Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Former Southeast/Palmetto players join forces in UFL

When Chris Smith suits up for the Omaha Nighthawks this season he will be united with another Manatee County product, Julius Wilson from Southeast.

Smith, an under-heralded, under-sized cornerback when he finished his career at Palmetto in 2004, has turned himself into one of the best feel good stories of the year. Click here to read.

He recently signed a contract with Omaha and reports to the United Football League team for beginning of training camp on July 12th. He was drafted in the fourth round and 17th overall in the five team league.

However, Smith is keeping his options and is not opposed to getting into an NFL camp when the lockout ends. The Denver Broncos have showed the most interest in him, but others are keeping an eye on the first team 2010 Mid-American Conference selection.

Wilson, currently playing with the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League, played with Omaha last season and plans to return. The offensive linemen, who played at Alabama-Birmingham, spent some time previously with the Miami Dolphins practice squad.

There are some big names (or should we say former big names) on the Nighthawks roster including running back Maurice Clarett, the leading rusher on Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team and quarterback Eric Crouch, who won the Heisman Trophy at Nebraska in 2001.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kinnan visits Taggart and Woodie at Western Kentucky

Talk about surprise visits!

Western Kentucky head football coach Willie Taggart and assistant Raymond Woodie were going about their business today on campus when the two Manatee County products received a pleasant surprise.

Joe Kinnan, Manatee High's legendary football coach, unexpectedly showed up on campus unbeknown to Taggart and Woodie.

Kinnan, who once coached at Eastern Kentucky, is currently vacationing in the Bluegrass state. It was a nice reunion for him and Taggart, who played quarterback for Manatee High under him before going on to earn All-American honors at WKU.

"We had no idea he was coming. It was a complete surprise," said Woodie, who played his football at Palmetto High and was an All-American at Bethune-Cookman.

Taggart and Kinnan have stayed in touch since their days together with the Manatee High football team when Taggart led the 'Canes to a state title in 1992 as a junior and to the state championship game his senior year.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Will Manatee County ever see another Clifford Rozier

It’s been 17 years since Clifford Rozier became the first and only Manatee County player selected in the first round of the NBA draft.

The former Southeast great was chosen16th overall by Golden State in 1994 after finishing up his All-American career at Louisville.

Rozier played four seasons in the NBA prematurely ending his career in 1998. His rookie season was his best, averaging 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

The 6-11 forward/center, who turns 39 in October, was named Florida’s Mr. Basketball in 1990 when he averaged 35 points and 16 points for Southeast.

Thursday night's draft ended with hoops fans around here wondering if Manatee County will ever see another first or second round NBA pick?

We all know this is football country, but still that’s a long time since Rozier’s name was called in the draft. The closet we’ve had to anyone since then getting drafted were both from Sarasota County.

Riverview High’s Altron Jackson, who is the number two career scorer at the University of South Florida, figured to be selected after his junior season with Bulls. He decided to stay in school for another year and his numbers went down and he was not selected.

Justin Hamilton, a standout point guard for four years at Florida, was another player who seemed on the cusp of getting drafted, but the Booker High product never had his name called.

Both went to Europe. Jackson had a solid career overseas reaching all star potential while Hamilton is still playing.

Hamilton, who finished up at Florida in 2003, played briefly in the NBDL. The 30-year-old guard has played six seasons in Europe winning the Spanish National Championship with Real Madrid in 2005 and has won three Belgian National Championships in the last four years.

The 31-year-old Jackson finished his career at USF in 2002 with 2,017 points averaging 16.5 points per game. He is Conference USA’s third ranked career scoring leader and was number one when he finished his college career.

Lincoln High’s Waite Bellamy was the 33d pick in the 1963 NBA draft after averaging 27.9 points per game at Florida A&M. He had a standout pro career in the Eastern Basketball League where he won three scoring titles.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cast your vote for Manatee County's Greatest High School Football Player

You’ve seen it, you’ve studied and had time to digest it.

Who is the greatest high school football in Manatee County history? The belief here is that it’s Peter Warrick.

He won two state championships at Southeast and made the most difficult transition his senior year when he switched from receiver to quarterback.

In his final two years at Southeast he never lost a game that he played in sitting out the Seminoles lone defeat with an injury.

But you might disagree and there are plenty of worthy candidates to wear the crown as Manatee County’s greatest gridiron hero.

Here is a chance to cast your vote on who is Manatee County’s greatest high school football player. Cast your vote on the poll.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Southeast's Poole won't play in Army All-American Bowl

Southeast defensive back Brian Poole said he will not play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl slated for next January in San Antonio.

