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August 18, 2011

Rival regions: Sunshine showdown

MORE NEE: Miami scandal | UF-FSU battle
MORE WINNERS: Charlotte | Dallas | Va. | Pa. | Wash.

In this two-week series, Rivals.com is taking a look at the high school football talent in rival regions - breaking down the best prospects, best teams and giving our vote for which area is superior.

TODAY'S MATCHUP: Tampa vs. Miami


The Case for Tampa

The Tampa area is home to two of the best in the Sunshine State - Tampa Berkeley Prep five-star athlete Nelson Agholor and St. Petersburg Lakewood five-star defensive end Dante Fowler Jr..

While those two headline the area's talent, they aren't the only game-changers located in the area.

In addition to that five-star duo, another standout from the Tampa area is the nation's top tight end, Land O'Lakes four-star Kent Taylor. Taylor is located just a short distance from the Tampa area. Joining Taylor as an offensive standout in the area is Seffner (Fla.) Armwood running back Matt Jones.

Defensively, the 2012 Tampa-area class includes Tampa Jefferson four-star defensive end Tyriq McCord and Largo Pinellas Park four-star linebacker Jeremi Powell. Also, nearby Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast provides Rivals100 defensive back Brian Poole.

The talent isn't only limited to the rising seniors. The 2013 class provides depth on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the class is headlined by Seffner Armwood safety Leon McQuay III and Tampa Wharton cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. On offense, Tampa Jesuit wide receiver/tight end Travis Johnson and Tampa Middleton wide receiver Richard Benjamin are also major targets already on college radars nationwide.

To find talent on the offensive line, it is best to look at a pair of rising sophomores - Tampa Catholic offensive lineman Cory Martinez and Tarpon Springs East Lake offensive lineman Mason Cole - are two talented big men coming from the 2014 class.


The Case for Miami

The Miami area essentially consists of three primary counties - Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. That area produces upwards of 100 Division I signees per year.

Leading the way in Dade is Miami Norland four-star running back Randy Johnson. Johnson is the definition of an electric offensive playmaker who can beat you as a running back or receiver out of the offensive backfield. Also on offense, a trio of talented wide receivers hail from Dade County are Miami Northwestern's Amari Cooper, Miami Jackson's DeAndre Jasper and Homestead's Herb Waters.

There is plenty of defensive talent in Dade as well, led by Miami Norland four-star linebacker Keith Brown, Homestead defensive back Amos Leggett and Miami Columbus four-star safety Deon Bush. Miami Beach four-star athlete Ricardo Louis can contribute on either side of the ball.

While Dade leads the way, Broward isn't far behind. Miramar teammates, four-star defensive back Tracy Howard and four-star wide receiver Malcolm Lewis, are both Rivals250 prospects. Another pair of top players from the area is Pompano Beach Ely four-star wide receiver Avery Johnson and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas four-star defensive end Jelani Hamilton.

Palm Beach County provides a lot of offensive firepower. Wellington Palm Beach Central four-star athlete Angelo Jean-Louis can play on either side of the ball. A pair of quarterbacks, Jupiter signal-caller Tyler Cameron and West Palm Beach Dwyer dual-threat quarterback Faton Bauta are also located in Palm Beach.

The offensive line is also provided its depth by a trio in Boynton Beach four-star offensive tackle Jessamen Dunker, West Palm Beach Dwyer four-star offensive tackle Patrick Miller and Palm Beach Gardens four-star offensive tackle Avery Young.

The talent isn't about to evaporate in the hot, humid South Florida sun either. The class of 2013 is another loaded year in South Florida. Leading that group is a pair of great wide receivers - Oakland Park Northeast's Stacy Coley and Fort Lauderdale University School's Jordan Cunningham. Defensively, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas defensive end Joey Bosa, Miami Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas, Miami Southridge safety Jamal Carter and Miami Northwestern cornerback Artie Burns are all expected to be national recruits.

The final piece to the puzzle that puts South Florida on top in this in-state battle is 2014 running back Sony Michel from Plantation American Heritage. Michel could compete for top honors in the Sunshine State regardless of class.


Bottom line

While Tampa has a pair of five-star prospects, the edge would have to go to the Miami area which is loaded at more positions and has far more talented depth across the board. The South Florida area outranks the Tampa area 6-5 in Rivals100 prospects. It could be argued that South Florida has an advantage over Tampa at every position except for possibly defensive end and tight end. Team matchup


Team matchup

Two devastatingly talented areas for high school football teams every year make it tough to call a clear winner. If it were just the No. 1 team in each city and that was all that mattered the point would go to Tampa with Seffner Armwood being ranked the top team in the state over Miami Norland checking in at the No. 4 spot in-state. But it would be disingenuous to say Tampa's best teams would be better than Miami's best as each could roll out some big dogs.

Armwood carries the flag for the Tampa area, which is actually down this season from 2010, but Tampa Plant has had a run of success recently and if you stretched the borders to include Bradenton Manatee it would add depth. Miami, also a little down nationally, would still represent with Norland, Miami Columbus, Miami Central, Miami Northwestern and Miami Booker T. Washington all before many other Tampa teams would be mentioned in 2011.

- Dallas Jackson


Series Schedule
AUG. 18: Miami vs. Tampa | Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland
AUG. 19: Orlando vs. Jacksonville/North Florida | Oklahoma City vs. Tulsa
AUG. 22: Memphis vs. Nashville | Kansas City vs. St. Louis
AUG. 23: North Alabama vs. South Alabama | Arizona/New Mexico vs. Colorado/Utah
AUG. 24: Atlanta vs. New Orleans
AUG. 25: Indianapolis vs. Cincinnati | Chicago vs. Detroit
AUG. 26: Southern California vs. Northern California



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