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Football: Area early signees

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Mario Williams

Wednesday starts the early signing period in college football. Here is the list of area high school players who are expected to put pen to paper and make their choices official.

Armwood

DB Noah Biglow

College: Pittsburgh

DL Chris Davis Jr.

College: Georgia State

ATH Charles Montgomery

College: Florida

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

WR Agiye Hall

College: Alabama

DB Britton 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

Carrollwood Day

DL Desmond Mamudi

College: USF or Virginia Tech

TE Michael Trigg

College: Southern California

Clearwater

WR Cardrece Mobley

College: USF

Clearwater Academy

RB Brendon Barrow

College: Stanford

DL Ebenezer Dibula

College: Bethune Cookman

DB Shakespeare Louis

College: Robert Morris

LB Darius McKenzie

College: Maine

OL Albert Reese

College: Mississippi State

WR Nickolas Tshivuadi

College: USF

* Nathan Carabatsakis, Yonatan Marmour, Tristan Marois, Cyrus McGarrell, Seydou Traore are all signing but have yet to announce what college they will attend. 

East Lake

LB Dylan Rosiek

College: Illinois

Gaither

QB Kiael Kelly

College: Ball State

OL Andrew Kilfoyl

College: USF

RB Ricky Parks

College: Utah

DB Jordan Young

College: Florida

Jefferson

TE Gage Wilcox

College: Florida

Jesuit

QB Joe Pesansky

College: Holy Cross

Lennard

DL Jhalin Hobbs

College: USF

Plant City

WR Mario Williams

College: Oklahoma

Robinson

K/P Carson Bay

College: Air Force

DB Levi McAffee

College: Southern Illinois

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

DB DD Snyder

College: Illinois

OL Jaden Sandlin

College: Florida Atlantic

OL Jordan Sandlin

College: Florida Atlantic

College Football

Iowa State now a hotspot for local football recruits

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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

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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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College Football

Football: Local list of 2022 commits

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The Tampa Bay area always produces a tremendous amount of football talent. This year is no different. Several seniors have already pledged their allegiance to colleges. Here is the list, which is expected to grow considerably in the next few months. 

Armwood

WR Kye Stokes

College: Ohio State

Berkeley Prep

LB TJ Bullard

College: UCF

TE CJ Hawkins

College: Florida

Related: Berkeley Prep’s CJ Hawkins commits to Florida

Calvary Christian

OL Preston Cushman

College: Mississippi

Carrollwood Day

DL Brandon Cleveland

College: North Carolina State

Clearwater Academy

CB Rhyland Kelly

College: Minnesota

Clearwater Central Catholic

LB Melvin Jordan 

College: Oregon State

Gaither

DL Mario Eugenio

College: Michigan

Hillsborough

RB Jordaan Bailey

College: Pittsburgh

DB Adrian Ramsey

College: Howard

LB Joseph Sipp Jr.

College: Colorado State

Jesuit

WR Jaydn Girard

College: Wake Forest

ATH Junior Vandeross

College: Toledo

Related: Jesuit’s Junior Vandeross commits to Toledo

King

OT Tony Livingston

College: Florida

Related: Tony Livingston transfers to King

Lakewood

TE Amari Niblack

College: Alabama

Pinellas Park

PK Robert Gunn III

College: Clemson

Related: Pinellas Park’s Robert Gunn III commits to Clemson

Sickles

WR Javohn Thomas

College: USF

Tampa Catholic

OL Chris Williams

College: Florida A&M

Wharton

LB Daveon Crouch

College: Boston College

Wiregrass Ranch

QB Rocco Becht

College: Iowa State

Related: Wiregrass Ranch’s Rocco Becht commits to Iowa State

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