Having watched and appreciated his entire coaching career at St. Thomas Aquinas, it is evident that when he leads his football team onto the field Friday at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, George Smith will have accomplished just about everything you can in four decades on the sideline.
What Smith represents is someone who will tell it straight - to his players, fans and the media. But the one thing he can do with the best of them is know where to sell his players. There are very few high school coaches who demand the respect of everyone who walks into the doors of the school like Smith. Head colleges know that the key to a banner recruiting season hinges on what Raiders they sign.
While the Raiders have long been a powerhouse at the high school level, there have always been players such as a Michael Irvin or Twan Russell that would come along to keep enough college coaches around. But these days, the number of Division 1A prospects on the roster dictate a special gold and blue day in the spring – not just to accommodate the college coaches who can lay their eyes on a few seniors, but also a Class of 2010 that is simply as good as the school has ever produced.
This St. Thomas team that stands one win away from Broward County’s first ever national football title, is as prospect rich as any program in the history of this county. Maybe Northwestern’s 2007 squad had more, but to determine that you will probably have to wait a few years!
The senior class is good. Receivers Duron Carter (Ohio St.) and Gabe Homes (Purdue), punter Ben Turk and long snapper Jordan Cowart (Notre Dame) and linebacker Conor O'Neil (Wisconsin) have already made their choices. But there are also receiver Dwayne Difton, quarterback Ryan Becker, running back Beau Bucci, defensive tackle William Nesselt and offensive lineman Thomas Pizzurro, who are waiting for solid offers. There are a number of other seniors who also figure to find their way on to the next level as well.
As good as this team is, and right now, there is none better in the country, the next few years could see this football program stay right on top – nationally – no matter if it has to play the Northwestern Bulls or not.
The Class of 2010 is simply loaded. Look in any direction, and this program has talent to offer. Offensively, running backs Gio Bernard and James White are as good as you get anywhere in the country. Receivers Austin Bombach and James Dolan, linemen Brandon Linder, Vincent Adams, Jonathan Mills, John Childress and 6-foot-7 Jermaine Barton are all quality as well. Kicker Michael Palardy is already regarded as one of the nation's best.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive backs Brian Robinson, Reynaldo Kirton, Bryan Johnson, Cody Riggs, Vladimir Rock, Abayomi Ayoola, Dave Shepherd, Tyler Pettis, Joshua Binder, Bryan Johnson and Blake Robinson, linebackers Vince Mauro, Daniel Adams, Bryce Samartino, Alex Samartino and Donald Chenault, and linemen Matthew Stokes, John Baglia, Blaine Fillichio and Jonathan Marmarosa are all prospects as well.
The current sophomore class is also tremendous with receiver Phil Dorsett, a one-time standout in Hollywood’s Washington Park youth program, quarterback Jacob Ruddock, running backs Joseph Bostick and Jamal Wilson, offensive linemen Raymond Ryan and Matthew D'Attile, and defensive linemen Kenneth Hankerson and Anthony Reyes.
The one thing that I tend to pick up each year about coach Smith is that as his teams get better, his bar raises – and after tonight – it cannot get any higher!
BOWL BOUND LOCALSWith the college bowl season starting this weekend, here are some locals who will be taking part in bowl games across the country:
EAGLE BANK BOWL, Dec. 20: Wake Forest: Stanley Arnoux, LB, 6-1, 240, Sr., Glades Day; D.J. Boldin, WR, 6-0, 220, Sr., Pahokee; Joe Looney, OL, 6-3, 295, Lake Worth; Brandon Pendergrass, RB, 5-9, 200, Fr., Royal Palm Beach; Alphonso Smith, DB, 5-9, 190, Sr., Pahokee; Antonio Wilson, DE, 6-1, 270, Sr., Pahokee.
NEW MEXICO BOWL, Dec. 20: Colorado State: Jyrone Hickman, WR, 6-3, 204, Jr., Pahokee; Gartrell Johnson, RB, 6-0, 225, Jr., Miami Springs; Marquise Law, WR, 6-4, 193, American; Tyler McDermott, OL, 6-2, 265, Fr. Palm Beach Central; John Mosure, RB, 5-10, 190, So., Columbus.
