Future stars hiding in plain sight

Take your rankings, your projections and your lists, then roll them up into a little ball so your 6-foot-4, 220-pound blue-chip quarterback who runs a 4.5 and has a rocket arm can toss them in that garbage can across the room.

I'm on the lookout for the guy everyone says can't play. The guy who is too short, too light, not tough enough.

I'm on the lookout for the guy who in four years will leave you scratching your head.

Like Javier Arenas.

The former Robinson High standout has a national championship ring, an agent and a future in the NFL.

Just two weeks before signing day in 2006, he was unlikely to ever have any of those things.

An all-county kick returner at Robinson, Arenas barely made a blip on the recruiting radar. The big recruiting sites had the 5-9, 170-pound return man rated 1 star, if they had him rated at all.

He was mulling offers from Florida Atlantic and Florida A&M until Alabama surprisingly called with a scholarship offer and Arenas not-so-surprisingly accepted immediately.

Arenas went from a 1-star recruit to 3 stars on all the Web sites by simply answering his phone and saying yes, and now he is headed to the NFL.

Listen, the recruiting business is a hard game with inexact strategies and rules.

Recruits flip, flop and flourish. Their rankings guarantee only expectations, not performance.

While we were smart enough to include Arenas on our all-county team and recommend him for first team all-state, we ranked 22 players higher on our annual blue-chip recruits list in 2006, a list with fewer stars on it now than when we put it together.

Oh, there were a few exceptions, like No. 3 Riley Cooper, who went to Florida and won two national titles and expects to get drafted.

But do you remember No. 1 Jarred Fayson, who went to Florida, then transferred to Illinois? No. 2 Daron Rose? He went to FSU, then the juco route because of grades.

Do you remember A.J. Jones (Florida), Kylan Robinson (Miami), Jim Barrie (Florida), Bryan Thomas (Florida), Caz Piurowski (FSU) and Leslie Stirrups (USF)?

There are no guarantees.

All of these guys were ranked above former Largo star Dexter McCluster, who will probably be the top local player taken in April's draft.

McCluster was, without question, the best player in Tampa Bay in 2006. He became the first player in Pinellas County history to rush for 2,000 yards and was our All-Suncoast Player of the Year. He was rated No. 12 on our list that year, but was not ranked in Florida's top 100 by any recruiting sites.

Mississippi didn't think his 5-9, 160-pound frame was a deterrent. And based on his college career and scouts at last week's Senior Bowl, neither does the NFL.

McCluster and Arenas were lucky. Someone saw something that few others did, at a place that would afford them a great opportunity, at schools that would receive a lot of media attention, in the country's best conference.

If I could pick one player from our list this year to exceed expectations, it would be Lakewood's Bernard Reedy Jr. He's roughly the same size as both and possesses the same electrifying playmaking ability.

Arenas returned seven kicks for scores in his final prep season; Reedy returned 10 while rushing for 1,000 yards and playing wide receiver, defensive back and, sometimes, quarterback.

Jefferson star quarterback Quentin Williams, already a hot prospect for 2011, said he was terrified every time Reedy touched the ball when the Dragons met Lakewood in the playoffs.

Opponents said the same things about McCluster.

Reedy drew some Division I-A interest, but never got the knockout offer he was looking for. USF didn't bite. FSU declined.

Reedy will sign today with Toledo of the Mid-American Conference. I think he will be a spectacular fit. The Rockets returned only one kick for a score last season. If Reedy's out there, they will return more next season.

Am I saying Reedy will follow the same course as McCluster and Arenas? Not exactly.

I am saying that in four years, when everyone looks back, someone is going to be scratching his or her head, wondering how Reedy got away.

