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Top Sunshine State High Schools for the Florida Gators

Escambia94

Aerospace Cubicle Engineer (ACE)
Moderator
Billy Napier has stated that he wants to build a fence around Gainesville and keep the most talented high school athletes in the Sunshine State for the Florida Gators. What are the top high schools that Napier should be targeting? I would argue that Urban Meyer was a master at recruiting the best high schools in the Sunshine State as well as the diamonds in the rough from out-of-state. His downfall was recruiting kids with an edge but not being able to manage those rough personalities. Will Muschamp was able to grab the best defensive athletes from the best Sunshine State schools but was not able to match that talent on the offensive side of the ball nor was he able to manage rough personalities. Jim McElwain was horrible at recruiting Sunshine State talent and at managing the behaviors of his athletes. Dan Mullen looked like he was able to manage athlete behavior until the middle of the 2020 season which coupled with his lack of overall recruiting prowess ultimately led to his demise.

As long as Napier repairs almost two decades of broken relationships with the most dominant high school football programs and is able to manage the behaviors of these kids in the NIL era, Napier will succeed.

  • Miami Central (6A), 6 championships. Notable alumni: Bruce Armstrong, Antonio Brown, Dalvin Cook, Devonta Freeman, Willis McGahee
  • St. Thomas Aquinas (7A), 8 championships. Notable alumni: *Cody Riggs, *Bryan Cox Jr, Nick Bosa, Asante Samuel Jr, *Marcus Roberson, *Major Wright
  • Glades Central (4A), 6 championships. Notable alumni: *Ray McDonald, *Fred Taylor, *Reidel Anthony, *Deonte Thompson, *Louis Oliver, *Jimmy Spencer
  • Carol City (4A). 4 championships. Notable alumni: *Godfry Myles.
  • Booker T. Washington (Miami) (7A), 7 championships. Notable alumni: *Antonio Callaway, Quinton Dunbar
  • Armwood (Seffner) (6A), 1 championship. Notable alumni: Byron Cowart, *Matt Jones, *Mike Pearson
  • American Heritage (5A), 4 championships. Notable alumni: *TJ Slaton, Sony Michel, Patrick Surtain II, *Marco Wilson
  • Northwestern (Miami) (6A), 3 championships. Notable alumni: Sam Davis, Amari Cooper, Teddy Bridgewater
  • Trinity Christian (3A), 5 championships. Notable alumni: Andre Smith
  • Trinity Catholic (3a), 2 championships. Notable alumni: *John Brantley
  • Plant (Tampa) (8A), 4 championships, Notable alumni: *Lee McGriff
  • Apopka (8A), 2 championships. Notable alumni: Warren Sapp, Sammie Smith
  • Manatee (Bradenton) (7A). 5 championships. Notable alumni: Ace Sanders
  • Dr. Philips (Orlando) (6A), 1 championship. Notable alumni: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, *Marcel Harris
  • Bolles (4A), 11 championships. Notable alumni: Mac Jones, David Treadwell.
  • IMG Academy (independent). Notable alumni: *Kenyatta Walker, Grant Delpit, Kellen Mond, Bo Scarborough
  • Raines (5A). 1 championship. Notable alumni: *Jabar Gaffney, *Derrick Gaffney, *Lito Sheppard, *Terry LeCount, *Anthone Lott, Shawn Jefferson
  • Fort Walton Beach (6A). 2 championships. Notable alumni: *Danny Wuerffel, Glen Coffee, EG Green
  • Jefferson (Tampa). 1 championship. Notable alumni: *Andre Caldwell, *Reche Caldwell, *Rick Casares
  • Nease (7A). 1 championship. Notable alumni: *Tim Tebow.
  • Lakewood (St. Petersburg) (4A). Notable alumni: *Dante Fowler, Shaquill Griffin, Shaquem Griffin, *Louis Murphy
  • Buchholz (7A). 1 championship. Notable alumni: *Doug Johnson, *Billy Latsko
  • Gainesville (6A). 1 championship. Notable alumni: Clinton Portis, *Chris Thompson, *Earl Okine
  • Escambia (6A), 2 championships. Notable alumni: *Emmitt Smith, Trent Richardson, Reggie Johnson, @Escambia94
  • Eastside (5A) (Gainesville). Notable alumni: (Anthony Richardson)
 
