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

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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.

2014

Kelvin Benjamin

College: FSU

NFL team: Panthers (28th overall)

2015

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

Athletes

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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Wiregrass Ranch’s Rocco Becht commits to Iowa State

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Wiregrass Ranch quarterback Rocco Becht has committed to Iowa State.

The rising senior made the announcement on his Twitter page Friday afternoon. 

Becht, the son of former Jets and Buccaneers tight end Anthony Becht, is listed as a three-star prospect  by 247 Sports and had offers from 13 colleges. He is just the second recruit for the Cyclones in the 2022 class and the lone one from the area. 

Iowa State has done well landing locals. In fact, this marks the fifth straight recruiting class the Cyclones have secured at least commitment from an area player. 

Becht took over as Wiregrass Ranch’s starting quarterback in 2019. As a junior last season, he threw for 1,550 yards and 18 touchdowns and was named the offensive player of the year for the East Division of the Sunshine Athletic Conference.  

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College Football

Berkeley Prep’s CJ Hawkins commits to Florida

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Berkeley Prep’s CJ Hawkins committed to Florida, becoming the second area recruit to join the Gators’ 2022 class in the past week. 

Hawkins publicly announced his decision on his Twitter page Sunday afternoon. His pledge to Florida comes three days after Carrollwood Day offensive lineman Tony Livingston committed to the Gators. 

Both are unique prospects. Hawkins, a 6-foot-7, 220 pound tight end, went out for football this season after concentrating on basketball his first two years at Berkeley Prep. In fact, he offers in basketball from IUPI, USF and Western Michigan.

His size and athleticism made football programs take notice. This offseason, Hawkins enjoyed a meteoric rise and held 29 offers from Division I-A schools. 

Livingston also played basketball and plans to play both sports at Florida. It is unclear whether Hawkins would do the same. 

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College Football

Sickles’ Javohn Thomas commits to USF

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Sickles receiver Javohn Thomas has committed to USF, becoming the first recruit in the Bulls’ 2022 class. 

“I love coach (Jeff) Scott, and it feels like a great place for me,” said Thomas, who picked USF over offers from Florida International and South Dakota. 

As a junior, Thomas had 37 receptions for 540 yards and four touchdowns. 

The two-sport star also played basketball and was the Gryphons’ leading scorer this past season. Thomas said he talked to USF basketball coach Brian Gregory about joining the team and wants to play both sports in college. 

If Thomas does, he will continue what has become an area trend. 

Carrollwood Day’s Mike Trigg, one of the nation’s top tight ends, plans on playing football and basketball at Southern California as a freshman this coming season. Trigg’s teammate with the Patriots, Tony Livingston, announced his commitment to Florida on Thursday. The rising senior intends on playing football and basketball with the Gators. 

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