ST. PETERSBURG BOWL, Dec. 20: South Florida: George Baker, DB, 5-11, 168, Archbishop Carroll; David Bedford, DE, 6-5, 240, Jr., Palm Beach Lakes; Marc Dile, OL, 6-4, 309, Sr., Edison; Danous Estenor, DL, 6-3, 305, Fr., Palm Beach Central; Jessie Hester, WR, 6-0, 175, Jr., Glades Central; Jatavious Jackson, DT, 6-4, 280, Fr., Glades Central; Sabbath Joseph, LB, 6-0, 230, So., Central; Evan Landi, QB, 6-3, 193, Fr., Coral Springs Charter; John Lejiste, DB, 6-0, 176, Fr., Delray Atlantic; Kenneth Luberice, LB, 6-0, 231, Fr., Spanish River; Shane McElwain, DE, 6-4, 251, Jr., Palm Beach Central; Mike McGowan, OL, 6-5, 260, Fr., West Boca Raton; Brouce Mompremier, LB, 6-1, 227, Sr., Edison; Quincy Okolie, DE, 6-6, 255, So., Palm Beach Central; Aston Samuel, RB, 5-10, 176, So., Glades Central; Ryan Schmidt, OL, 6-5, 327, Sr., Boca Raton; Quavon Taylor, LB, 6-0, 190, Fr., Northwestern; Jeffrey Wilson, WR, 6-0, 165, Fr., Everglades.
Memphis: Lavaris Edwards, DB, 5-10, 185, Fr., Bay Point; Kindly Jacques, OL, 6-7, 325, Jr., Stranahan; Steven Joachim, WR, 6-4, 205, Jr., North Miami; Curtis Johnson, WR, 6-0 182, Fr., Coral Gables; Charles Jones, RB, 5-10, 220, Sr., South Dade; Joel McCleod, OL, 6-3, 310, Fr., Everglades; Bryan Wright, DB, 6-1, 180, So., Northwestern.
NEW ORLEANS BOWL, Dec. 21: Troy: Chris Anderson, RB, 5-10, 180, Fr., Jimmie Arnold, OL, 6-2, 290, Fr., Glades Day; Boyd Anderson; Kennard Burton, WR, 5-7, 170, Sr., Pahokee; Trevor Ford, DB, 6-0, 193, Sr., Northwestern; T.J. Mitchell, RB, 5-7, 170, Fr., Chaminade-Madonna; Chigozie Nwankwo, DL, 6-2, 257, Fr., Chaminade-Madonna; Dan Parker, QB, 5-11, 196, Fr., Columbus.
Southern Mississippi: Ronnie Thornton, LB, 6-3, 230, Fr., Killian.
HAWAII BOWL, Dec. 24: Hawaii: Chris Black, DB, 5-10, 175, Jr., Plantation.
Notre Dame: Armando Allen, RB, 5-10, 190, So., Hialeah Miami Lakes; Emeka Nwanko, DE, 6-4, 290, So., Chaminade-Madonna; Dan Wenger, OL, 6-4, 300, Jr., St. Thomas Aquinas; Sam Young, OL, 6-8, 330, Jr., St. Thomas Aquinas.
MOTOR CITY BOWL, Dec. 26: Central Michigan: Marcel Archer, RB, 5-11, 208, Jr., St. Thomas Aquinas; Hannibal Beauford, WR, 6-0, 175, So., Norland; Antonio Brown, WR, 5-10, 179, So., Norland; John Carr, DB, 6-2, 180, Fr., St. Thomas Aquinas; Derek Carter, DB, 6-0, 183, Fr., Dillard; Paris Cotton, RB, 5-9, 175, Fr., Hialeah; Kirkston Edwards, DB, 6-1, 186, Jr., Palm Beach Gardens; Cedric Fraser, WR, 6-3, 180, Everglades; Kashawn Fraser, DE, 6-3, 215, Fr., Monarch; Jerry Harris, WR, 6-3, 182, Fr., Boca Raton; Tommy Mama, DB, 5-10, 184, Jr., Monsignor Pace; Kito Poblah, WR, 6-2, 197, So. Pines Charter; Derek Rifenbury, QB, 6-3, 198, Fr., Monarch; Bobby Seay, DB, 5-11, 185, So., Everglades; Carl Volny, RB, 5-10, 193, So., Pines Charter; Chaz West, DB, 5-10, 175, Jr., Ely; Lorenzo White Jr., DB, 6-0, 170, Fr., Dillard; Josh Wilkins, DB, 5-10, 178, So., Dwyer; John Williams, DL, 6-0, 270, Fr., Central.
We will continue our look next week as we follow our local players in bowl games from Palm Beach to Key West!Larry Blustein is co-host of the Miami Dolphins Gridiron Show every Thursday evening from 9-10 on WQAM (560 AM). Have a comment? E-mail lblustein@MiamiHerald.com.