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Debate time: A look ahead to the class of 2014

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Sat. January 26, 2013 | John C. Cotey | Email

Debate time: A look ahead to the class of 2014

When it came time to put 2013 behind us and pick the top recruits in the 2014 class, we had a tough decision with No. 1:

Is it Mason Cole, the hulking-but-nimble offensive lineman already coveted by the biggest names in college football?

Or is it Artavis Scott, the big-play, fleet-footed touchdown maker already coveted by the biggest names in college football?

We called East Lake High coach Bob Hudson, since he is lucky enough to have both guys on his team.

The coach with a pocketful of blue chips made a compelling case for each guy.

“You can’t be wrong either way,” he said.

So we picked Cole, the 6-foot-5, 280-pound tackle, for a few important reasons, namely his ability to affect every play and because there are so few of him out there (though Tampa Bay will be surprisingly blessed at that position next season).

He’s a left tackle — still growing, still getting stronger — blessed with mobility and able to stop the growing pool of freakishly big and fast defensive ends eager to flatten the quarterback.

“And his work ethic,” said Hudson, “puts him over the top.”

He was only a freshman at his first practice when East Lake’s coaches got a glimpse of what he could do. The coaches called him back for a night practice with the varsity team.

“Yeah,” said then-offensive line coach A.J. Trump, “I want him.”

“He does things that people his size shouldn’t be able to do,” said 247Sports analyst Josh Newberg.

Everything you can say about Cole, you can say about Scott. The wide receiver elicited the same reactions as a freshman, and if you want to argue he should be No. 1, go ahead.

He is arguably Tampa Bay’s most electric player. At 5-11, 180, he has proven both fleet and physical. Next season he’ll be breaking in a new quarterback, but Scott’s ability to produce from the backfield ensures no matter who throws him the ball, he remains dangerous on every play.

It’s 1 and 1A, a flipped coin that landed on its side, a credit card-thin margin. But for now, it’s Cole. So let the debate begin.

Here’s an argument, however, that you can’t win: No matter the order, Cole and Scott are 1-2 heading into 2014, though another strong class will certainly challenge that contention.

Largo’s Jarvis Stewart is primed to break out. Jesuit linebacker Vincent Jackson already has more than 20 offers, just a few more than Tampa Catholic multi-dimensional linebacker T.J. Harrell.

And the big boys are making big names for themselves. Tampa Catholic’s Corey Martinez, Lakewood’s Isaiah Wynn and St. Petersburg Catholic’s Reilly Gibbons each have multiple offers and join Cole in forming one of the strongest classes of left tackles Tampa Bay has ever seen, whether some project as guards at the next level or not.

These are our projections, based on potential and production, for the top 25 recruits of 2014 — for now.

Projecting the class of 2014
1. Mason Cole, East Lake    OL    6-5/280
Top offers: Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, FSU

2. Artavis Scott, East Lake    WR    5-11/180
Top offers: Florida, FSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State

3. Vincent Jackson, Jesuit    LB    6-2/235
Top offers: Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State

4. Jarvis Stewart, Largo    RB    5-10/175
Top offers: Indiana, UCF

5. T.J. Harrell, Tampa Catholic     LB     6-1/210
Top offers: FSU, Florida, USF, Georgia

6. Chase Litton, Wharton    QB    6-5/190
Top offers: LSU, USF

7. Reilly Gibbons, St. Petersburg Catholic    OL    6-6/275
Top offers: Miami, USF, Oklahoma

8. Isaiah Wynn, Lakewood    OL    6-3/266
Top offers: USF, Vanderbilt, West Virginia

9. Corey Martinez, Tampa Catholic    OL    6-3/295
Top offers: FSU, Miami, USF

10. Kyle Gibson, Armwood    S    6-1/175
Top offers: Mississippi State, UCF, Vanderbilt.

11. Mike Johnson, Countryside    DB    5-11/175
Top offers: Cincinnati, USF, Purdue

12. Frankie Hernandez, Largo    LB    6-0/180
Top offer: Indiana

13. Devin Abraham, East Lake    DB    5-10/166
Top offers: N.C. State, USF, South Alabama

14. Rohan Blackwood, Nature Coast    DE    6-5/200
Top offer: UMass

15. Maurice Hall, Gibbs    ATH    6-1/186
Top offer: Oklahoma

16. Anthony Davis, Chamberlain    LB    6-1/220
Top offers: Houston, Toledo, UMass

17. Keith Harrington, Northeast    RB    5-8/165
Top offers: Arizona, Indiana

18. Jeremiah Jackson, Hernando    LB    6-1/190
Top offer: Purdue.

19. Tajee Fullwood, Tampa Bay Tech    CB    6-2/175
Top offer: UMass.

20. Derrick Ingram, Jefferson    WR    6-1/185
Top offer: UMass

21. Marcus Mosley, Alonso    TE    6-4/200
Top offer: South Alabama

22. Raheem Harvey, Largo    WR    6-1/180
Top offers: Indiana, Middle Tennessee State

23. Napoleon Maxwell, Admiral Farragut    ATH    6-0/190
Top offers: Virginia, UMass

24. Cortavious Givens, Admiral Farragut    RB/LB    5-10/200
Top offers: UMass, Virginia

25. Montel McBride, Plant City    OL    6-4/305
Top offer: Ohio

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

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