trio

The list of area athletes ranked among the top 100 nationally in the last five recruiting classes and where they committed

Class of 2021

Charles Montgomery, Armwood

247 rank: 11

College: Florida

Class of 2019

Jerjuan Newton, Clearwater Central Catholic

247 rank: 58

College: Toledo

Terence Doston

247 rank: 71

College: West Virginia (signed with the Milwaukee Brewers)

Tight ends

If there is one position where the majority of top-ranked locals remain in the state, it is tight end. In February, Jefferson’s Gage Wilcox committed to the Gators, becoming the fourth area player ranked among the top 100 nationally in the past five years to stay in Florida.

RELATED: Local list of 2021 football commits

The reasons vary for why they wanted to stay. Jesuit’s Jonathan Odom, the son of former Florida and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Jason Odom, followed the family path by committing to the Gators in the last recruiting cycle.

Jonathan’s former teammate, Larry Hodges (top featured photo/ credit: Miami Athletics), picked Miami because of the school’s reputation for producing NFL players at tight end.

And the list of locals remaining in the state could grow. Seffner Christian’s Mike Trigg, ranked fifth nationally among tight ends in the Class of 2021, is leaning toward committing to FSU.

Staying in the state

Of the six area tight ends ranked among the top 100 nationally at their position in the last five years, four have picked state schools.

Class of 2021

Gage Wilcox, Jefferson

247 rank: 11

College: Florida

Class of 2020

Jonthan Odom, Jesuit

247 rank: 32

College: Florida 

Class of 2019

Larry Hodges, Jesuit

247 rank: 26

College: Miami

Brett Seither, Clearwater Central Catholic

247 rank: 32

College: Georgia

Austin White, Tampa Catholic

247 rank: 83

College: FSU

Isaiah Bellamy, Largo

247 rank: 82

College: Ellsworth CC (now a defensive end)

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College Football

College football: Athlete update



The top performances from former area stars in week five of the college football season. 

DB Dane Belton, Jr., Iowa: The former Jesuit standout had one of the Hawkeyes’ six interceptions in a win over Maryland.

QB Devin Black, Sr., Bethune Cookman: The former Armwood standout accounted for 258 yards (131 rushing, 127 passing) and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) in a loss to South Carolina State.  

DL Zachary Carter, Sr., Florida: The former Hillsborough standout recorded three tackles and a sack in a loss to Kentucky.  

QB Austin Day, Sr., Marist: The former Clearwater standout threw for 149 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Valparaiso. 

RB Jerome Ford, Jr., Cincinnati: The former Armwood star ran for 67 yards on 17 carries in a win over Notre Dame. 

RB Dominic Gonella, So., North Dakota State: The former Bloomingdale standout ran for 37 yards on seven carries in a win over North Dakota. 

WR Travell Harris, Sr., Washington State: The former Jesuit standout had seven catches for 46 yards in a win over California. 

DB Kym-Mani King, Jr., Iowa State: The former Mitchell standout recorded three tackles and picked off a pass in a win over Kansas. 

RB Keyvone Lee, So., Penn State: The former American Collegiate standout ran for 74 yards on eight carries in a win over Indiana. 

DB T.J. Limehouse, Jr., West Florida: The former Armwood standout recorded a team-high 16 tackles in a win over Delta State. 

LB Micah McFadden, Sr., Indiana: The former Plant star recorded eight tackles in a loss to Penn State. 

QB Braxton Plunk, Jr., Mount Union: The former Plant City standout threw for 313 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Otterbein. 

QB Tyler Riddell, Fr., East Tennessee State: The former Chamberlain standout threw for 268 yards and a touchdown in a win over Wofford. 

WR Mike Roussos, Sr., Columbia: The former River Ridge standout averaged 19 yards per kickoff return and 15 yards per punt return in a loss to Princeton. 

RB Deon Silas, Fr., Iowa State: Ran for 30 yards and a touchdown on three carries in a win over Kansas. 

RB Brian Snead, Jr., Austin Peay: The former Armwood standout ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on seven carries in a loss to Tennessee State. 

TE Michael Trigg, Fr., USC: The former Carrollwood Day/Seffner Christian standout had two catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in a win over Colorado. 