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DRU2012

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
Billy Napier has stated that he wants to build a fence around Gainesville and keep the most talented high school athletes in the Sunshine State for the Florida Gators. What are the top high schools that Napier should be targeting? I would argue that Urban Meyer was a master at recruiting the best high schools in the Sunshine State as well as the diamonds in the rough from out-of-state. His downfall was recruiting kids with an edge but not being able to manage those rough personalities. Will Muschamp was able to grab the best defensive athletes from the best Sunshine State schools but was not able to match that talent on the offensive side of the ball nor was he able to manage rough personalities. Jim McElwain was horrible at recruiting Sunshine State talent and at managing the behaviors of his athletes. Dan Mullen looked like he was able to manage athlete behavior until the middle of the 2020 season which coupled with his lack of overall recruiting prowess ultimately led to his demise.

As long as Napier repairs almost two decades of broken relationships with the most dominant high school football programs and is able to manage the behaviors of these kids in the NIL era, Napier will succeed.

  • Miami Central (6A), 6 championships. Notable alumni: Bruce Armstrong, Antonio Brown, Dalvin Cook, Devonta Freeman, Willis McGahee
  • St. Thomas Aquinas (7A), 8 championships. Notable alumni: *Cody Riggs, *Bryan Cox Jr, Nick Bosa, Asante Samuel Jr, *Marcus Roberson, *Major Wright
  • Glades Central (4A), 6 championships. Notable alumni: *Ray McDonald, *Fred Taylor, *Reidel Anthony, *Deonte Thompson, *Louis Oliver, *Jimmy Spencer
  • Carol City (4A). 4 championships. Notable alumni: *Godfry Myles.
  • Booker T. Washington (Miami) (7A), 7 championships. Notable alumni: *Antonio Callaway, Quinton Dunbar
  • Armwood (Seffner) (6A), 1 championship. Notable alumni: Byron Cowart, *Matt Jones, *Mike Pearson
  • American Heritage (5A), 4 championships. Notable alumni: *TJ Slaton, Sony Michel, Patrick Surtain II, *Marco Wilson
  • Northwestern (Miami) (6A), 3 championships. Notable alumni: Sam Davis, Amari Cooper, Teddy Bridgewater
  • Trinity Christian (3A), 5 championships. Notable alumni: Andre Smith
  • Trinity Catholic (3a), 2 championships. Notable alumni: *John Brantley
  • Plant (Tampa) (8A), 4 championships, Notable alumni: *Lee McGriff
  • Apopka (8A), 2 championships. Notable alumni: Warren Sapp, Sammie Smith
  • Manatee (Bradenton) (7A). 5 championships. Notable alumni: Ace Sanders
  • Dr. Philips (Orlando) (6A), 1 championship. Notable alumni: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, *Marcel Harris
  • Bolles (4A), 11 championships. Notable alumni: Mac Jones, David Treadwell.
  • IMG Academy (independent). Notable alumni: *Kenyatta Walker, Grant Delpit, Kellen Mond, Bo Scarborough
  • Raines (5A). 1 championship. Notable alumni: *Jabar Gaffney, *Derrick Gaffney, *Lito Sheppard, *Terry LeCount, *Anthone Lott, Shawn Jefferson
  • Fort Walton Beach (6A). 2 championships. Notable alumni: *Danny Wuerffel, Glen Coffee, EG Green
  • Jefferson (Tampa). 1 championship. Notable alumni: *Andre Caldwell, *Reche Caldwell, *Rick Casares
  • Nease (7A). 1 championship. Notable alumni: *Tim Tebow.
  • Lakewood (St. Petersburg) (4A). Notable alumni: *Dante Fowler, Shaquill Griffin, Shaquem Griffin, *Louis Murphy
  • Buchholz (7A). 1 championship. Notable alumni: *Doug Johnson, *Billy Latsko
  • Gainesville (6A). 1 championship. Notable alumni: Clinton Portis, *Chris Thompson, *Earl Okine
  • Escambia (6A), 2 championships. Notable alumni: *Emmitt Smith, Trent Richardson, Reggie Johnson, @Escambia94
  • Eastside (5A) (Gainesville). Notable alumni: (Anthony Richardson)
Yes--but the "As long as..." part there that begins the second paragraph is the BIG "IF"...Was LOOKING good there early on, but it's gotten rough out there of late.
Still, it is ALL "early going" in the necessary "wider view" we need to take, as I have been hammering on more and more in response to the general (and TYPICAL) "rising GATOR Panic" that has lately (and predictably) swept our fans' and media attention, also "in response".
As you note, Napier & Co. have "almost two decades of broken relationships", and (also noted) a parallel plethora of equally damaging misteps and mishandlement to overcome;
We are COUNTING on them reversing that trend, rising above and beyond its recent and currently continuing consequences in significantly less than HALF that time, after all now.
Is that unrealistic? We better hope not.
Do ANY of us have THAT kind of patience?
Certainly not that large portion of rabid Gators out there already growling in disatisfaction, frustration, and unhappiness.
And unless we look good in Game 1 (or, worse for us, unless we actually manage to BEAT Utah--widely ranked in the Top-Ten nationwide in the magazine polls now coming out), nothing likely to happen between now and 8 weeks from now is likely to improve or weigh in our favor as to how the bulk of our fans are feeling or sounding--let alone how the rest of mags, media or CFB fans and trolls will be eviscerating our team, Coach and/or program by then.
Just armor yourselves. Be ready for "the worst", is my cautionary message.
 

