TAMPA — While big names like East Lake’s Mason Cole, Lakewood’s Isaiah Wynn and St. Petersburg Catholic’s Reilly Gibbons head up a class of offensive linemen that might be Tampa Bay’s best ever, the river of talent across the line of scrimmage this year is a deep one, running from Weeki Wachee all the way south to the Skyway Bridge. And it includes some, until last week, obscure players. Here are four guys that you may not have heard of until they picked up their first scholarship offers:
Jake Fruhmorgen, Plant
Fruhmorgen was offered by Washington State last week, Miami followed suit, and he picked up Florida State and Vanderbilt before the week was over.
Not a bad haul.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound rising junior is no stranger to us. In fact, he was featured in last year’s football preview section with his father, John, a former Alabama offensive-line standout who played professionally.
But to many, last week may have signaled his coming-out party as one of the top 2015 recruits in Tampa.
Fruhmorgen is part of an offensive line that also includes recruits Ray Raulerson and Dickie Bush. No wonder a few college coaches in attendance at Thursday’s practice remarked to line coach Sean Love that they were impressed with what he was doing.
Connor Foradas, Hernando
Foradas picked up his first offer last week, from Purdue. FIU, FAU and Middle Tennessee State have also expressed interest.
Foradas is noticeably larger from last season. He bulked up his 6-foot-5 frame from 275 pounds to 300.
But perhaps Foradas’ biggest change is in his mood. He’s already more physical in spring ball, and he cackled while chasing his teammates during padless drills in the opening days of practice.
“He’s getting a little nastier now,” said coach Dwayne Mobley. “That’s what we need. These college scouts want a big, nasty offensive lineman.”
Foradas also earned accolades as one of the top performers at a Nike combine in Orlando earlier this spring.
Dillon Browne, Freedom
The Patriots right tackle may not have prototypical size at 6-4, 240 pounds, but he has a great frame and it is only going to get bigger.
While light for a right tackle, Browne has broad shoulders and huge legs, and Patriots offensive coordinator Donnie Mesick says he’ll fill out to 275 in college.
Factor that in with a nasty streak that his coaches love, and you have the makings of a college football recruit.
Browne, who recently picked up his first offer from Western Kentucky, isn’t completely unknown. Last season he made second-team all-Western Conference and is a three-year starter for the Patriots.
Nyquel Alexander, Lakewood
They don’t call this rising junior “Big Easy” for nothing — he’s 6-6, 412 pounds, according to coach Cory Moore.
Alexander picked up his first offer from Massachusetts, but it could be just the beginning of big things for the big guy. Moore said Auburn and Georgia are showing interest as well.
What do they like?
Alexander boasts a 3.8 grade-point average, he is massive but athletic (he plays basketball, too), and he’s aggressive.
And consider: he’s a guard, and his coaches don’t hesitate to call plays in which he has to pull.
“He can flat out run,” Moore said.
Sleeper recruit of the week
Pinellas Park has produced a handful of recruits the past few seasons, and the Patriots’ best this year might be running back/defensive back Pierre Johnson.
Johnson is a 5-10, 170-pounder who rushed for more than 500 yards last year and had more than 200 yards receiving. Defensively, he had 80 tackles and eight interceptions.
While Johnson doesn't have any offers, he won't end the spring empty-handed. Coach Kenny Crawford said a handful of schools are showing major interest, like Ball State, Ohio, Northern Illinois and Wake Forest. The smaller schools like Johnson as a slot receiver, but Wake Forest is eyeing him as a defensive back, where Johnson has started since his sophomore year when he had six interceptions.
Anchored in Tampa Bay?
Vanderbilt has been active in the area the past few years, luring players like Armwood’s Josh Grady and Kevin McCoy north, and this spring appears to be pressing into the neighborhood even harder.
In the past few days, Vanderbilt has offered Fruhmorgen and Raulerson at Plant (two Commodore coaches were in attendance), Weeki Wachee lineman Marcus Applefield, Northeast athlete Ryan Davis and Tampa Bay Tech defensive back Tajee Fullwood.
And that’s just in the last 72 hours or so.
Local defensive backs Kyle Gibson (Armwood), Mike Johnson (Countryside), Amani Oruwariye (Gaither) and Tampa Catholic offensive lineman Corey Martinez also claim Vandy offers.
Staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.