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 email@example.com or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.