Leakfan12

VIP Member
I know some of those schools, especially Armwood. I think I attend a game where Andre Caldwell's Jefferson team where his team beat my Tampa Bay Tech Titans in 2001 which ended in Jefferson winning the district. I know there was Daquon Green who probably would have stayed at Florida if not for those transfers coming in which including Van Jefferson. Not happy with it but Green did get his degree from Murray State and maybe I'll see him in the XFL or the USFL. Heck, I think Deon Cain didn't get much of an opportunity in the NFL though he left Clemson a year later. I hope to see another TBT Titan play for the Gators and last. I know Ole Miss DC is a fellow Titan and actually, we went to school together for three years.
 

DRU2012

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
I know some of those schools, especially Armwood. I think I attend a game where Andre Caldwell's Jefferson team where his team beat my Tampa Bay Tech Titans in 2001 which ended in Jefferson winning the district. I know there was Daquon Green who probably would have stayed at Florida if not for those transfers coming in which including Van Jefferson. Not happy with it but Green did get his degree from Murray State and maybe I'll see him in the XFL or the USFL. Heck, I think Deon Cain didn't get much of an opportunity in the NFL though he left Clemson a year later. I hope to see another TBT Titan play for the Gators and last. I know Ole Miss DC is a fellow Titan and actually, we went to school together for three years.
You imply several key points above here, Lf...
The most important perhaps the idea that (now more than ever) some talented Floridians are making poor choices as to where their future "best interests" lie.
Meanwhile though SEC Media Days is just wrapping up and (not so surprisingly) our Gators are rated by the rest of the prognosticators as coming in "4th in the East".
Personally, even with my own reservations and warnings that we've still got a ways to go, I have to stick with my overall optimism considering the path our new Coach and his staff have us on, plus solidarity with all of us who believe #15 is about to fully break out and dazzle CFB...
Hell, we may only HAVE him this one more season--but if so it'll likely be a fun one for Gator fans after all!
I still can't quite get a handle on Game 1 vs Utah;
How that one plays out will obviously go a long way towards sharpening The Big Picture.
This whole early schedule is probably a factor in how and why the rest of the SEC has us rated so low.
As Gators, at this point we're ALL "holding our breath":
Ultimately, the idea as to "who is right", us or everyone else, rests on those early results.
 

Leakfan12

VIP Member
You imply several key points above here, Lf...
The most important perhaps the idea that (now more than ever) some talented Floridians are making poor choices as to where their future "best interests" lie.
Meanwhile though SEC Media Days is just wrapping up and (not so surprisingly) our Gators are rated by the rest of the prognosticators as coming in "4th in the East".
Personally, even with my own reservations and warnings that we've still got a ways to go, I have to stick with my overall optimism con er ing the path our new Coach and his staff have us on, plus solidarity with all of us who believe #15 is about to fully break out and dazzle CFB...
Hell, we may only HAVE him this one more season--but if so it'll likely be a fun one for Gator fans after all!
I still can't quite get a handle on Game 1 vs Utah;
How that one plays out will obviously go a long way towards sharpening The Big Picture.
This whole early schedule is probably a factor in how and why the rest of the SEC has us rated so low.
As Gators, at this point we're ALL "holding our breath":
Ultimately, the idea as to "who is right", us or everyone else, rests on those early results.