And it won't be me.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@sptimes.com

Times' top 25 from 2006

1. Jarred Fayson, HillsboroughWR/QB6-0/184Florida*
2. Daron Rose, JeffersonOL6-5/310FSU
3. Riley Cooper, CCCWR6-4/208Florida
4. A.J. Jones, MiddletonLB6-2/190Florida
5. Kylan Robinson, ChamberlainRB6-1/215Miami
6. Jim Barrie, BerkeleyOL6-5/310Florida
7. Bryan Thomas, ZephyrhillsDB6-3/195Florida
8. Caz Piurowski, Land O'LakesTE6-7/245FSU
9. Colin McCarthy, CCCLB6-3/218Miami
10. Leslie Stirrups, HillsboroughDL6-2/285USF
11. Darrell Roseman, DunedinDL6-5/234Auburn
12. Dexter McCluster, LargoRB5-9/160Ole Miss
13. Trent Pupello, JeffersonTE6-3/250Florida
14. Darrell Davis, PascoDB6-5/200N.C. State
15. Kevin Young, CCCOL6-5/310S. Carolina
16. Seaver Brown, CountrysideOL6-5/306S. Carolina
17. Bert McBride, ArmwoodOL6-4/295Stanford
18. Tertavian Ingram, JeffersonWR6-1/175Kansas
19. Carlton Mitchell, GaitherWR6-3/188USF
20. Don Mosley, HillsboroughOL6-2/295Ole Miss
21. Anthony Allen, JesuitRB6-0/215Louisville
22. Jarrod Holt, ClearwaterOL6-6/300Duke
23. Javier Arenas, RobinsonATH5-9/170Alabama
24. Jerrell Young, GibbsRB/DB6-1/205USF
25. Dominic Grooms, MiddletonQB6-2/175Missouri
1. Jarred Fayson, HillsboroughWR/QB6-0/184Florida*
2. Daron Rose, JeffersonOL6-5/310FSU
3. Riley Cooper, CCCWR6-4/208Florida
4. A.J. Jones, MiddletonLB6-2/190Florida
5. Kylan Robinson, ChamberlainRB6-1/215Miami
6. Jim Barrie, BerkeleyOL6-5/310Florida
7. Bryan Thomas, ZephyrhillsDB6-3/195Florida
8. Caz Piurowski, Land O'LakesTE6-7/245FSU
9. Colin McCarthy, CCCLB6-3/218Miami
10. Leslie Stirrups, HillsboroughDL6-2/285USF
11. Darrell Roseman, DunedinDL6-5/234Auburn
12. Dexter McCluster, LargoRB5-9/160Ole Miss
13. Trent Pupello, JeffersonTE6-3/250Florida
14. Darrell Davis, PascoDB6-5/200N.C. State
15. Kevin Young, CCCOL6-5/310S. Carolina
16. Seaver Brown, CountrysideOL6-5/306S. Carolina
17. Bert McBride, ArmwoodOL6-4/295Stanford
18. Tertavian Ingram, JeffersonWR6-1/175Kansas
19. Carlton Mitchell, GaitherWR6-3/188USF
20. Don Mosley, HillsboroughOL6-2/295Ole Miss
21. Anthony Allen, JesuitRB6-0/215Louisville
22. Jarrod Holt, ClearwaterOL6-6/300Duke
23. Javier Arenas, RobinsonATH5-9/170Alabama
24. Jerrell Young, GibbsRB/DB6-1/205USF
25. Dominic Grooms, MiddletonQB6-2/175Missouri

*These are the colleges players committed to on signing day

Hidden gems

Our picks for under-the-radar locals.

QB Tarean Austin, Hillsborough: Rangy 2,100-yard passer represents a recruiting coup for lowly New Mexico.

RB Tevin Drake, Nature Coast: Before season, Miami offered this 205-pound dynamo, who now appears bound for a mid-major.

QB Bobby Eveld, Jesuit: Has size (6-6, 200 pounds), grades, courage in the pocket and no scholarship.

LB Sean Holte, Largo: Had season-ending knee injury in September. A classic out-of-sight, out-of-mind case.

RB Hank McCloud, Tampa Catholic: After watching him in playoffs (where he ran for more than 500 yards), we think he can play D-I.

ATH Bernard Reedy Jr., Lakewood: Major talent headed for mid-major program (Toledo). At 5-10, he's easy to overlook.

WR Allen Sampson, Plant: Lethal receiver/return specialist managed only one D-I offer (from Hawaii) that we know of.

RB Alton Taylor, Countryside: Size, schmize. We'll take a 5-9 back who can amass nearly 2,000 yards against 5A competition.

Future stars hiding in plain sight 02/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 10:30pm]

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