The spring always holds some surprises, and this one has been no different. With the busiest part of the camp and combine period ending today with the Elite Scouting Services combine at Armwood, here's a look at the top 11 stars of the early spring:
1. Jeremi Powell, DE/LB, Pinellas Park
Okay, who had heard of Powell before he picked up his first scholarship offer this spring from Purdue? Anyone? Well, coach Kenny Crawford has been singing this 6-foot-2, 200-pound future linebacker's praises long before the colleges came calling. But an exceptional highlight tape caught a few eyes, and soon Powell was committed to Florida. Tall, strong and fast enough to play receiver if he chose to, the Patriot picked up an offer Friday from Alabama. But he still says he's a Gator. He's also our Spring King.
2. Lamarlin Wiggins, WR, Plant City
The Raiders have been out in force this spring, and Wiggins has been the most impressive of the bunch. The 6-2, 195-pound playmaker has reportedly picked up offers from USF, Texas Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech, UCLA and a few others.
3. Leon McQuay III, DB, Armwood
McQuay has been starring at camps and combines since he was an eighth-grader. It was just a matter of time before the 6-2, 180-pound speedster starting raking in offers. Florida, Vanderbilt and USF were the first to jump aboard. It should be a fruitful ride the next two seasons for McQuay, a star in the 2013 class.
4. Sam Green, DB, Plant City
The 6-1, 195-pounder is part of an outstanding 2012 class for the Raiders. He had more than 100 tackles and three interceptions last season, and will be the leader of the defense. The Big East loves him. His first offer was from Rutgers in January, and Cincinnati and USF have followed suit.
5. Austin Aikens, WR, Plant
Aikens has been on the recruiting bubble for a while — last spring he was MVP at a National Underclassmen Combine in Tampa — but he officially broke through after a strong performance at the U.S. Army All-American Combine in January. The 6-1, 185-pounder, who led the team with 727 receiving yards (22.7 a catch), got his first offer in February from Western Kentucky, but bigger schools such as Missouri, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati have come calling since.
6. Jarvis McCall, DB, Armwood
The Hawks were loaded with big names, but in 2010 McCall wasn't one of them. He is now. The 6-1, 185-pounder picked up his first offer in February from USF, and schools such as Tennessee and Michigan are taking a close look. With McQuay, McCall helps make up what could arguably be the best secondary in the state in 2011.
7. Richard Benjamin, WR/DB, Middleton
The 2013 prospect has run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds at both the Orlando MVP camp and the National Underclassmen Combine, where he was MVP, and he proved he belonged on Team Tampa, a 7-on-7 all-star team that finished third at the recent Badger Sports event. Benjamin (6-0, 170) has an offer from Kansas, but it won't be his last.
8. Greg Windham, QB, King
The Lion's signal-caller (6-2, 200) put up big numbers in 2010, and his strong arm is attracting colleges, including Cincinnati, which was the first to offer him a scholarship recently. He performed well at the Elite 11 camp in Orlando and as the quarterback for Team Tampa, getting to throw to such 2012 standouts as Matt Jones, Kent Taylor and Nelson Agholor. Before spring ball is over, expect a few more schools to make offers to Windham.
9. Trey Dudley-Giles, ATH, Pasco The 5-10, 170-pounder hasn't been out on the camp and combine circuit because he's playing baseball for the Pirates, but he may be the most unsung 2012 recruit in Tampa Bay. Rutgers and Florida Atlantic have offered scholarships to the well-rounded standout, who made big plays from the running back, wide receiver, quarterback and kick return positions last year.
10. Brent O'Neal, RB, Canterbury
O'Neal (5-9, 190) is still waiting for the big offers, but Wofford made an offer last week and other colleges want to wait and see how he does against elite competition at some team camps this offseason. But at Nike Sparq and the National Underclassmen Combine, where he was named Combine King, he has been doing exceptionally well.
11. Dazmond Patterson, RB, Plant City
Patterson doesn't have an offer, which makes him a rarity on this list, but he's most definitely one of those players that folks look at and say, "if he was only a few inches taller." If he wasn't 5-7, he'd be one of Tampa Bay's top recruits, but eventually someone is going to take a chance. His size hasn't stopped him from earning top running back honors at the Orlando MVP and Tampa Ignite camps.
John C. Cotey can be reached at (813) 406-0530 or email@example.com.