Honestly, I think hard to pick which program to choose depending how many offers someone gets. Do you pick the program because of the system the team runs, prestige, playing time, closest to home, the education/major you want to pick?
 

Escambia94

Aerospace Cubicle Engineer (ACE)
Moderator
The reason I listed the powerhouse schools is to illustrate what has been lost since Urban Meyer left Hogtown in 2010--established relationships with the best in-state high school football programs. Each year kids will choose a school based on any number of criteria--the system, playing time, proximity to home, degree, or whatever. That is not the point. The point is that Muschamp and McElwain did not build a fence around the state of Florida and grab the best recruits year in and year out. Those best recruits tend to come from the same 20 or 30 schools and has been that way for the past 40 years with new schools occasionally entering the fray. Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, and LSU have won national championships with kids from these schools. For example, the last IMG Academy kid before Napier came on board was Kenyatta Walker--in 1996! Gainesville Buchholz is only a few miles away from the Swamp, and Muschamp and McElwain failed to grab any recruits from our own backyard. Mullen grabbed one. Napier grabbed one and is evaluating others in the future. I could keep rattling off examples, but the point remains that Napier is fixing a glaring problem that Muschamp and McElwain put us in by surrendering the high ground--consistent access to the best high school athletes from the best high school football programs. That is what needs to form the core of the Florida Gators. Yes, we do need athletes from out of state, but if Napier cannot grab 15-20 blue chip recruits from these schools then Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, Texas A&M, and Texas are going to continue poaching those kids from under our noses. Napier's list of targest happens to include in-state kids from these powerhouse schools, and that is a good sign.
 
Last edited:

DRU2012

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
Honestly, I think hard to pick which program to choose depending how many offers someone gets. Do you pick the program because of the system the team runs, prestige, playing time, closest to home, the education/major you want to pick?
I'm with you on every one of these points, Lf.
The reason I listed the powerhouse schools is to illustrate what has been lost since Urban Meyer left Hogtown in 2010--established relationships with the best in-state high school football programs. Each year kids will choose a school based on any number of criteria--the system, playing time, proximity to home, degree, or whatever. That is not the point. The point is that Muschamp and McElwain did not build a fence around the state of Florida and grab the best recruits year in and year out. Those best recruits tend to come from the same 20 or 30 schools and has been that way for the past 40 years with new schools occasionally entering the fray. Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, and LSU have won national championships with kids from these schools. For example, the last IMG Academy kid before Napier came on board was Kenyatta Walker--in 1996! Gainesville Buchholz is only a few miles away from the Swamp, and Muschamp and McElwain failed to grab any recruits from our own backyard. Mullen grabbed one. Napier grabbed one and is evaluating others in the future. I could keep rattling off examples, but the point remains that Napier is fixing a glaring problem that Muschamp and McElwain put us in by surrendering the high ground--consistent access to the best high school athletes from the best high school football programs. That is what needs to form the core of the Florida Gators. Yes, we do need athletes from out of state, but if Napier cannot grab 15-20 blue chip recruits from these schools then Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, Texas A&M, and Texas are going to continue poaching those kids from under our noses. Napier's list of targest happens to include in-state kids from these powerhouse schools, and that is a good sign.
Though Mullen did marginally better than his post-Meyer predecessors, one definitely got the impression that this slight "improvement" was more by accident/default than by design--he picked up a coupla in-state prospects through legacy and the overall strength of his own (at least at first) and the program's (albeit thanks to his inattention, declining) rep.
It looks like Napier has already begun to rebuild these "relationships", AND it more and more appears brings a certain general at-large talent, charm and charisma (that ability to "close the deal" where his staff has worked fertile grounds nationwide)...If he can show a little more care and sense in applying the program's basic standards of personal honor and behavior than Urban seemed to consider in certain cases, in the long run we should be fine.
 
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