Poole, the number two ranked cornerback in the country by Scout.Com, said he was invited to the Army All-American Bowl more than a month ago, but has always just planned on playing in the Under Armour All American Bowl because it is going to be played in the Tampa area and allow his family and friends to attend.

Poole is currently recovering from foot surgery he had three weeks ago. Now a Florida commit, he lists himself at about 75 percent healthy and said he would start rehabbing in about a week.

"I got the invitation to go to both bowls more than a month ago, but I am just going to play in the Under Armour because it's close to home," Poole said. "I am committed to Florida, but i am still going to take all five of my visits. I don't plan any changes, but you never know."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Things get tougher for Manatee as Aquinas re-loads again

Life just got a little tougher for the Manatee High football program this spring, though we should not be surprised.

St. Thomas Aquinas, which reloads its football roster better than most college programs, just keeps getting richer and richer.

The school, which is known for bringing in highly touted seniors in its own version of one and done and fielding what is basically an all- star squad, apparently isn’t going to miss a beat even with a new coach.

Bryan Cox Jr., one of the most highly touted high school players in the Class of 2012, is transferring from Avon High in Ohio to St. Thomas, it has been reported in numerous publications.

Rivals.Com and ESPN.Com have already listed St. Thomas Aquinas as Cox’s new high school.

The 6-3, 230-pound defensive end has received 16 offers from major college football programs according to Rivals.Com and many more are expected. Among the official suitors are those from Miami, Michigan State, Iowa, Pittsburgh and West Virginia.

Avon finished 10-1 last year winning all of its regular season games. Cox was credited with 38 solo tackles, which he feels is misleading because teams ran away from his side.

Bryan is the son of former Miami Dolphins All-Pro linebacker Bryan Cox, who played 12 seasons in the NFL.

The Miami Dolphins hired Cox as its pass rush coach last February. He spent the previous two seasons as the defensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns.

Manatee and St. Thomas Aquinas will be in the new Class 7A division after competing in 5A. The Raiders have won three of the last four 5A state titles and been to the championship game in six of the last seven years.

The only time St. Thomas Aquinas failed to make the title game was in 2009 when Manatee defeated the Raiders in the semifinal in what was one of the program’s greatest victories considering the reality of what is going on at the Fort Lauderdale school.

IMG's Daniels kicks off great week for UConn

If Jim Calhoun didn’t have a reason to return to coach Connecticut to a repeat national championship he received two big ones last week.

It started with IMG Academy Basketball standout DeAndre Daniels committing to the Huskies on Tuesday putting a great cap on his 2011 recruiting class.

Two days later, it was reported by ZagsBlog that New York Christ The King guard Omar Calhoun Jr.. (no relation), among the top players in the Class of 2012, had verbally committed to the Huskies.

Calhoun said he would announce soon whether he was returning, though that seemed like a foregone conclusion. When he was in the area for the Dick Vitale Gala, who sounded enthusiastic about coaching another season and said he was feeling good after two successful battles with cancer.

Daniels told several media outlets that Calhoun was coming back and his comments last week seemed to indicate the same thing.

“I picked Connecticut because it was the best situation for me,” Daniels said. “They do a good job of developing their wing guards and their style of play fits me. Watching them win the national championship played a role in my decision. I wanted to go to a winning program and help them repeat.

“I felt comfortable talking to coach Calhoun and watching them play on television. I talked to him the day I committed and he welcomed me into the Husky family. I am the happiest dude in the world right now.”

Jared Williams chances at SMU look promising

Now that Jared Williams is officially a Mustang after signing a letter of intent with SMU this week what’s next?

It’s hard to tell what can happen at the college level especially for a running back, but the Southeast High graduate seems to have legitimate shot on getting a significant number of carries and enough playing to make him happy.

The Mustangs have one experienced running back returning in 6-1, 230 pound junior Zach Line, who rushed for 1,523 yards last season averaging 106.7 yards per game on the ground.

SMU signed only one running back in its 2011 class in Rivals.Com 3-star K.C. Nlemchi, a 6-0, 215 pounder from Katy, Texas, who was offered by Arkansas, Utah, Tulane and Tulsa. He rushed for 1,246 yards (6.5 avg) last season after gaining 2,388 (8.4 avg) as a junior.

The 5-10, 200 pound Williams gained more than 5,500 yards in three years at the former Bradenton Prep. In five games last season with Southeast he had 315 yards on 64 carries (4.9 avg).