RB Treshaun Ward, Fr., FSU: The former Tampa Bay Tech standout accounted for 95 yards (66 rushing, 29 receiving) in a win over Syracuse. 

LB Kee Whetzel, Sr., West Florida: The former Countryside standout recorded 10 tackles and a ½ sack in a win over Delta State. 

WR Mario Williams, Fr., Oklahoma: The former Plant City star had three catches for 29 yards in a win over Kansas State. 

LB Stephon Williams, Jr., West Florida: The former Calvary Christian standout recorded five tackles and 1 ½ sacks in a win over Delta State. 

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College Football

Iowa State now a hotspot for local football recruits



Since arriving at Iowa State five years ago, Matt Campbell has guided the program to four straight bowl appearances, including a Fiesta Bowl win this past season that vaulted the Cyclones to No. 9 in the final AP poll, the highest ranking in school history. 

That success is due in part to the talent accumulated in Florida, especially the Tampa Bay area. 

There are currently five local players on the roster, all of whom were recruited by Campbell’s staff. Anthony Johnson, a former standout at St. Petersburg, starts at cornerback. Two other defensive backs, T.J. Tampa (Lakewood) and Kym-Mani King (Mitchell), should get significant playing time this season. 

It does not end there. 

This offseason Iowa State had perhaps its biggest haul of local talent with three offensive stars — Wiregrass Ranch quarterback Rocco Becht, Tampa Bay Tech receiver Greg Gaines III and Berkeley Prep athlete Xavier Townsend — all committing to the Cyclones as part of the 2022 class.  

Gaines is a four-star recruit while Becht and Townsend are both three-star prospects according to 247Sports. The addition of that trio helped the Cyclones’ current recruiting class rise to No. 5 in the Big 12 and No. 23 nationally. 

The recruiting efforts are not just limited to the staff. Becht, who committed in April, said he tried his best to get more offensive talent from the area to join him. 

“I talked to Greg and Xavier everyday,” Becht said of his recruiting pitch to that duo. “I was on them from the beginning.”

Rocco Becht

Iowa State’s staff also zeroed on those targets — and the area.

“The Tampa Bay area is a huge priority,” said Cyclones assistant head coach/linebackers coach Tyson Veidt, who recruits locally. “Some of our best players are from there and it has helped us develop some all-around continuity.”

Iowa State has a knack for landing playmakers in the bay area, particularly on the defensive side. It started more than a decade ago with linebacker Jeremiah George (Clearwater) and defensive back Leonard Johnson (Largo), both of whom played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their NFL careers. 

There has been even more of an emphasis on the area with Campbell and his staff.

That comes from experience. 

Before taking over the Cyclones, Campbell was an offensive coordinator (2009-11) and head coach (2012-15) at Toledo. During his time with the Rockets, the program landed several prospects from the area, including former Lakewood star Bernard Reedy, who went on to play in the NFL. 

In fact, Campbell had at least one local commit in each of his recruiting classes as Toledo’s head coach. That helped the Rockets rank among the top two recruiting classes in the MAC in three of the four years during Campbell’s tenure. 

The trend has continued at Iowa State. 

And it is having an impact, especially with the camaraderie among locals. 

“Well, of course, the decision was for me and my future as a student athlete,” said Townsend, who committed to the Cyclones on Sunday. “But it was icing on the cake knowing a couple of my boys are coming up with me.”

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College Football

Lakewood’s Amari Niblack commits to Alabama



Lakewood’s Amari Niblack had offers from 15 schools entering this week, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia and LSU. 

Then Niblack went to a camp at Alabama and picked up an offer from the Crimson Tide. 

That was all the three-star prospect needed to make up his mind. 

On Thursday, Niblack announced on social media that he committed to Alabama. 

A 6-foot-4 pass catching target, Niblack can play receiver or tight end. This past season, he had seven receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns according to the stats listed on MaxPreps. 

This is the second straight season Alabama has landed an area receiver and the third time in the past five seasons the Crimson Tide has picked a local skill player.

Agiye Hall, who starred at Armwood and Bloomingdale, was part of the 2021 class. He was an early enrollee and has already made an impact with several highlight-worthy catches in the spring game. 

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